As a rising senior at Bentley University, I am currently pursuing a unique degree in professional sales with a minor in earth, energy, and environmental sustainability. For me, a position in professional sales would offer the opportunity to provide service to those in need, while allowing enough freedom and flexibility in the process to accomplish a given goal in a way that feels right. On the environmental side, I have always gravitated toward sustainable science with a specific interest in innovative technologies. Using renewable and alternative energy sources while maximizing the efficiency of what we use every day seems to be one of the clearest paths to a healthier and more sustainable planet. Given my interests in both the worlds of business and sustainability, which can often oppose one another, I have aimed to find an intersection where the two areas overlap without sacrificing impact or feasibility.
When researching potential summer internships for 2019, I was lucky enough to learn about Greenworks Lending in Darien, Connecticut. Greenworks helps small, medium, and large businesses make the smart transition to clean, energy saving equipment and technology as part of a win-win outcome for both the owner and the community. By using a financing mechanism called C-PACE, or Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, Greenworks can provide positive cash flow from day one to green development projects that generate long term savings, which typically outweigh the overall investment. Since Greenworks embodies the exact harmony between business and sustainability I was searching for, I am proud to have joined the team as a Clean Energy Business Development Intern.
So far, I have already been able to represent the company at local industry networking events and am excited to continue spreading awareness about how we can help fund energy efficient projects to improve businesses, local communities, and the environment. Throughout the internship, I have been assisting business development in prescreening new prospective opportunities to ensure the project’s viability. This has allowed me to gain insight on Greenworks’ deals and lifecycle flow, while also learning some of the intricacies of the energy efficiency, commercial real estate, and finance industries.
Founded in 2015, Greenworks has rapidly scaled in both business and geographic footprint with over 250 projects funded across 13 states. Through C-PACE financing, Greenworks can fund both renewable and energy efficiency based commercial projects for HVAC, solar, building envelope upgrades, roof replacements, boilers, chillers, LED Lighting, water conservation, resiliency, and more. So long as there is an energy saving component to the project, it can be C-PACE eligible as the financing program classifies clean energy upgrades as public benefits. The financing mechanism is distinctively useful as the payback periods are customized to match expected useful life of the energy saving upgrades in the project, ideally allowing owners to use their realized utility savings to cover the cost.
Most commercial buildings within PACE enabled municipalities qualify for C-PACE, including industrial, non-profit, and multi-family (>5 units). This is important when considering Greenworks’ mission to reach as many communities as possible through continued expansion. It has been refreshing to be a part of a team that is actively leaving a positive impact on the customers it works for and with!
For example, Greenworks recently closed a large deal, The Plaza Hotel, a 19-storey historic Art Deco styled hotel in downtown El Paso, Texas which was originally built in 1930. The hotel has been out of service for over 20 years and required an extensive gut rehabilitation to restore the building to working conditions. Through C-PACE, Greenworks was able to provide over $9 million for the clean energy portion of the project in order to help revive the historic landmark.
Once the energy efficiency upgrades have been completed, the hotel will include 131 guest rooms, a full-service restaurant, and a rooftop bar. Greenworks investment will help revitalize the local El Paso economy, especially when considering the 182 jobs that will be created within the city as a result of the project. In addition to annual savings of over $250,000 in utility costs, the completed project will conserve 7.7 million gallons of water and almost 1.5 million kWh of energy each year. The energy upgrades will also reduce 808 metric tons of CO2 which is equivalent to the amount of carbon offset by 13,360 tree seedlings grown for 10 years.
Projects like The Plaza Hotel are the perfect way to encourage private or public enterprises to take part in green development projects by allowing property owners to realize reduced operating expenses through lower utility costs, increasing the building’s value as a result of high efficiency equipment upgrades, and revitalizing the local community. These green projects help protect the environment and promote a healthier, sustainable society.
Sustainability can often take a lower priority in many business owners’ minds, as their focus is likely centered on the market and various factors that specifically influence their industry. That is precisely why it is critical to develop clean energy programs that offer tangible fiscal benefits to an owner and their organization in addition to the programs’ positive impact on the environment. The Greenworks Lending team recognizes this and works hard to deliver these benefits as efficiently and effectively as possible. This consistently inspires me to further my drive and ambition towards future endeavors, while also conveying the importance of innovation to discover creative solutions for the planet’s complex environmental issues. I am grateful to have a close vantage point where I can learn from, and work for, a widely talented and conscientious team, but it does not have to stop here. By using Greenworks as a model when creating businesses that can be committed to supporting our planet, without foregoing practical finance and economics, the future begins to look much brighter.