November 19, 2023 Boston Globe Article
Re: Ipswich Electric Department pilot for tariffed on-bill financing for energy efficiency and electrification projects.
Sept. 25, 2023
Town of Ipswich Introduces Novel Mechanism to Bring Clean Energy Upgrades to Homes
Through utility cooperation, new program will enable homeowners and renters to enjoy benefits of energy efficient upgrades
Ipswich—In a first for Massachusetts, the town of Ipswich, through the Ipswich Electric Light Department (ELD), will accelerate clean energy home improvements through a streamlined, utility-supported process for homeowners and renters. This concept is officially called tariff on-bill financing, or TOB, and it will be managed through ELD’s ReSource ReInvest program.
In this program, ELD, not the homeowner, will invest in state-of-the-art clean energy technology. No taking on debt, no credit checks, no obligations for renters or those who plan to move soon. The occupant will simply see a monthly payment that is less than the money saved from the energy efficient upgrades. The payment would extend for as long as it takes for the utility to recover its investment and, if a homeowner moves, would simply transfer to the next occupant.
Administered by the Center for EcoTechnology (CET) and supported by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, this is a potentially game-changing approach to accelerating decarbonization and ensuring that all customers—especially renters and low-income homeowners—are part of the clean energy transition.
“This new program will remove some of the financial barriers that keep residents from accessing new, efficient upgrades for their homes,” said Ashley Wilson of Ipswich ELD. “From solar power and heat pumps to better insulation, these all add up to money saved for the homeowner and a smaller carbon footprint. It’s a win all around.”
“It will take innovative solutions of all varieties to help residents decarbonize and electrify their homes. Tariff on-bill financing is a novel approach to delivering energy savings and efficiency to communities,” said MassCEC CEO Jennifer Daloisio. “Pioneering pilots like this one from ELD are key to meeting the Commonwealth’s ambitious net zero goals, meaningfully reducing barriers for residents, and unlocking millions in economic activity and home improvements.”
Recently, the first site visit was conducted at 69 High Street. Peter Cricones is a local realtor who had been looking into new heating systems and was thinking about weatherization, but finances prevented him from moving forward.
“I was even more impressed when I learned the loan wouldn’t be in my name,” said Cricones. “Not needing to go through a credit check makes it even easier.”
A 2020 feasibility study, supported in part by MassCEC, gave the partners the data and confidence they needed to move forward with the program: A survey polling customer interest came back overwhelmingly positive; the business case analysis showed a strong positive return on investment for the utility; and a technical analysis indicated that priority improvements could yield enough energy and cost savings to be financed with little or no upfront cost across Ipswich’s average housing stock.
ReSource ReInvest is designed to take the friction out of home energy retrofits—and that’s critical if Massachusetts is to hit its 2030 decarbonization target of retrofitting 1 million homes with clean heat and insulation. With ReInvest, gone is the expensive upfront outlay and gone, too, is the hassle and confusion of identifying contractors, evaluating quotes, and navigating utility incentive programs. These steps are all supported by CET’s energy consultants.
Now in its first month of pilot-scale implementation, the customer journey is simple. First, receive a comprehensive home energy audit. Next, a CET energy consultant will present a preliminary ReInvest offer with eligible weatherization and/or heat pump upgrades, the accompanying monthly payment, duration of the payment, and upfront cost, if any. If satisfied, the next step is soliciting detailed quotes from contractors, after which the consultant updates the ReInvest offer to generate the final payment numbers. Contractors are hired and paid by the utility, and once measures are installed and inspected, Ipswich ELD commences the payment. Should a renter or homeowner move, the payment stays with the electric meter, and the new technology will continue to deliver savings to the new occupant.
“I think TOB can play an outsized role in unlocking building decarbonization across the Commonwealth,” noted CET President Ashley Muspratt. “I feel so fortunate to be partnered with a utility like Ipswich ELD that has the vision and courage to be a first mover proving out this model.”
To read the feasibility study co-authored by CET and Ipswich ELD, visit centerforecotechnology.org.