The program supplies homeowners in Hamilton County in Ohio and Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in Kentucky with up to a $20,000 unsecured loan to upgrade their home's energy efficiency at a fixed interest rate of 6.99 percent, as opposed to unsecured loans' 15 percent rates and credit card rates, which can top 20 percent. These efficiency upgrades typically save homeowners more than 20 percent on their annual energy bills and up to 35 percent on the costs of the upgrade. There are no application fees.
To get a loan, a homeowner must complete an energy audit from the Building Performance Institute, which helps determine appropriate upgrades. After the audit is completed, the homeowner can apply for the low-interest loans to cover everything from HVAC systems to new windows.
The goal of the nonprofit Energy Alliance is to create a $10 million pooled loan fund, seeded with $2.5 million of a $17 million U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings grant. That means raising $7.5 million in private capital to sustain the loan program.
"The idea is to show that there is both the demand from consumers and that these loans perform better than unsecured loans," says Al Gaspari, financial director of the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance.
The $500,000 from the GCF brings the Alliance's fund to $1.5 million so far. For GCF, this was an 'impact investment."
"An impact investment is where we take foundation assets that would normally be invested in bonds or mutual funds and invest them in a non-profit organization that has an opportunity to make a significant social impact," says Robert Killins, program director at the GCF. "What we are investing in has to make a real, significant difference for the organization and the mission that they have."
Killins cites many reasons the Energy Alliance was chosen, including potential jobs, cost-savings for homeowners and smaller carbon footprints around the region.
"This is one of those investments that has a triple bottom line," Killins says. "We are almost certain we will get a small return on our investment, and it helps people and the environment."
By Evan Wallis