Want to slap some solar panels on your house, or retrofit an office building to make it more energy-efficient? Those can be expensive projects, out of reach for many families and businesses. So the president of a company called Renewable Funding developed a scheme to help finance property owners’ solar power and energy-efficiency projects through low-interest municipal bonds, repaid over 20 years through a markup on the project owner’s property tax bill. Today, the script has flipped, with Renewable Funding securing financing — $12.2 million — from a group of venture capital firms.
Renewable Funding’s announcement of this Series A round comes on the heels of the Obama administration releasing its “Recovery Through Retrofit” report, which among other things calls for an expansion of what have come to be known as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, programs. These programs provide the type of financing that Renewable Funding President Cisco DeVries first implemented in Berkeley, Calif. back in 2007. At the time, DeVries was chief of staff for the city’s mayor. But last year Renewable Funding CEO and Chairman Stephen Portis recruited him to help form the Oakland, Calif.-based company, which now provides administrative and financing services for districts developing PACE programs.
That business could be on the cusp of a boom, as the Obama administration works with state and local governments to develop safeguards and criteria for PACE programs, and collects data on best practices (strategies recommended in last week’s report).
Investors in Renewable Funding include Draper Fisher Jurvetson, NGEN Partners, and New Cycle Capital. The law firm Wilson Sonsini, which in addition to serving as Renewable’s legal counsel is a founding organizer and sponsor of the Clean Tech Open business plan competition, also joined the round.
Some of the venture capital firms’ other investments in solar and energy-efficiency startups could potentially benefit from a rapid expansion of Renewable Energy’s footprint, putting green retrofits within reach for a broader base of customers. According to today’s release, Renewable Funding is now in talks with cities, counties and states throughout the U.S. to develop, administer and finance PACE-style programs, and DeVries notes that the infusion of new capital will help accelerate its growth.