Harnessing resources to further your mission.

Commons Energy combines a full array of energy services—including project management and access to capital—to provide wraparound, painless solutions to clients.

Here's how it works

Meet

We start by meeting with you to discuss the challenges of your buildings and your goals for energy savings

Explore

Your buildings are assessed for energy and water savings potential, and then we manage the contractor selection and installation for you.

Plan

We provide access to project financing so that both investors and building owners will get financial returns right away.

Execute

The work is completed, with oversight from Commons Energy. Those who live, work, or visit the building experience improved comfort and safety. Building owners and managers obtain immediate energy savings.

We are ready to take your project from start to finish. Connect

A model that benefits all

Commons Energy, a public-purpose energy services company (or PPESCO), is an innovative take on a tested model, using financing from mission-aligned sources to finance the project. The client repays investors from resulting energy savings.

Your energy reduction is guaranteed.

By investing in Commons Energy, the High Meadows Fund puts its capital to work in a way that provides a modest financial return while enabling organizations that serve our communities to focus on their important missions.

-Gaye Symington, Executive Director at the High Meadows Fund

Frequently asked questions

What makes a project a good fit with Commons Energy? Are there limitations, (such as types of building, size of project, and/or geography)?

Building Type: Commons Energy’s goal is to help make buildings that serve the public more energy-efficient and sustainable. Any type of building that fits this description - and that does not have access to the services and/capital that Commons Energy is designed to provide - is where we want to be.

Size of Project: Any building or group of buildings that spends between $50,000 up to $500,000 on utilities (including gas, electricity, water and waste water) is likely to be a good candidate for our service. Examples of public serving buildings are found in all of our target sectors. These sectors include Education (day care facilities; rural and urban public schools, charter schools, etc.); Health care (walk in clinics; small health care centers, etc.); Municipal and Community (wastewater treatment plants; town halls; libraries, etc) and Multi Family Affordable Housing (multi-unit properties; tenant owned co-ops; transitional housing, etc.)

Geography: We are beginning in Vermont and the Washington, DC Metro area (Virginia; Washington, DC; Maryland) and are pursuing opportunities elsewhere shortly thereafter. We hope to expand quickly as opportunities arise and as we identify existing networks and value-aligned partners to work with.

If I have already had an energy audit done, will I need another one? If I do, who pays for it?
It depends. Because we’re on the line for the savings with our guarantee of the energy and water savings, we have to be very confident that the audit is accurate and up-to-date. We’ll take a hard look at your audit and assess how much we can use and what more we may need to do. If we do need to do another complete or partial audit and analysis, we will pay the upfront cost of those services, and then roll those costs into the total package.
If I already have electrical and HVAC contractors or in-house staff who know my building, can I use them?
Commons Energy is committed to working with existing staff and/or local qualified contractors with whom you have an existing relationship. Because we are guaranteeing the amount of energy and water savings for a project, we will require that any contractor performing work executes the project to our standards.
What exactly is an Energy Performance Contract?
The Energy Performance Contract (EPC) spells out in clear and detailed terms both your and our roles and responsibilities. The EPC describes the work to be done, the anticipated energy use and costs after the improvements are made, and the terms of the guarantee.
What is guaranteed in the Energy Performance Contract? What is not?
Commons Energy will provide a guarantee that the project will achieve a certain amount of energy savings based on the impact of the energy improvement measures installed, tested and supported. If you/we don’t realize the full amount of the savings, Commons Energy will reimburse you in the current year for the actual cost of any energy use above the guaranteed level. The guarantee spells out that there are some “non-controllable” variables, such as cost of fuel and changes in building occupancy use that may cause us to have to modify the scope of the guarantee.
If Commons Energy is going to provide the financing for my project, what are the terms and conditions?

If you need financing to make the project happen, Commons Energy will bring that as part of its service. We will put together the project in a way that creates positive cash flow for you right from the start. That is, the value of energy savings exceeds the loan payments in the first year.

The savings that come from the energy improvements:

  1. Fund the debt service for the project financing;
  2. Fund any ongoing equipment ‘tune-up’ activity; and
  3. Provide savings that exceed your old energy expenditures.

In order to make the deep energy improvements that generate significant savings, the term of the loan may be as long as 15 years. In many cases, this financing can take the form of a non-recourse loan to avoid issues with other property-secured interests.

What if I can bring my own lower-cost or longer-term financing to the table?

Commons Energy wants you to have the best financing possible. If you have access to financing that meets your needs better than our financing can, we encourage you to utilize that.

Commons Energy provides technical assistance, installation, and energy performance contracting in coordination with a client’s preferred financing source. In some cases, capital that Commons Energy makes available is co-joined with existing capital, in some cases it stands alone as the exclusive source, and in others it will not be needed. Financing will generally take the form of a direct loan or lease between lender and borrower (client) or, for entities that have access to bond financing, proceeds could be used from a bond issuance. The financing source will underwrite the borrower directly, working with Commons Energy.

How quickly can we get started?
We’re ready when you are. And the best time for us to get involved is right at the beginning, as part of the design team! The ideal project is one in which Commons Energy is included at the outset of a project as part of the design team. However, for projects that are already in the development cycle and/or existing projects, we are able to integrate into the timeline by working with the existing team to assemble supplemental resource and review facility and tenant utility bills. We will then perform an energy audit and energy model, provide calculated savings of the facility and determine the cost, effectiveness and therefore suitability of energy improvement measures (including both energy efficiency and on site renewable generation) for the facility.
Is Commons Energy a for-profit or non-profit organization?
Commons Energy is an L3C (low-profit limited liability company) which is a form of the broader category of LLCs (limited liability corporations). An L3C is a for-profit organizational structure that balances social and financial returns, whereas a traditional LLC, S-corp or C-corp all favor financial returns as the primary objective. We created Commons Energy as an L3C to provide benefits to the community—equally as important to providing a steady financial return to socially minded financing partners. Learn more about the L3C legal designation. To see if your state is one of the nine states or two tribal nations where it is legally possible to organize as an L3C, see our map.
What is the relationship between a Public Purpose Energy Services Company (PPESCO), Commons Energy and the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC)?
A PPESCO is a type of energy-services company that provides whole-building energy improvements to buildings that lack access to such services, and that exist to serve a public purpose. Based on this, the four market sectors that Commons Energy serves are: Multifamily affordable housing, Municipal/Community, Education and Health Care. The PPESCO model originated more than twenty years ago through various projects completed by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) and other organizations who share similar interests. VEIC recognized the need for this concept in the rural, suburban, and urban environments in which it operated: specifically that any public-purpose building is just too small to be profitable for large-scale energy services, and yet they are too large or complex for utility efficiency programs that have limited funds. Fast forward to the present day and VEIC has created a wholly owned subsidiary titled Commons Energy L3C to meet this market need and to improve the comfort, safety, and efficiency of public-purpose buildings by lowering overhead costs and creating positive cash flow.
How will I see what the numbers are?
Commons Energy uses an open book, fully transparent approach. Our charges are based on a cost-plus model – we apply 15% overhead calculation to all labor and costs EXCEPT equipment, materials, and capital. Our goal is to use the maximum amount of financing possible to put directly into the building itself, funding as much of the direct energy improvement opportunities as possible.