Financing energy efficiency and renewable energy projects

A few years ago, there were few options to invest in energy efficiency or renewables – to buy and own the equipment, or finance it with a loan. Nowadays there are many innovative and flexible financing mechanisms available. You can decide on how to structure the cash flow, what party will own the asset and the associated risks, and how the asset will be treated on the balance sheet.

On one end of the spectrum, you can self-fund all the actions, and own and operate the new assets. An example of this would be replacing all your lights with energy efficient fittings, or installing solar panels on your roof from your capital budget.

On the other end of the spectrum, you can have no upfront investment, outsource the ownership, operation, and maintenance, along with the risk the project might not perform as expected, and only pay monthly instalments from the operational budget. An example of this would be entering into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with a solar company.

Free Download: Financing Options for Sustainability Projects

The criteria for what financing options you would choose depends on the specific project, your risk appetite, your tax situation, organisational preferences, the net present value (NPV) of the various business cases and the trade-offs you are willing to accept. An example for a trade-off might be not paying any upfront costs, but having to accept a lesser financial return for your project.

The following table is meant to give an overview of the various options for energy efficiency and renewable energy investments. You can find out more details about these financing options in chapter 10 of Barbara’s book ‘Energy Unlimited’.

Financing optionUp front costRepayments to 3rd partyOrganisation owns assetBalance sheetTechnical risk
Self-funded from capital budget or internal carbon price100%N/AYesOnYes
Revolving energy fund100%N/AYesOnYes
Loan funded0%Fixed or variableYesOnYes
Green bonds0%FixedYesOnYes
Operating lease0%Fixed – $/monthNoOffYes
Capital lease0%Fixed – $/monthYes, at end of leaseOnYes
On-bill financing0%FixedYesOnNo, if there is a guarantee
Onsite solar PPA0% or setup fee$/kWh purchasedNo, can purchase at endOffNo
Community ownership0% or setup fee$/kWh purchasedNoOffNo
ESA and EPCs0% or smallVariableNo, though can purchase at the end of ESA/EPCOffNo

We have developed a Financing Guide for Local Governments that goes into more details about these financing options.

Download Free Financing Options for Sustainability Projects

If you need further help with determining which financing or project delivery option is the best fit for your individual circumstances, please talk to Barbara or Patrick.