Energy Upgrades at City-Owned Facilities: Understanding Accounting for Energy Efficiency Financing Options

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Policy Brief

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The city of Dubuque, Iowa, aimed for a twofer — lower energy costs for public facilities and reduced air emissions. To achieve that goal, the city partnered with the Iowa Economic Development Authority to establish a revolving loan fund to finance energy efficiency and other energy projects at city facilities. But the city needed to understand approaches for financing energy projects to achieve both of their goals in a manner that would not be considered debt — in this case, obligations booked as a liability on the city’s balance sheet. With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Climate Action Champions Initiative, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) provided technical assistance to the city to identify strategies to achieve these goals. 

Revolving loans use a source of money to fund initial cost-saving projects, such as energy efficiency investments, then use the repayments and interest from these loans to support subsequent projects. Berkeley Lab and the city examined two approaches to explore whether revolving loans could potentially be treated as non-debt: 1) financing arrangements containing a non-appropriation clause and 2) shared savings agreements. This fact sheet discusses both, including considerations that may factor into their treatment as debt from an accounting perspective.

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