Residential

When it comes to renewables and energy efficiency most of the focus among policy makers and regualtors is typically aimed at commercial and utility scale markets.  Residential customers are often left out of the mix or offered inferior options through utility or other government programs.  Yet, the residential market consumes over 20% of the energy used in the US.

Gemstone saw an opportunity to fundamentaly change the options available for homeowners to finance energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy.  We first set our sights on develping a loan financing program that could provide attractive terms to homeowners who made the decision to go with a more efficient set of home improvements.  Most loan programs offering these benefits were short lived due to the high cost of upfront incentives needed to “buy down’ interest rates.  A few lucky homeowners would get to take advantage but once the incentive funds inevitably dried up, the programs would end.  Gemstone’s approach was to rely less on upfront incentives and instead to build underlying credit support for the preceived default risk on the loan portfolio.  With a proven track record of strong performance, loans to homeowners making smart  investments in their homes were proven to be less likely to go into default than typical consumer loans.  Building upon this domain expertise, Gemstone leveraged a modest amount of incentives and created the Keystone Home Energy Loan Program (www.keystonehelp.com) which continues to operate after more than 5 years and $50 million of loan volume throughout Pennsylvania.  The Keystone HELP program is widely recognized as a “best in class” consumer financing model and similar programs are now being run in other states.

Building upon its success with Keystone HELP, Gemstone turned to residential renewable energy as a new frontier.  Homeowners desiring to install solar PV on their property had few options beyond their own checkbook or possibly a home equity loan.  Commercial enterprises had a growing number of financing options including power purchase agreements and leases that allowed the host user to make no upfront investment.  In 2008, a Gemstone affiliate launced the CT Solar Lease Program (www.ctsolarlease.com) which was the first residential solar leasing program with state sponsorship.  Unlike a low cost loan option, the solar lease allowed for a more efficient utilization of available incentives including rebates, federal tax credits and depreciation.  Several solar companies followed Gemstone’s lead and the residential solar lease industry now represents over a billion dollars of solar installations and growing.

Gemstone is committed and actively involved in the creation of new programs for the residential market.  In addition to programs similar to Keystone HELP and the CT Solar Lease Program, Gemstone is working with clients to create new residential financing programs that will continue to lead the industry in new directions and give homeowners more and even better options for making smart decisions.

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