Co-op and condo boards thinking about undertaking green projects don’t have to go it alone. A major source of loans for such projects, the nonprofit New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC), is experiencing rapid growth in its assets, its geographic reach, and the types of projects it is helping to get off the ground. “Demand is driving our growth,” says Curtis Probst, the company’s co-CEO since April. “How we meet that demand is by borrowing from banks, foundations, philanthropic organizations, and by using government incentives.”
The corporation’s assets – its existing loans plus cash on hand – now total about $60 million, up 21 percent from last summer through this spring. About half of its loans go to co-ops, condos, and other multi-family buildings, both affordable and market-rate, while the remainder go to commercial and industrial properties. The loans cover solar panels, boiler conversions (from oil to natural gas), cogeneration systems, and the coming generation of cutting-edge batteries that store electricity. While originally focused in New York City, the seven-year-old nonprofit now services eight surrounding states.
One reason for this expansion, Probst says, is that lending institutions, including major banks, see a double benefit in funding green projects: there’s a profit to be made, and there’s a benefit to the planet. “All major banks have established environmental targets as part of their corporate social responsibility,” he says. “Meeting goals on climate change is important in boardrooms today, and we’re a way to help them meet those goals.” On some projects, he adds, his organization will work with many lenders.
One of NYCEEC’s goals is to help fund innovative projects. “[Energy] storage has a bright future, though it’s still relatively new,” says Probst, who likens today’s battery-storage technology to the solar-panel technology of a decade or so ago, when it was prohibitively expensive. Today, thanks to falling hardware costs and rising government incentives and tax breaks, solar is enjoying widespread acceptance across New York City.
Those incentives and tax breaks are a critical part of the equation. “Co-op and condo boards need to realize that there are government programs that can help them improve energy efficiency,” Probst says. “The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has its Community Energy Engagement Program. And New York City has the Retrofit Accelerator. We encourage boards to explore these options.”