Commercial buildings represent nearly one-fifth of total energy consumption in the U.S., and industrial consumption takes up another third. In the public sector, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that state and local government buildings could reduce annual energy costs by US$6 billion just by boosting energy performance by 20%.

One major barrier to reducing consumption is finding the money to fund energy projects. That’s what the Better Buildings Initiative’s new tool, called the Financing Navigator, is intended to do.

The navigator provides options and information for financing energy efficiency in commercial, health care, higher education, industrial, public sector and multifamily buildings. For each category, it provides a fact sheet that outlines common financing options as well as common barriers different companies or individuals might experience.

For example, owners of multifamily buildings commonly use lease financing or power purchase agreements for these types of projects, but often lack technical expertise about financing and face personal restrictions on debt and loan amounts. Companies in the industrial sector often use internal funding or loans to pay for energy projects but have competing budget priorities and hesitate to take on more debt.

There are also fact sheets for each type of financing supported by the tool — and there are many. Some, like an efficiency-as-a-service plan, allow the customer to contract for the use of equipment and pay lower energy costs immediately.

Others, like on-bill financing, provide direct funding for the customer to install the equipment. Some plans stay with the building if it’s sold, others have lower interest rates, some involve the utility company, and others involve private lenders

Beyond the fact sheets, the interactive tool allows users to plug in the specifics of a project and see the best options. The tool asks questions about type of customer, cost, who owns the building and more. It also asks about preferences: Do you want a long-term or short-term financing contract? How quickly do you need it? How complex of a financing structure are you willing to have?

Once the questions are answered, it generates a comparison chart of options that match the user’s requirements and wants, and also links to approved, reliable providers that can begin financing the project.

For customers who may need help navigating the world of renewable energy financing, this tool provides an opportunity to see all the options in one place — and maybe finally start that energy project that’s been waiting in the wings.