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GC-PACE Launched

Energy Alliance and Port Authority launch GC-PACE

As part of its partnership with the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority (Port Authority) to develop a suite of energy-related economic development programs, the Energy Alliance announced the launch of the new GC-PACE Program.

GC-PACE is an exciting new tool that can be used to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy investments. This economic development tool is designed to provide commercial and industrial building owners with access to affordable, long-term financing for clean energy improvements to their buildings.

GC-PACE allows building owners to finance efficiency and renewable energy improvements through a voluntary assessment on their property tax bill. The repayment obligation transfers automatically to the next owner if the property is sold. Capital is secured by a priority lien on the property, so long-term debt capital can be raised from the private sector.

For more information, go to gcpace.org.

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Building Cincinnati’s Art Community with Manifest Gallery

Energy efficiency might not always be visible, but it can be tangible.

When building performance improvement measures (like the installation of central air conditioning) help to transform a space, energy efficiency becomes visible.

In the case of the Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center (Manifest), the results of their building performance improvements are certainly felt. This April, Manifest replaced baseboard heaters and the inefficient, disruptive, and ineffective window air conditioning units barely cooling their three galleries and office space. They installed an energy efficient central heating ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) through the Energy Alliance’s Better Buildings Performance Program.

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Manifest was able to make this transformative improvement for their gallery and office with the Energy Alliance’s newly launched Building Communities Loan Fund, which provides loans designed to fund smaller scale energy efficiency projects for nonprofit and other organizations.

Manifest’s new functional and efficient heating and cooling unit was the very first project funded through the Building Communities Loan.

The results of this energy efficiency project will be felt by the men and women who work so diligently to accomplish Manifest’s amazing, multi-faceted mission, by the community they serve who enter their gallery and on site artist residency studio, and by the works of art hanging, standing, rotating, or even precariously perched in their gallery spaces. Technically the works of art don’t feel anything, but they still benefit from their newly climate controlled environment.

When nonprofit organizations spend less on energy, they have more to invest in their mission. With more resources available for their mission, our communities benefit.

Manifest’s new air conditioning unit will not only improve the comfort and usability of the galleries and offices. It has helped the gallery to expand their exhibition gallery space by fifty percent, and their overall space by thirty percent. These are visible results! This expansion has been made possible through a lease agreement with the owner of their building in East Walnut Hills on Woodburn Avenue.

Beginning in March of this year, Manifest became responsible for their heating and cooling costs. Because Manifest has taken the initiative to install the high efficiency HVAC system, those inevitable operating costs will be significantly reduced for the gallery, allowing them to more productively utilize those funds that otherwise would have gone towards cumbersome utility bills. In addition, because the Manifest team chose to install the updated HVAC system, the building owner has allowed them to rent the remaining quarter of the first floor for no additional fee for the remainder of their lease.

The Building Communities Loan

The Energy Alliance is committed to helping nonprofit organizations in Greater Cincinnati. Our role is to help organizations improve their facilities, both to care for the well-being of their staff and the communities they serve, and to lessen their energy bills. Savings on energy bills allow nonprofit organizations to have more money to invest in our communities.

The Building Community Loan was developed in partnership with the Cincinnati Development Fund, Inc. It was designed to help nonprofit organizations finance nonprofit energy efficiency projects and building performance improvements.

Nonprofit organizations and other institutions who first apply to the Energy Alliance’s Better Buildings Performance Program are eligible to apply for the Building Communities Loan. It can be used to finance up to $25,000 in energy efficiency improvements for commercial (nonresidential) spaces once there has been an energy audit completed.

Others call it mission driven lending – we call it common sense.

Simple energy efficiency improvements such as lighting retrofits and HVAC system replacements can cause a dramatic reduction in energy bills for commercial spaces. Energy efficiency improvements pay for themselves and can help nonprofit organizations to generate revenue through utility savings while improving the usability of their buildings.

Manifest, A Neighborhood Gallery for the World

Manifest Gallery is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit creative research gallery, drawing center, art book press, and residency for artists. Jason Franz, co-founder and executive director of Manifest, emphasizes that Manifest is “aneighborhood gallery for the world.”

Manifest Gallery is the answer to the question,
“What do we do for society as artists?”

The gallery is located in East Walnut Hills in Cincinnati, Ohio, and occupies the formerly vacant storefront property of 2727 Woodburn Avenue. Founded nearly ten years ago, Manifest was created by Jason Franz, Elizabeth Kauffman, and Brigid O’Kane to fill a void in Cincinnati. It was the answer to a question posed to students of art at Xavier University. “What do we do for society as artists?”

For a dilapidated building in a struggling neighborhood located near the Art Academy, Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati, the founding of Manifest was “perfect kismet,” according to Franz. It helped spark the revitalization of the neighborhood, engaged students, and offered the Greater Cincinnati exposure to museum quality art work.

“Everyone is disadvantaged when it comes to exposure to really great quality [art] work from around the world.”

Jason Franz, Executive Director, Manifest

Manifest’s mission is to engage the viewing public with new, insightful, and challenging creative works and to support the positive growth of the visual arts in the region. Manifest occupies “a unique place in the ecosystem” of the art world, as Franz explains. They are not driven by sales, and there is no red tape or agenda. Their juried shows have received submissions of high caliber work from artists representing eighty-seven countries around the world and all fifty states.

Manifest will begin its tenth anniversary year this coming fall. To raise funds renovate their additional exhibition space by a September deadline, Manifest has launched the Manifest More! fundraising campaign. Look for details on how to support their goal of even greater impact through visual arts at the Manifest More! campaign homepage.

“The center of the art world is everywhere, so why not here?”

The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance is proud to help further the mission and work of nonprofit organizations like Manifest Creative Research Gallery and Drawing Center. Organizations like Manifest benefit the community in such a myriad of ways. It is truly an honor to be a little part of that gift of artistic experience, economic development, community building, and the documentation of art for posterity.

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Forest Hills Schools are ENERGY STAR®-S!

In 2011, the Energy Alliance began a partnership through our Better Buildings Performance Program with the Forest Hills School District.

They engaged us to improve the energy efficiency of their facilities at Nagel Middle School and Turpin High School. We were excited to do so for many reasons. Making schools more energy efficient gives back to schools with increased revenue through utility savings; it reduces our region’s overall energy consumption, which improves air quality; and it sets an example for our future generations. 

In the case of Nagel Middle School, the impact was even greater. Nagel Middle School has the largest middle school population in Ohio, and its administrative and teaching team took their building’s improvements as a learning opportunity for their students by incorporating building efficiency science into the school’s curriculum. We thought that was pretty cool. 

“By individually metering and installing different lighting systems in each of our science classrooms, science teachers are able to demonstrate to their students how different pieces of equipment affect power consumption, and how the decisions we make about power consumption affect the world around us.”

Ray Johnson, Director of Business Operations, Forest Hills School District

We would like to congratulate Forest Hills Schools for their impressive and inspiring efforts to improve their facilities’ energy efficiency. They have been able to reduce their electrical consumption by 18% over the past few years. 8 of their 9 school buildings, which range in age from 13-54 years old, have been ENERGY STAR® certified for each of the last two years.

Back in May 2013, upon the completion of their energy efficiency projects, we presented a check to the Forest Hills School District. Dr. Forest Heis and Dr. Dallas Jackson accepted the check on behalf of the Board of Education, and the Department of Energy was present to further honor this achievement in energy efficiency.
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The Sisters of Charity: Stairway to Efficiency

Forget the stairway to heaven. The Sisters of Charity are utilizing their newly retrofitted energy efficient elevators to climb the way to comfort and efficiency thanks to the Energy Alliance’s Better Buildings Performance Program.

In December 2012, the Sisters of Charity took advantage of the Energy Alliance’s program to improve the efficiency and durability of commercial buildings. Through the Energy Alliance’s assistance, they were able to make some very important energy efficiency improvements within their Mother Margaret Hall facility. The building’s two main elevators were retrofitted with new, energy efficient mechanical and control systems.

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“The performance of the elevator is improved tremendously. It’s quieter, softer, [and] there’s more flexibility. Because we are a nursing home, the elevator needs to be more sensitive to the residents in the building, on top of saving a lot of energy.”

Jim Franz, plant operator

Sisters of Charity

The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati is an apostolic Catholic community of women that was founded in 1809 by Sister Elizabeth Bayley Seton. For over two hundred years, the women of this community have actively chosen to live simply, even in the complex world we now inhabit, and they work to “heal our global home.” The sisters embrace cultural expansion and work in solidarity with the poor.

In their later years of their life, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati reside in Mother Margaret Hall, a nursing and assisted living facility built in the late 1940s. Until recently, this 7 floor building had been operating with two fifty-year old outdated elevators with obsolete parts, creating energy waste for the facility and generating unwanted noise, friction, and air contaminants of carbon dust. Through the Energy Alliance’s Better Buildings Performance Program, this environmental, health, and financial problem was quickly and easily solved.

Efficiency, Safety, and Comfort

After consulting the Energy Alliance and American Elevator, Jim Franz, the plant operator of Mother Margaret Hall, recognized that replacing those obsolete parts was a high priority for the facility. The elevator retrofit was an to improve the efficiency of the elevators, but also to improve the safety and comfort of the elevators as they transport nursing and assisted living residents.

Jim applied to the Energy Alliance’s Better Buildings Performance Program to help determine the best course of action for Mother Margaret Hall. Ultimately, Jim decided to retrofit the facility’s two elevators with the newest technology available.

The energy conservation measures of the Sisters of Charity’s elevator retrofit included new mechanical parts and new electrical control systems. Regenerative disc brakes were one of the most important mechanical elements replaced in the elevators. The regenerative brakes work similarly to mechanisms in a hybrid car: they capture energy as the elevator descends and utilize that captured energy to bring the elevator back up.

The new control systems of the elevators work with the mechanical technology to help prioritize elevator requests and pathways to best conserve and regenerate energy and to respond to the needs of floor requests.

An additional mechanical improvement was to install a gearless and “brushless” magnet-operated motor. The gearless motor is not just more efficient; it is quieter and healthier. Unlike the old electric motors, the new motor operates without friction. This results in better indoor air quality for the facility because carbon dust is no longer created from the operation of the elevator.

Global Philosophy

Because the efficient technology and improvements provided through the Energy Alliance’s support are earth friendly products, the elevator retrofit was in alliance with the philosophy of the Sisters of Charity. Most importantly, however, the elevators became safer, healthier and more comfortable for the delicate residents of Mother Margaret Hall.

Because the new motor and regenerative brakes don’t create friction, heat, carbon dust, and unwanted noise, passengers are transported in greater comfort and safety. On top of all that, the improvements deliver real energy savings.

With the installed efficiency measures, the Mother Margaret Hall elevators became an estimated 20% more energy efficient, created 17% less heat, and 22% less noise, and reduced carbon dust. The Sisters of Charity are riding in safety and comfort and at a greatly reduced operating and environmental cost.

Commercial Energy Efficiency Loan Fund

Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance partners with the Cincinnati Development Fund to leverage Multi-Million Dollar Investment in Energy Efficiency Lending

CINCINNATI, OHIO – June 1, 2012 – Business owners and nonprofit organizations in the Greater Cincinnati region that would like to make their buildings more energy efficient will be able to access a unique loan program thanks to a partnership created by the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance (Energy Alliance) and the Cincinnati Development Fund (CDF).

The investment, which was announced today, will allow qualified business owners, multifamily building owners and nonprofit organizations access to loans to implement energy efficiency upgrades through the Energy Alliance’s Building Performance Program. Typical building owners will see a reduction in utility cost and enhanced comfort, when making improvements such as new heating and cooling equipment, windows and air sealing and insulation.

The Energy Alliance is partnering with CDF, a local nonprofit lending institution, and the Calvert Foundation, a national financial intermediary, to leverage a $3 million investment to create the Better Buildings Performance Loan Fund.  The Loan Fund is the first of a series of investments that leverages the Energy Alliance’s commitment of $5 million in capital from the U.S. Department of Energy Better Building Neighborhood Program (BBNP) to drive investment capital into the greater Cincinnati region.  This investment marks the first time that the Calvert Foundation has invested in the Cincinnati community.

The intent of this loan fund is two-fold, according to Energy Alliance Executive Director Andy Holzhauser:

  • It will provide additional capital for commercial, multifamily and nonprofit building owners looking to invest in energy saving opportunities in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region.
  • The Energy Alliance’s commercial program will verify the performance of the installed measures over the life of investment.  Collected and verified data will allow community development financing groups and traditional lenders to enter the emerging market of energy efficiency financing at a relatively low risk.

“This is a valuable first step to creating a national model for a new funding solution for energy efficiency upgrades,” Holzhauser said.

In tradition with their socially responsible lending, The Calvert Foundation announced an initial $3 million investment in the local loan fund.  The Energy Alliance, a recipient of a BBNP grant, is providing capital for a loan loss reserve fund allowing loans to be offered at competitive interest rates for qualified borrowers.  The Cincinnati Development Fund, Inc. will serve as the lending institution.

The partnership was a good fit for each of the three organizations.

“Investing in energy efficiency lowers energy costs for a developer or building owner and puts more money back in their control to invest in additional housing and multi-family projects,” said Jeanne Golliher, President and CEO of  Cincinnati Development Fund, Inc.

She added that the CDF feels strongly that any building loan should have energy efficiency improvements included in the project to create more sustainable cities and communities.

Catherine Godschalk, Director of U.S. Investments at the Calvert Foundation, based in Bethesda, Md., said that the organization believes the investment will help local business owners finance improvements that will ultimately reduce pollutants, conserve energy and lead to cost savings.

“Calvert Foundation is excited about this new investment and its leverage of the Department of Energy grant dollars for broader impact in communities.  This was an innovative approach for us, but still within a larger context of portfolio investments in green solutions,” she said.

Holzhauser added: “The Energy Alliance’s mission is to drive investments in energy efficiency throughout the greater Cincinnati community. By partnering with national and local partners to attract capital into this market and prove that energy efficiency investments work; for both lenders and building owners, we feel that this program will be a step towards achieving this goal.” 

To qualify for the Better Buildings Performance Loan Fund, nonprofit, multifamily and commercial building owners must be within the Energy Alliance service territory and apply for the Energy Alliance program. The Energy Alliance is a non-profit organization that provides financial support, technical assistance and project management support to help local businesses and nonprofit organizations make high quality energy efficiency investments.

For more information on the loan program or to begin the process for energy efficiency upgrades, go to  www.greatercea.org.

The Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky communities reduce their energy costs. The Energy Alliance provides education, expertise and innovative financing to help the region to become more energy efficient, saving money for residents while also creating local jobs. Visit www.greatercea.org

The Cincinnati Development Fund is a non-profit lending institution established in 1988 to finance affordable housing development and community revitalization in the Greater Cincinnati Area. CDF fills a critical niche that is not sought after by traditional lenders, such as small projects, new developers, and complex financing structures. The primary business of the organization is to underwrite and service community development real estate loans that result in the creation or preservation of affordable housing, or revitalization of urban communities.  Visit  http://www.cincinnatidevelopmentfund.org/

The Calvert Foundation maximizes the flow of capital to disadvantaged communities in order to create a more equitable and sustainable society. By creating innovative financial products and services, they have made it possible for everyday people, not just institutions, to participate in financial instruments that directly serve communities.  The Calvert Foundation has nearly $200 million invested in 250 community organizations in all 50 states and over 100 countries.  Visit http://www.calvertfoundation.org/