Energy efficiency financing: New online tool helps projects ‘fly’

A new online platform for energy efficiency financing aims to expedite investment into the sector.

Europe's energy management sector will receive a boost next week with the launch of a new online platform in Milan, Italy.  

The Sustainable Energy Asset Framework (SEAF), a two-year Horizon 2020 funded project, has developed the software to improve access for small- and medium-sized energy services companies (ESCOs) to project finance.

The aim of the platform is to supply data for three elements of pre-qualification - third-party analytics provided by energy efficiency financial services company Joule Assets Europe, project accreditation from the Investor Confidence Project (ICP), and Energy Efficiency Insurance from HSB Engineering Insurance.

Once ESCOs have run projects through the platform, they are matched to an appropriate finance solution from the SEAF investor network, estimated at €1.2bn in available project finance.

Jessica Stromback, Chair of Joule Assets Europe, commented: “The SEAF IT platform saves time and money during the pre-finance stage.

“Completing the entire valuation process, including applying for ICP accreditation or HSB insurance, is significantly simpler for the user with our one-stop-shop process.

“Compare that to weeks, or even months, of negotiations and paperwork to complete these processes separately without SEAF and the added value of this platform is clear.”

Energy efficiency investment platform - testing

The SEAF consortium carried out closed testing of the beta version of its IT platform between mid-January and February 2017.

The test phase allowed 10 ESCOs to register for personal accounts and input information on the type of energy conservation measures, specific technology, manufacturer, capital expenditure, annual energy savings in kWh and annual savings in Euro.

Irish company New Energy Services is one ESCO that has tested the beta version of the online platform.

CEO John O’Rourke told Engerati that there have many attempts over nearly 30 years to create a similar platform for the energy management sector but the SEAF version is the “closest to being very useable”.

“The system could set a standard across Europe for financing energy efficiency projects.”

New Energy Group, which works with commercial and industrial and public sector clients, believes the platform could cut the length of an energy efficiency project by three to six months.

O’Rourke said: “The benefit is that ESCOs know if an investor is keen from project inception, what the investor needs are and how to incorporate those from the beginning.”

Energy efficiency investment

Another ESCO that has tested the platform is CarbonBit, a company offering decarbonising services to the commercial sector.

Managing Director Phil McVan said by facilitating finance, the platform could help liberate projects “that would otherwise have fallen by the wayside”.

He said: “The pre-qualifying process will help projects fly instead of getting stuck.”

McVan acknowledges that the timing is good as the energy efficiency project finance climate is changing. The financial community now accepts that project returns may take five years or longer rather than the two-year standard.

He also believes that the SEAF platform is well positioned to improve communication and understanding between engineers on one side and financiers on the other. “The tool acts as a communication vehicle and does a great job of crystallising what information is needed when.”

Energy efficiency financing platform - getting involved

SEAF said it has responded to initial feedback by automating the inputting of data requirements common to the three elements of the pre-qualification process - Joule Assets’ third party project valuation, ICP certification and HSB insurance.

To make use of the tool, ESCOs can become early users of the beta version, which will run for free until January 2018. Early users will be eligible for a discounted account in 2018 following the official product launch.

To become an early user of the SEAF IT Platform and gain free access, contact Caroline Milne.

The launch of the beta IT platform will take place on 8 March 2017 at the SEAF Investor Forum in Milan, Italy. Attendance is free.