Climate Compass Blog

Energy efficiency financing models for buildings could work for natural gas vehicles

Owners of large buildings who want to save money by improving energy efficiency first have to overcome a huge hurdle – the upfront costs of getting the work done. A similar hurdle exists for fleet managers considering switching to natural gas vehicles to save on fuel costs – high initial expenses for vehicles and infrastructure.

What if the same method being used to pay for more energy-efficient buildings could also be used to get cleaner alternative fuel vehicles on the road? A new report by C2ES makes the connection between a commonly used business arrangement in the building sector and its potential use in the deployment of natural gas in public and private vehicle fleets.

A proven way to increase energy efficiency in buildings, including the iconic Empire State Building, is with the help of a business known as an energy service company (ESCO). Typically, an ESCO helps arrange financing for the building upgrade and receives compensation over time as the building owner realizes the energy savings from the efficiency improvements.

An ESCO not only facilitates access to needed capital, but also helps building owners manage the risks of using new, unfamiliar technologies. ESCOs can help building owners identify opportunities and can provide performance guarantees that give building owners assurance of future energy savings.

So, what would an ESCO for natural gas vehicles and fueling infrastructure look like? A little different than an ESCO for buildings. For example, the savings for an ESCO in buildings is often measured in units of energy while an ESCO-like arrangement for a vehicle fleet would base its savings on the differential between natural gas and gasoline/diesel prices. The savings are based on fuel consumption, which fleet managers have experience predicting.

This idea is just now being explored by the natural gas and energy service industries. Our report, part of a two-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program in partnership with the National Association of State Energy Officials and others, details three case studies of ESCO-like arrangements for natural gas vehicles. These early experiences are promising, particularly for fleet managers who need turnkey solutions that can provide net savings from day one.

Among the services companies experienced with natural gas vehicles could provide to fleet managers are:

  • Identifying and evaluating project opportunities,
  • Providing performance guarantees that reduce project risk,
  • Managing the technology transition,
  • Providing alternatives to ownership of vehicles and refueling equipment,
  • Bundling vehicle projects into a broader energy project portfolio, and
  • Facilitating needed partnerships.

Applying the ESCO model to transportation projects can help break through market barriers, increase deployment of alternative fuel vehicles, and diversify the U.S. transportation fuel supply.



Good progress on Climate Action Plan, but further to go

A year after President Obama announced a comprehensive plan to address climate change, clear progress is being made.

A C2ES status report on the president’s Climate Action Plan notes at least some progress on most of the plan’s 75 goals. In several key areas, the administration has taken important first steps, but it is too early to gauge their success or ultimate impact. With much more work still to be done, continued presidential leadership will be essential.

The plan, announced June 25, 2013, outlines goals in three areas: cutting carbon pollution, preparing for climate impacts, and leading international efforts to address climate change. With Congress unlikely to enact major climate legislation, the plan relies almost entirely on steps the administration can take on its own. And the nature, scope and ambition of the plan’s many elements vary widely.

A major goal is reducing carbon pollution from power plants, the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has met its deadlines for proposing regulations for both new and existing power plants, but the rules are not yet final, and implementation will likely take years.

Risky Business report shows need to act on climate change

You expect a business leader to keep a close eye on the bottom line and to act when a threat is clear. As C2ES and others have noted, it is increasingly clear to many business leaders that climate change is a here-and-now threat that we all -- businesses, government and individuals -- must address.

Today’s “Risky Business” report lays out in stark numerical terms the likely economic impact of climate change on U.S. businesses and the U.S. economy. The initiative – co-chaired by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer – brings high-profile attention to this issue in the hopes that highlighting the risks and potential costs will help spur action to manage the impacts and curb climate-altering emissions.

The report’s outline of the many costs of climate impacts is likely an underestimate. For example, the impacts of diminishing groundwater are difficult to calculate and are not included.

My carbon footprint was larger than I thought -- Here's what I did about it

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is no small task. Whether you’re acting individually or within a large organization or company, it’s important first to understand the amount and source of the emissions, and then to take steps to reduce them.

So my co-workers and I got started by holding an office challenge, using the newly updated online carbon calculator from our Make an Impact team to learn more about our carbon footprints and pledge to lower our personal impact on the planet.

I was surprised by the results. Although I regularly bike to work, use mass transit whenever possible, and take other steps at home and work to save energy, my individual footprint was 12,044 lbs. of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year – nearly 2,000 lbs. higher than my local average. The primary cause was my home’s electric heating system.

With the Make an Impact Carbon Calculator, I was able to chart a course to reduce my carbon footprint by taking a variety of steps: biking more, recycling whenever I can, unplugging appliances when not in use, and washing my clothes on the cold water cycle. Through these seemingly small steps, I determined that my pledge to save energy would not only avoid more than 4,476 lbs. of CO2 emissions annually, but also save me $752 over the course of the year!

For home renters like me, energy costs are often an afterthought since we have little control over improvements to our living space. Through Make an Impact’s Tips for the Energy Savvy Renter guide, I was able to provide my landlord with a set of recommendations for reducing her energy costs and reducing our household’s carbon footprint. The calculator predicted that simply by adjusting my thermostats while not at home (or by installing smart thermostats), we would save $166 and 1,863 lbs. of CO2 per year.

With the world already experiencing the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels and more frequent and extreme heat waves, droughts, wildfires and downpours, we need governments and businesses to take the threat seriously. As individuals, we cannot only urge action and hold leaders accountable, but also take steps ourselves to walk the talk. With tools like the Make an Impact Carbon Calculator, we can get started doing our part.

To learn more about how the make an impact carbon calculator can engage your employees, visit


Climate change poses national security risks at home and abroad

More than a dozen military leaders say the impacts of climate change threaten military readiness and response and will increase instability and conflict around the globe.

Their assessments are included in a recent report, National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change, by the CNA Corporation’s Military Advisory Board. The report’s authors – including 16 retired generals and admirals from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps – conclude that climate change impacts will act as threat multipliers and catalysts. Projected warming, changes in precipitation, sea level rise, and extreme weather events will pose risks to security within the U.S. and abroad.

At home, some of the threats are here and now. Many of the nation’s military installations are in coastal areas vulnerable to rising sea levels and storm surges. For example, the low-lying Hampton Roads area of Virginia is home to 29 military facilities. Sea level in the area is projected to rise 1.5 feet over the next 20-50 years and as much as 7.5 feet by the end of the century. One advisory board member, Brig. Gen. Gerald Galloway, stressed that “unless these threats are identified and addressed, they have the potential to disrupt day-to-day military operations, limit our ability to use our training areas and ranges, and put our installations at risk in the face of extreme weather events.”

Figure 1: Sea level rise projections for the Hampton Roads region, which is home to 29 different military facilities. Source: CNA, 2014