A $3 million boost from a national foundation may soon help make local church pews and nonprofit offices a lot more comfortable, and a lot more energy-efficient.
The innovative new approach to making energy-efficient upgrades profitable for both loan recipients and lenders combines the efforts of the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance
, the Cincinnati Development Fund
, and the Calvert Foundation
, which typically invests in real-estate secured loans and has never before invested in Cincinnati.
The new fund, the Better Buildings Performance Loan Fund, leverages federal and foundation money for loans at competitive interest rates that can help institutions renovate buildings and increase their energy efficiency at the same time, says Al Gaspari, GCEA finance director.
While GCEA's focus has been on helping homeowners with energy-efficient upgrades, this new initiative expands its role in the region.
"We're initially targeting nonprofit organizations and multi-family dwellings," Gaspari says. Churches, arts organizations and schools rank high on the list of prospective loan applicants. For example, an inner-city church with a 60-year-old furnace could apply for a loan, invest in a new energy-efficient furnace and save 20 percent on energy costs. Plus, the new system could make existing spaces accessible year-round--even during hot summer and cold winter months--thus allowing for expanded programs and services.
"From our perspective, our grant is not dollar-in, dollar-out," Gaspari says. "The goal of our grant is to get people involved and lower their initial risks."
For lenders flirting with the idea of investing in energy-efficiency, the new fund provides a potential sustainable model. "Our overall goal is to show that there is a market for these loans and show that they do perform," Gaspari says.
While the new fund is not yet up and running, he says the GCEA expects to underwrite loans, which will be offered through the Cincinnati Development Fund, before the end of 2012.
As part of the fund, the GCEA will track the energy savings that improvements allow. For investors at the Calvert Foundation, the forward-focused program offers a chance to invest in a program that ultimately conserves energy, reduces pollutants and saves money.
By Elissa Yancey
Follow Elissa on Twitter