clean technology

Executive Actions on Energy – What It Means

The last few years have seen a slurry of executive actions on clean, sustainable energy from the Federal government. There’s way more than just the Clean Power Plan. So what is there and what does it mean?

In March of this year, President Obama signed an Executive Order, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, which also included some interesting policy steps and aggressive Federal energy targets. In August the White House announced a whole host of actions, some new and some not. Here’s just a few significant pieces from the August announcement.

  • Making an additional $1 billion loan guarantee authority available and announcing new guidelines for distributed energy projects utilizing innovative technology and states looking to access this financing
  • Unlocking Residential Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing
  • Launching a new HUD and DOE program to provide home owners with a simple way to measure and improve the energy efficiency of their homes, by increasing homeowners borrowing power

Loan Guarantees

Loan guarantees have been a much discussed tool of the Department of Energy (DOE). Perhaps you remember Solyndra? There are two key things to remember about the new action announced in August. First, DOE is no longer placing loan guarantees on companies, like Solyndra or Tesla, but on projects. This is notable because it makes loan guarantees company agnostic and technology-centric. In other words, DOE doesn’t care who you are or, to some degree, what you are selling. They only care that your project makes economic sense. If it does, they can help with a loan guarantee. A good example of this in practice would be an energy-storage project with a signed contract from a utility company.

Second, the new announcement calls for $1 billion on loan guarantees on distributed energy technologies. This includes technologies such as rooftop solar, energy storage, and smart grid technology. Loan guarantees have been around quite some time, even before the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This is a specific carve-out for distributed energy technologies which represents a fundamental bet on the future of energy in America.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing

We wrote about PACE in Alabama a while back. Feel free to read up on it!

PACE financing has not always been well received. The main issue at hand is its senior loan position. Mortgage companies typically have the first right to the property after a governmental property tax lien. If you default on your property taxes, the government, typically local, can seize the property. The same thing can happen if you don’t pay your mortgage. But what happens if you don’t pay either? Well, the government gets their share first.

Herein lies the problem with PACE. If you are repaying energy-efficiency or renewable-energy upgrades through your property taxes, it becomes senior to the mortgage. If you default, there are less possible funds available to make the bank whole on the mortgage.

The big news here is Federal Housing Administration (FHA) backed loans are now compatible with PACE. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is issuing a preliminary statement indicating the conditions under which borrowers purchasing or refinancing properties with existing PACE assessments will be eligible to use FHA-insured financing. Since FHA backs an enormous amount of mortgages, PACE could become much easier for millions of Americans.

*Note: But not in Alabama. PACE, as currently defined by Alabama law, is only available to commercial properties.

FHA, HUD and Energy Efficiency

It turns out that people are much less likely to default on a home that is energy-efficient. This is pretty intuitive actually. If the home costs less to operate, chances are higher that the homeowner will be able to make their monthly mortgage payment.

To that end, HUD and DOE are launching a program to provide potential homeowners with an easy way to measure and improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Under the new HUD and DOE Home Energy Score partnership, in areas where the Home Energy Score is available, single family households will be able to increase their access to financing tools to make energy-efficiency improvements.

Note: DOE’s Home Energy Score offers a “miles per gallon” type rating to estimate a home’s energy use on a 10-point scale. A “1” corresponds to the least energy-efficient homes and a “10” corresponds to the most energy-efficient homes, while the average U.S. home will score a “5.”

Through this new partnership, home buyers or homeowners who want to obtain an FHA-insured purchase or refinance a mortgage for a single family home that receives a Home Energy Score of 6 or higher will be eligible to increase their income qualifying ratio by 2 percentage points above the standard Single Family FHA limit, making it easier to secure financing to make these improvements.

Summing it Up

Most of the recent action can be described as those to make clean, sustainable energy easier for the average American. This is being achieved through new programs, reducing red tape and increasing investment in targeted areas. If you’re in the market for a new home or a new to you home, take a look at what is out there that you can take advantage of. Energy efficient mortgages and 203(k) renovation loans are still great tools to help you. Long story short? Sustainable energy at the individual level was already cost-effective. And it just got easier too!

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Clean Power Plan Could Create Boom in Tenn. Valley Tech Industry

TENNESSEE VALLEY (WAFF) – In the past several years, utility companies have started to move away from coal, opting for cheaper natural gas.

On Monday, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan highlighted the government’s commitment to renewable energy, and showed power companies that they will profit from their investments.

Daniel Tait, with Energy Alabama says there’s still a lot of unknowns surrounding President Obama’s plan, like, what will this mean for your electric bill?

“Until we really learn about what the state of Alabama will be able to do at the state level we don’t necessarily know a whole lot just yet for local consumers or local residents.”

However, he sees the plan as an opportunity for growth in the tech industry in the Valley.

“If we’re looking at technological development in these industries, it could be a huge boom for our area to really try and take advantage of that,” said Tait.

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Google’s 100% Renewable Energy Alabama Campus – What it Means

North Alabama welcomes Google with its 14th data center! Yay Alabama! OK, so what does it actually mean?

There are two key takeaways that matter to you:

  1. It is now clear that clean, sustainable energy is extremely important to companies of the “new economy”.
  2. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is re-purposing its shuttered coal-fired power plants to create even more jobs and economic activity than these plants previously provided.

Importance of Google’s Alabama Campus in the New Economy

North Alabama has traditionally been extremely competitive in luring new companies to the area. That said, the game is changing and North Alabama is keeping up. Looking around the country you’ll notice that more and more companies are considering renewable energy and highly energy-efficient buildings as prerequisites for opening up shop. Want some examples?

  1. Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, TN plant is home to the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified auto plant in the world. This plant is also home to a solar array that produces more than 13 gigawatt hours of energy or enough to take 1,200 area homes off the grid. You may remember that this plant came down to a decision between Chattanooga, TN and Huntsville, AL.
  2. Apple’s Claremont, NC data center is powered by 100% sustainable energy. Their acquisition went so well, they kept going with another 100-acre, 17.5 MW plant. Apple recently made a commitment to power 100 percent of their Apple Retail Stores with 100 percent renewable energy.

This means that as you see Alabama continues to compete for the jobs of the 21st century, expect more announcements like Google’s. Companies care about sustainable energy because their customers care about sustainable energy.

Oh and don’t forget, it saves them money too! Google’s newest technology allows them to get 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy, compared to just five years ago.

Re-purposing of Coal-Fired Power Plants

After the announcement that the Colbert Fossil Plant was closing, there was much speculation about what would become of the old sites. Additionally, while some employees were able to find work elsewhere in the TVA, many people were literally worrying about what they would do after their jobs were eliminated. Just a short time later, TVA announced that the site of the Colbert Fossil Plant would become home to Alabama’s largest solar power plant.

A recent study by the University of Alabama shows that the new solar-power plant will generate $52 million in additional local taxes and will create over 400 jobs with cumulative earning of over $24 million. Talk about a boom to the local economy! In fact it was so good Lauderdale County Commissioner Fay Parker said, “I have reviewed the study several times, just to make sure I was seeing what I was seeing.”

By itself, this conversion of the Colbert Fossil Plant was simply great news. But with the Google announcement, are we witnessing a clear strategy by TVA?

If so, we applaud them. As the numbers prove, these new sustainable-energy projects will generate more jobs, income, and tax revenues for their local areas than their predecessors did. In Stevenson, AL the announcement called for at least 100 “high paying jobs” which should be considered in contrast to the 90 jobs lost that probably paid less than Google. This doesn’t even consider the increase in tax revenue to the local school systems and Google’s well-known generosity.

Why old coal-fired power plants?

A couple of reasons. First, there is a significant amount of electrical transmission infrastructure already in place that is attractive to an energy-intensive project like a data center. Think about the money Google will save by building there or the money Alabama saved by not having to build out additional infrastructure as a recruiting incentive. Hint: your tax money was spent wisely! Second, coal-fired power plants typically use a lot of water, and data centers like Google’s can tap into that infrastructure, as well, for its own massive water needs.

Governments also care about sustainable energy because it is now a proven way to create more jobs and increase local tax revenues. Additionally, they can use their recruiting incentives in a more targeted way by properly utilizing existing infrastructure.

So what does it matter for you? Wouldn’t you want to work for Google? Take a peek inside of a Google data center and let us know in the comments.

Toyota USA Foundation to Support Local Charity with $100K Grant for Sustainable Energy Education

Huntsville, Ala – Energy Alabama was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the Toyota USA Foundation to support sustainable energy education in the Huntsville community. The grant will support sustainable K12 energy curriculum development and for the construction of “net zero energy” or off-grid tiny homes. Energy Alabama has partnered with Bob Jones High School and the Huntsville Center for Technology and construction of the first tiny home is already underway. The grant also enables more than 10,000 students to receive clean, sustainable energy instruction, events, and hands-on activities, all with a focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“We know that the future of our society will be built on increasingly sophisticated technological expertise and innovative problem solving,” said Michael Rouse, Toyota USA Foundation President. “That’s why Toyota USA Foundation is proud to support these nonprofits, who are creating exciting opportunities to train and inspire the next generation of leaders in science, technology, engineering and math.”

High school students may be building the tiny homes but the community will be invited to finish assembly of the first tiny home over the summer of 2015.

“With this grant from the Toyota USA Foundation, we are able to provide the STEM education in sustainable energy and students will be inspired to enter careers in STEM related fields,” said Daniel Tait, CEO of Energy Alabama.

Examples of activities already undertaken as a result of this grant are:

  • The “Switch Blade Competition” in which a team from the University of Alabama in Huntsville redesigned a wind turbine blade that performed 44% better at low speeds than the original design
  • Participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Fest with a hands-on wind energy display reaching over 500 students at the K-12 level.
  • Participation in two Earth day events with hands-on demonstrations including an ‘energy bike’ which taught more than 500 students the basic principles of energy.
  • Hosting a public documentary screening of “Switch: Discover Our Energy Future”


About the Energy Alabama

Energy Alababma is accelerating the transition to sustainable, clean energy throughout Alabama. We do this by widely promoting sustainable energy as a feasible, state-wide goal, by executing high-impact clean energy projects across the State, and by providing people with information and opportunities to help make clean energy choices. We work with policy makers, public agencies, local governments, educational institutions, utilities, business and civic leaders and individuals to transform Alabama’s energy marketplace and beyond. ALCSE is committed to powering Huntsville with 100% clean and efficient energy by 2025 and Alabama by 2035.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Daniel Tait at (256) 303-7773 or email at

Let’s Push TVA for a Sustainable Energy Plan for the Future: guest opinion

Let’s Push TVA for a Sustainable Energy Plan for the Future: guest opinion

Our CEO, Daniel Tate, shared a guest opinion on, encouraging the TVA to follow through on their Integrated Resource Plan.

A few days ago, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) released its draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). This plan takes a long-term look at ways that TVA can and should meet future demand for electricity in new and innovative ways. Think of it as TVA’s roadmap into the future. It details everything from external factors beyond its control, such as the state of the economy, to factors within its control, such as how it procures electricity. In other words, this is your energy future, and TVA needs your input ─ now.

The future of energy is already here and we must take this opportunity to press for continued, indeed accelerated growth in clean, sustainable energy. In fact, there are more than 150 businesses in the Huntsville area working in energy and creating well-paying, local jobs. Huntsville’s rich high-tech history lends itself well to take full advantage of the revolution in the energy market and to help diversify our economy.

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