Jeff Gowdy quoted in today's Tennessean on Energy Efficiency

November 17, 2012

Program commits to energy efficiency loans

Businesses in Nashville and Davidson County have access to $10 million in financing for new energy efficiency projects.

The loan program, announced Friday afternoon, is designed to persuade more businesses to make efficiency a priority by offering them low-interest financing.

“A lot of people have deferred (efficiency investments ) as they’ve gone through the recession,” said Clint Gwin, president of Pathway Lending, the nonprofit that’s offering the financing. “They haven’t invested back in their facilities.”

The loans — available for projects ranging from $25,000 to $2.5 million — come with 3 percent annual interest rates and cover 100 percent of a project’s cost.

“The goal is to take down the barrier of companies having to put in their own capital to fund these projects,” Gwin said.

“Companies are trying to hold on to all the cash they can.”

Businesses will have up to five years to repay the loans, depending on the project. For longer-term projects, such as HVAC or boiler replacements, the repayment period can be extended to 10 years at an interest rate of 5 percent.

As loans are repaid, Gwin said, money will recirculate back into the pool. “We can get more,” he said. “This is just the first installment.”

Unless companies have placed a heavy emphasis on efficiency and conservation, it’s not hard to find “a lot of low-hanging fruit,” said Jeff Gowdy, a sustainability consultant. “With a little bit of input financially,” he said, “you can go a long way.”

After borrowing $120,000 from Pathway, architecture firm Kline Swinney Associates is expecting to soon see the benefits of a range of investments in the firm’s building on Middleton Street. Among other changes, partner David Kline said, the firm switched out old light bulbs for more efficient ones, added motion sensors and energy controls, insulated the outside of the building and added a light harvesting system, which dims the lights relative to the amount of sunlight coming in.

The project is about 75 percent completed, and when it’s finished, Kline said, “we’ll have the same light for less than half the wattage.”

Boost for businesses

In addition to being good news for small businesses needing financing, the program could mean more business for companies like Del Mar Lighting in Brentwood, which manufactures and distributes energy-efficient lighting.

While fluorescent and LED lights are more expensive than traditional incandescent bulbs, they more than pay for themselves in energy and cost savings, said Del Mar President Peter Caldwell. Traditional incandescent bulbs have a life span of roughly 1,000 to 2,000 hours, compared with 30,000 to 50,000 hours for LED bulbs, he said.

Most efficiency projects pay for themselves within two to three years, Gowdy said, even less so for lighting projects.

Link to the article.
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