CLEVELAND, May 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Manufacturers, schools, churches, and clinics throughout the Buckeye State could cut tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, thanks to a new pioneering financial tool launching today by the Council of Smaller Enterprises, efficiency-services financer Metrus Energy, and CalCEF, an organization focused on accelerating clean energy technologies.
The new Ohio Efficiency Resource Fund provides otherwise hard-to-get financing for small and medium-sized businesses to make energy-efficiency improvements, with no upfront costs and no risk. This innovative approach bridges the funding gap that has stymied small- and mid-sized retrofit projects—thousands of buildings statewide.
Here's how it works: The Fund signs an Efficiency Services Agreement (ESA) for up to 10 years with a building owner, purchases the new equipment, and hires contractors to design, install, measure, and maintain the energy-saving improvements. As a result, the customer sees a reduction in its total utility bill, while the building becomes more functional, productive, and comfortable. The Fund recoups its investment by billing customers for their actual realized efficiency gains. Since the useful life of the energy-efficiency equipment continues well beyond the life of the contract, customers continue to save for years to come.
The Fund also will help property owners meet the state's Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, which calls for cutting electricity use 22.2 percent by 2025. The Fund is now accepting applications from facility owners who have efficiency retrofit projects costing less than $1 million.
"Like a utility sells electricity, the Fund will sell efficiency as a service to building owners, delivering savings to local businesses," said Bob Hinkle, President and CEO of Metrus Energy, the Fund's manager and creator of the Efficiency Services Agreement. "We are excited to partner with COSE to bring our efficiency finance know-how to this market."
COSE, the largest small business support organization in Ohio with more than 14,000 members, will play the critical role of helping identify and match suitable projects with vetted local contractors. This is well-trodden territory for COSE, which offers several energy programs to save Ohio businesses—from energy and lighting assessments to rebate and incentive programs. COSE was recently honored for its work by Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy.
"This strategy makes the most of smart financing and local expertise," said Nicole Stika, Senior Director of Energy Services for the Council of Smaller Enterprises. "It's also a great way to generate jobs. Ohio, by conservative estimates, already has more than 10,000 jobs tied to energy efficiency, but that's just the start; there's tremendous potential in this sector."
"Our team is skilled at helping building owners identify and implement energy projects that pay for themselves through the utility bill savings they create," said David Zehala, President of Columbus-based energy services company Plug Smart. "This program obliterates all the financial barriers associated with these projects making it easier for our clients to say yes."
"By providing much needed financing, the Fund will help network service providers conducting audits and recommending energy efficiency measures to the manufacturers of the products and materials that are needed to retrofit existing buildings," said Shanelle Smith, Director, Emerald Cities Cleveland, a Fund partner. EC Cleveland, an arm of the Emerald Cities Collaborative, is a network of organizations working together to advance a sustainable environment while creating greater economic opportunities. "The Efficiency Resource Fund is enabling a whole class of projects that may otherwise not be completed, creating an economic boon for our state," she said.
Ohio's advanced energy businesses are flourishing today, employing Ohioans and creating economic value, according to a July 2012 report by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute. The report revealed over 400 companies and organizations in Ohio that are working on the development, manufacture and applicability of energy efficiency products, materials, services, and components in 48 distinct technology systems across 13 categories.
These companies collectively generate $2 billion in revenue annually within Ohio. For example, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) and building controls companies in the state employ over 4,000 people in firms that make energy-efficient temperature management equipment or audit buildings for energy efficiency.
COSE will host the first of several workshops for contractors to provide an overview of efficiency opportunities and financial resources on Thursday, June 6, at Corporate College East in Warrensville Heights
Working with COSE, CalCEF expects to raise $10 million from investors by the end of the year for the Fund. Details of the model are explained in their concept paper, "The Sub-Million Dollar Question: Leveraging Impact Investment and Service Agreements for Small and Mid-Sized Energy Efficiency Projects."
 Advanced Energy Economy Ohio, "Employment in Ohio's Advanced Energy Industry," July 2012, http://www.aee.net/oh/aeei_employmentreport.pdf
 Karpinski, Dave, "Northeast Ohio's energy efficiency roadmap: now and the future," Crain's Cleveland Business, 6 November 2012, http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20121106/SHALEBLOGS/311069995
 Advanced Energy Economy Ohio, "Over 400 Companies, 25,000 Employees Part of Ohio's Advanced Energy Industry, New Report Shows," 17 July 2012, http://www.advancedenergyohio.com/index.cfm?objectid=328500B0-1DF0-11E2-BEB8000C29CA3AF3