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HUD/DOT Sustainable Communities Partnership Grants Update

by Rena Ragimova Jul 22, 2010

HUD sm logoHUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities has been getting flooded with questions about the current NOFAs that are out: the Sustainable Communities Planning Grants and the Joint NOFA with DOT covering HUD’s Community Challenge Grants and DOT’s TIGER II Transportation Planning Grants.  ICLEI recently held a webinar that covers all the details with experts from HUD and DOT.

HUD has recently updated its Frequently Asked Questions and Fact Sheets to assist applicants, and to respond to questions of land acquisition, leveraging resources, defining regional boundaries, and other issues.

Additionally, HUD recently reorganized their website at in order to make other useful information more readily available.

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Follow Gainesville's Footsteps on Feed-in Tariffs

by Erica Etelson Jan 27, 2010

House With Roof Solar Panels

Nearly a year into the launch of Gainesville, FL,’s groundbreaking solar feed-in tariff program, ICLEI has published a case study assessing what made the program so successful and how it was set up. Feed-in tariff programs, if you haven’t heard, are a hot topic: A handful of cities like Sacramento, CA, and states like Vermont and  Washington have already followed Gainesville’s lead, and other states are exploring the possibilities as well. ICLEI designed the case study to help interested local governments incorporate the lessons from Gainesville into their own planning efforts.

Dig into the case study and you’ll find highlights of key program elements, along with insights into GRU’s program design process. For example, GRU decided to pay investors $0.32 per kWh after doing quite a bit of homework: GRU surveyed its customers to find out how much extra they would be willing to pay to support such a program ($1 a month), and used financial models to determine what price per kWh would give investors the same net present value as GRU’s pre-existing incentive package.

Equipped with ample background information, GRU designed a program that will generate 32 megawatts (MW) of solar electricity by 2016, reducing emissions by 40,093 metric tons of CO2e annually. Within the first six months, so many investors had signed up that the program was filled to capacity. (GRU capped the program at 32 MW in order to keep the electricity rate increase below the $1/month breakpoint).

By setting a price that was attractive to investors but palatable for other customers, GRU’s program gained widespread support. Another key to the program’s success was the series of workshops GRU sponsored for contractors, leading solar installers to take the initiative to approach homeowners with suitable rooftops. The workshop increased the pool of applicants and generated an enviable media buzz.

Gainesville case study coverThere are other lessons to be learned from Gainesville: As of January, 2010, only 563 kWh of solar electricity are online, prompting GRU to streamline its application and permitting process and to educate applicants and planning boards about permitting requirements. GRU staff expect to ramp up installation and reach the annual 4MW target by the first year anniversary in March, 2010. 

>> View the Case Study Now


Update, April 5, 2010: Los Angeles Business Council Releases Breakthrough Solar Feed-In Tariff Study (Inhabitat)

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Southeast Local Governments Take the Lead on Efficiency

by Eli Yewdall, ICLEI Program Officer Jan 10, 2010

Southeast Regional


Residential and commercial energy use are two of the three largest sectors in most community greenhouse gas emission inventories (transportation is the third). Local government interest in working with residents and businesses to reduce those emissions has exploded over the past year. This interest has been driven by the opportunities presented by Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant and Retrofit Ramp-up funding, and with innovative models like those profiled in ICLEI's 2009 Webinar Series on Innovative Energy Financing.

Southeast local governments are boldly embracing these opportunities and are creating some innovative models of their own. At least 13 local governments in the Southeast are developing programs to offer some kind of financial incentive for energy efficiency improvements to homes and/or businesses. Some will make loans with repayment attached to property taxes, some have come up with other creative ways to offer financing, and some are offering rebates or matching grants to reduce the cost of improvements and make the investment more attractive for homeowners.

Below is a summary of programs ICLEI has collected. If your community has or is creating an incentive program and is not listed below, please let us know! State network calls are a great opportunity to learn the latest about what peers in your state are developing. you can also use ICLEI's Peer Networking tool to contact one of the members referenced below.  ICLEI also expects to offer additional regional webinars in 2010 addressing commercial and residential efficiency programs as follow-up to the November 2009 webinar on Energy Financing Districts; we welcome member suggestions for webinar topics.


Household Meter-Readers

Property-Assessed Financing Programs

  • Leon County, FL, is piloting a property assessed financing program. The County's internal fund balance is being used for initial program funding. They will start with a pilot program of 100 energy audits, with audit participants having the option to take a loan of up to $6500 to make improvements. Eligible measures will include envelope tightening, caulking, ducts, insulation, and door and window replacement. County building inspectors will check the quality of work after completion.
  • Seminole County, FL, is also developing a property assessed financing program. They have allocated EECBG formula funds for program development and will issue bonds to raise capital for the loans.


Other Financing Programs

  • Charleston, SC, is developing a program with a portion of EECBG formula funds to offer loans for energy efficiency improvements which residents would repay on their city water bills.
  • Columbia, SC, will offer financing with repayment on water bills. They are working with the state energy office to apply for DOE Retrofit Ramp-up funds for the program.
  • Knoxville and Knox County, TN, have applied for $5 million under DOE's Retrofit Ramp-up program to support home and business efficiency improvements. A community non-profit lender that previously worked with the county's redevelopment programs has agreed to provide the financing.


Rebate or Grant Programs

  • Charlotte, NC, will spend $600,000 of EECBG funds to make energy efficiency retrofits available to 100 homes as a complement to its existing housing rehabilitation assistance program. Eligible homeowners will have an income at or below 80% of the area median income. Priority will be given to homeowners in current revitalization areas. Charlotte has also allocated $1.2 million for energy efficiency retrofits of businesses in Business Corridor Revitalization areas.  This program will leverage between oine and five times the city's investment depending on the efficiency technology. The city is in discussion with banks, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, about providing financing for these improvements.

  • Nashville, TN, has created Go Green District 18, with a goal of reducing total energy use in that district by 5%. Nashville Energy Services (NES), in partnership with TVA, will provide homeowners with an In-Home Energy Evaluation for a fee of $150. The fee is reimbursed if recommended improvements totaling more than $150 are made. Participants are also reimbursed 50% of the installation cost up to $500. Businesses can get a free evaluation, and homeowners and businesses can track their energy savings online through a special NES program called Powerwise. Participation is being promoted by Kristine LaLonde, Metro Council member for the district and by Mayor Karl Dean.

  • Orlando, FL, is implementing a program using formula block grant funds to retrofit 700 homes with up to $900 spent per home. Orange County, FL, is soliciting contractors to implement a similar program.

  • Atlanta, GA, has designated $2 million, about one-third of the formula block grant funds it received, to matching grants to homeowners for an efficiency improvement program called SHINE (Sustainable Housing in a New Economy). Contractors certified through the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program will evaluate homes to determine the most cost-effective improvements. The program will leverage utility rebates, federal tax credits, and homeowner funds. Payment will be made directly to contractors at the completion of work. On-bill financing may be available through the natural gas utility. Atlanta has also applied for Retrofit Ramp-up funds from DOE to expand the program, and will try to pursue state authorization for property assessed financing. Decatur, GA is seeking funding through the state energy office and DOE to offer the SHINE program to its residents as well.

  • Sarasota County, FL, has allocated part of their formula block grant funds to rebates for residential efficiency improvements.

  • Alachua County, FL, has set aside block grant funds for a community efficiency program and is holding a community meeting solicit input on program design.


In addition to developing their own programs, local governments in Florida and Georgia are playing a leadership role in introducing enabling legislation at the state level that would accelerate the deployment of property assessed clean energy financing programs.

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A Look at Stimulus Dollars Flowing to Big Cities

by Don Knapp Dec 20, 2009

GOOD stimulus graphic

 Image credit: Infographic reprinted from website. click to view larger version.

In this intriguing infographic, takes a high-level look at how stimulus funds are being allocated in six big U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Phoenix, Houston, and Philadelphia. Education and transportation appear to be the biggest spending categories, although New York's priority is clearly buildings.

Here's the description from their website:

In February, the U.S. government passed the $787 billion Recovery Act, better known as the stimulus package, in an effort to breathe new life into a lagging economy. According to the website, nearly 20 percent of that money has been meted out in the form of contracts and grants. Much of it is flowing to cities for projects like building new roadways or greening federal buildings. Here's a look at the top municipal recipients and which sectors they're funneling their money toward.


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Financing Is on Fire

by Annie Strickler Aug 24, 2009

House With Roof Solar Panels

Energy financing, a strategy that has gained in popularity among local governments, is making media waves. It’s a trend that ICLEI and our members are leading.

In case you missed it, the Wall Street Journal recently profiled Babylon, New York (and several other ICLEI members, including my new hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia) and their innovative programs to help residents cover the costs of energy efficiency upgrades and clean energy installations.

Cities across the country are offering low-interest loans to residents for everything from home weatherization to rooftop solar panels.

Babylon’s Long Island Green Homes initiative, featured in the story, was a headliner in ICLEI’s free summer Innovative Financing Webinar Series. You can watch the webinars – which also cover the Cambridge Energy Alliance, BerekelyFIRST, Boulder and Sonoma County – on our website. 

Another resource on the topic of financing is our recent blog series, “Seven Challenges for Clean Energy Municipal Financing.”

Here’s an excerpt from the WSJ:

“Empowered by recent changes to local, state and federal laws, municipal governments from Long Island to the Bay Area are launching programs to help residents purchase efficient furnaces, weatherize their homes and put solar panels on their roofs. Homeowners often balk at the upfront costs of such improvements because the energy savings typically takes years to pay off. These local officials think they can overcome this hurdle by helping residents spread the costs over a decade or more…

…Eleven other states, including Texas and Ohio, now have laws on the books that allow local governments to establish financing programs for home-energy improvements, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy, a Web site that tracks such information.

In addition to Babylon, pilot programs have launched in Boulder, Colo., and five California cities. Several other local governments -- from Charlottesville, Va., to Albuquerque, N.M. -- are moving forward with programs of their own. The Department of Energy recently said that local governments could also use as much as 20% of the energy-efficiency block grants they receive from the federal stimulus to set up loan programs.”

Our friends at the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) helped us with a list of state legislative frameworks required in order for local governments to establish these types of programs in their jurisdiction. Check it out.

It’s clear that energy financing is a hot topic that keeps heating up as a way to cool down the planet.

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Seven Challenges for Clean Energy Municipal Financing, Part 1

by Don Knapp Jul 16, 2009

Money Sign Puzzle

As more local governments seek to establish a clean energy municipal financing program, what can they learn from the California jurisdictions that have led the way—Berkeley, Palm Desert, and Sonoma County? How to overcome seven key challenges. (Part 1 in a series)

The enrollment period for the City of Berkeley’s solar financing pilot program began on November 5, 2008, and lasted all of nine minutes. In that short span, eager community members jostled to be one of the 40 applicants for Berkeley FIRST, whose brilliant concept didn’t just catch the attention of homeowners: Over the past year, more than 1,300 local governments across the country contacted City of Berkeley staff to learn more about the program and inquire about how to replicate it in their jurisdictions.

Clean energy municipal financing (i.e., energy improvements via municipal low-interest loans tied to the property, not the homeowner) is a powerful tool for reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. But it isn’t a simple tool that’s easily replicated. So how can enthusiastic local governments launch their own programs and avoid any pitfalls? By learning lessons from the three California innovators that launched programs in 2008: the City of Berkeley, the City of Palm Desert, and Sonoma County. Below, staff from these ICLEI members share seven challenges, as well as stumbles and keys to success.

These examples may be California-centric, but the lessons are applicable nationwide.

Challenge #1: Defining Goals and Determining Scope >>

Webinar Series on Energy Financing Models

Don't miss ICLEI's summer webinar series on innovative municipal financing models that have been used to promote residential energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts. Learn what makes these programs successful, and how to replicate them in your community.

  • July 23: Cambridge Energy Alliance
  • July 30: Berkeley FIRST
  • Aug. 4: Boulder County ClimateSmart Loan Program
  • Aug. 11: Sonoma County Energy Independence Program
  • Aug. 13: Setting Up a City-Scale Retrofit Program
Register Now blue small icon


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While the World Slept, Ed Mazria Figured Out How to Save It

by Don Knapp May 18, 2009

Guest Blogger: Cyrus Bhedwar, ICLEI Southeast Regional Manager, reporting from the Local Climate Leadership Summit in Washington D.C.

Ed Mazria, Architecture 2030Brilliant ideas often have their genesis at 1 a.m., as Ed Mazria testified yesterday at the lunchtime keynote presentation. Weeks ago, said Mazria, “I received an e-mail from Michelle [Wyman, ICLEI Executive Director] at one in the morning asking me to help come up with a proposal for how local governments might best spend their Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funding.”

The founder of Architecture 2030 didn’t disappoint: His brainchild, 14x Stimulus: A Plan for State and Local Governments, is a triple threat with the power to create jobs, save energy, and restore the tax base of local communities.

Ed Mazria of Architecture 2030

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Iconic Skylines Get Deeper Green Hue

by Annie Strickler Apr 21, 2009

New York Skyline



We live, work and play in them. They define our skylines. And they account for about half the greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Today, two major cities and leaders on climate and sustainability, are greening them.

New York City and Seattle are both announcing plans this Earth Day to green existing buildings, marking a giant leap forward in energy efficiency at the local level.

Honing in on New York’s ambitious plan we find six key components which include legislation (creating a New York City Energy Code, and requiring energy audits and lighting upgrades), a jobs program, and a financing program.

The press release from New York calls theirs “the world’s most comprehensive package of legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing government, commercial, and residential buildings.”

There’s more from the New York Times and the city has designed a nice overview piece  that provides the nuts-and-bolts overview.

Once again New York City’s bold vision is setting the pace for local government efforts to curb emissions while continuing to thrive economically.

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