EnergyWorks Loans Makes Energy Efficiency More Achievable

A maybe one-time only pot of money designated to provide low-interest loans for energy efficient new construction and retrofits will run out this September. The EnergyWorks loan fund is a federally subsidized initiative designed to jumpstart residential and commercial projects with energy efficient components. It’s accepting applications until the grant period concludes in September of this year. Since the money comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 stimulus, it remains uncertain when another program of this nature will surface.

One project that has benefited

In Philadelphia, one offshoot of the stimulus was the EnergyWorks program. Before the program launched in 2009, there existed no public entity in Philadelphia where individuals could apply for loans to carry out energy efficient retrofits or larger projects. To make it happen, the Office of Sustainability collaborated with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation and The Reinvestment Fund. The Department of Energy provided $16M through formula and block grants, and PIDC and TRF accounted for the remainder of the budget. To qualify for a loan, a project must improve an existing building’s energy efficiency by twenty-five percent. Loans range from $100K to $2.5M.

“We wanted to see what a commercial energy efficient lending program would look like,” said Katherine Gajewski, director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. In Philadelphia, large commercial buildings represent the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, she said. Therefore, energy efficient retrofits could cut down on costs in the long-run, and produce a positive impact on the environment and the economy. Money spent now to pay for energy costs will be saved in the future and can be reinvested in the community. Most large buildings can benefit from an improvement, according to Gajewski.

“We think of efficiency as linked intrinsically with competitiveness in the long run,” said Gajewski.

Tower Place also got a loan

One example of a project that has capitalized on the program is the Home2Suites now under construction at 12th & Arch. EnergyWorks provided $1.5M toward energy efficiency elements. Another is the recently opened Tower Place on North Broad Street, a project that also benefitted from the Historic Tax Credits preservation program. The Paseo Verde project by Temple received $1M. Examples of energy efficient implementations include lighting, HVAC controls, HVAC distribution measures, air conditioning systems, heating systems, machinery and equipment, water heater equipment, as well as sealing air leaks and adding insulation to the building envelope.

Ditto Paseo Verde

When September comes, it will mark the end of a first phase of this lending. That’s when Gajewski and company will be “reflecting and looking at the experience … and trying to understand the size and scale of it.” Moving forward, plans are to seek a new pool of capital from various sources like banks and foundations.

–Lou Mancinelli