ESCOS: Potential Funding Source for Sustainable Schools

“How can we pay for the energy efficiency improvements?” The answer is funding, which can come from a variety of sources — internal funds, bonding, debt financing, lease or lease-purchase agreements, energy performance contracts, utility incentives and government grants, to name a few. For many schools funding remains the roadblock to implementing energy efficient technologies, and internal funding is not an option.

Leasing or debt financing may provide a workable alternative. In both cases the high up-front costs can be reduced or avoided, and costs can be repaid through the savings that accrue. Another method is perfomance contracts provided by ESCO’s (Energy Service Companies). Typically the ESCO provides a service package that includes the design and engineering, financing, installation and maintenance of the retrofit. Most importantly, ESCO’s provide a guarantee of the energy savings. Schools should also take advantage of the incentives offered by utility companies for the installation of energy efficient equipment. These offers range from equipment rebates, to design assistance, to low-interest loans.

Along with the corporate world, many states have also stepped up to the plate when it comes to financing energy efficient schools. Some states are providing low-interest loans for conservation and renewable resource projects. Others provide state energy tax credits to eligible projects. Also, don’t overlook the many federal agencies offer grants or make financing available to schools for projects that affect energy efficiency. The money is available, the key is finding it.

The most important thing to remember is that being energy efficient does not necessarily translate into significant expenses. When designing new buildings the construction cost trade-offs often allow the architects to incorporate energy-efficient technologies without an increase in cost. When operating existing buildings insulate and weatherstrip, repair cracked windows, close outside doors behind you, plant trees or large shrubs to act as windbreaks or for shade, install low water-use fixture, automate building controls and turn off the lights!

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of School Planning & Management.

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