On-Bill Financing for Public Power
Publicly-owned electric utilities are an important component of the nation’s grid, with more than 2,000 public utilities providing power to about 45 million people in 50 states. Public utilities reach approximately 14 percent of the nation’s population, while delivering 10 percent of the total kilowatt-hours sold in the United States each year.
While public power utilities have made great strides to bring energy efficiency programs to their customers, major opportunities to cut residential energy waste remain. Many families are unable or unwilling to access traditional energy efficiency programs because they requires upfront investments before tax incentives and/or rebates kick in. Low-cost financing, either through a loan or tariff, which requires no upfront payments can significantly broaden the residential energy efficiency market. When the utility provides this financing, the customer can repay the utility via their now-lowered monthly bill, a process known as “on-bill financing.” At least 15 public utilities in eight states already offer on-bill financing programs to their customers. In Bloomfield, Iowa and Holland, Michigan, new public utility on-bill programs will soon be available.
How EESI Can Help
EESI’s On-Bill Financing Project is an ongoing initiative to work with public utilities and their partners to establish residential energy efficiency repayment programs. EESI’s work is grant-funded; its program-related assistance is available for free to public utilities and related stakeholders.
The Help My House Model
EESI has experience developing on-bill financing programs through its involvement in a pilot project by South Carolina’s rural electric cooperatives. The pilot, called “Help My House,” financed energy efficiency upgrades for co-op members’ homes that cut participants’ average electricity use by more than a third. These upgrades included new heat pumps, added insulation, duct and air sealing, and other common-sense measures to make the homes more comfortable and energy-efficient. Participants did not pay anything upfront for their home improvements. Instead they repay their utility over time as part their electricity bill. This process is called “on-bill financing.” And because their energy use was significantly down, participants’ total electric bills typically went down even when including the loan payment.
On-Bill Financing Benefits Everyone
Homeowners and renters are able access home improvements that lower their energy bills and increase home comfort. The no-money-down approach is especially important for economically vulnerable families, who can greatly benefit from lower energy bills but lack the savings to take advantage of energy efficiency rebate programs.
Local communities benefit through increased economic activity in the service area and region, including job and wealth creation. On-bill financing programs are a boon to home contractors and energy auditors, which in turn supports the entire supply chain of energy efficiency materials.
Public utilities that run on-bill financing programs can benefit in various ways, including reduced per capita energy use and peak load shaving, which can help avoid the need for new power generation facilities and help meet energy reduction goals. These programs have also been shown to increase customer satisfaction with their utility.