UCS: Solar financing could cut electric bills by $14 million, boost economy

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UCS: Solar financing could cut electric bills by $14 million, boost economy

Fri, 12/30/2016 - 4:36pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Vermont, already a national leader in clean energy deployment, could spur additional job creation and economic growth by forging new public-private partnerships to increase financing for local clean energy projects, according to a study released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), in coordination with the Northeast Solar Energy Market Coalition (NESEMC).

The analysis shows how the state could expand clean energy financing programs to make additional low-interest loans available to homeowners, businesses and municipalities who want to make energy efficiency improvements, install solar panels, or invest in other types of clean energy projects. Establishing the program with an initial $7 million public investment would leverage $148 million in private sector investments over 15 years, according to the study.

“Vermont has made tremendous strides in developing clean energy and creating jobs in a high growth industry,” said Steve Clemmer, energy research director at UCS and lead author of the analysis. “Expanding clean energy financing in Vermont is one way for the state to continue its transition to a clean energy economy, while lowering energy costs and ensuring consumers earn a sizeable return on their initial investment.”

UCS analyzed the potential outcome of increasing clean energy financing capacity in Vermont, based on the experiences of clean energy lending programs in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and elsewhere. According to the analysis, an expanded financing initiative in Vermont could:

•       Drive $148 million in clean energy investments over the next 15 years, if supplied with $7 million in initial capital;
•       Support the deployment of nearly 50 megawatts of new solar and community wind power projects, producing enough clean power to meet the annual electricity needs of more than 12,820 households;
•       Save homes and businesses more than $14 million per year on their electricity bills due to energy efficiency investments; and
•       Reduce the state’s carbon emissions by more than 111,500 tons per year—the equivalent of taking 21,300 cars off the road.

“Combining existing state clean energy programs with more robust private sector funding can be a more predictable and sustainable route to achieving large scale deployment of solar and renewable goals in the Northeast states,” said Mike Trahan, co-director of NESEMC, an alliance of solar and clean energy groups operating in the Northeast and funded through a cooperative award from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. “A good example is the Connecticut Green Bank that has generated nearly $1 billion in alternative energy investments since 2012 with 90 percent of that coming from private investment. It has helped create almost 8,300 state jobs
and reduced carbon emissions by 1.4 million tons.”

While Vermont is a national leader in investing in solar and energy efficiency, it will need to do much more to reach its goal of providing 90 percent of the state’s total energy use from renewable sources by 2050, Trahan points out. In 2015, Vermont ranked eighth in solar capacity per capita and third in solar jobs per capita, according to the Solar Foundation. The state also ranked third for energy efficiency savings in 2015, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. A comprehensive clean energy financing initiative could help Vermont build on this impressive track record.

“Taking Vermont’s energy transition to the next level is all about building market demand,” said Andrea Colnes, Executive Director of Energy Action Network in Vermont. “Using limited amounts of public funding to 
leverage abundant private capital into markets so consumers can lower energy costs, is a win-win approach to supporting the state’s transition to a clean energy economy.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future. 

The Northeast Solar Energy Market Coalition—funded through an award from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative—is comprised of nine state solar-specific business groups and renewable energy associations focused on 
synchronizing state policies throughout the Northeast United States. The coalition’s members have identified efficient and innovative finance tools, such as a green bank, as critical to the successful growth of solar markets in the region. For more information, go to www.nesemc.com.

Source: CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (December 29, 2016)— Union of Concerned Scientists For more information, go to www.ucsusa.org.