Making the decision to buy “green” products can be a tough one. They cost more initially, but your energy bills will be lower overall. Still, that initial investment may prove to be a hurdle you simply can’t get over.
The US government may be able to help. They offer a number of incentives to encourage the private development of energy-efficient buildings. We’ve put together a list of some of the ways your Federal, State and Local governments can help you clear that hurdle.
Tax Incentives: Tax incentives are the most popular form of incentives to promote green building. They can be offered for specific levels of green certification and for short-term and long-term goals. The reason for their popularity is that they tend to be very flexible, and can benefit any number of parties involved in the building process.
Different types of tax incentives are available, including corporate tax, gross receipts tax, income tax, property tax, and sales tax.
Bonus Density: Some jurisdictions have implemented height bonuses, reductions in landscaping requirements, floor/area ratio (FAR) bonuses, and the counting of green roof space as landscaping/open space in return for developers achieving certain levels of green certification. Additional space allowances can help developers and business owners increase profits, while reductions in transfer costs can translate into buyer incentives.
Expedited Permitting: Permit streamlining programs can save green developers substantial time and money, while offering jurisdictions that offer it the ability to increase tax revenue while supplying the development community with a valuable resource. As more projects go green, permitting agencies are undergoing more pressure. However, in cities that have effectively managed the expedited permitting process, it continues to be a successful means of helping all parties increase revenue.
Net Metering: Many jurisdictions allow consumers who own renewable energy facilities to generate their own energy, and in some of those jurisdictions, the consumers are then able to sell excess power back to the community. This encourages the creation of renewable energy sources, benefiting the developers creating the facilities and the citizens that could purchase the excess power.
Grants: Grants may be offered by the government or non-profit agencies, and can be used to subsidize either the cost of building production overall or specific elements. For instance, some grants may only be used to cover the costs of certification. They typically are awarded as a one-time monetary contribution.
Loans: States and municipalities can establish a loan fund to be used specifically for green building and improvements. Jurisdictions also can use performance contracting to provide loans at reduced interest rates to developers agreeing to build to certain green standards.
Technical/Design Assistance: Governments can provide a very important service to the development and design community by training planners, building inspectors and other local officials, who serve as the main points of contact between the jurisdiction and private builders, in the fundamentals of green building. Because state governments seldom deal with building permits, inspections, and planning, it is most likely that this kind of assistance will come from local government agencies.
Permit/Zone Fee Reduction: In exchange for reaching certain levels of LEED or other green rating certification systems, some local governments waive or partially reimburse the application, building or permit fees charged. This is particularly beneficial to developers with a short-term investment outlook, who will generally not see the returns from greater efficiency and lower utility costs.
Rebates/Discounts on Environmental Products: Municipalities can purchase energy efficient appliances in bulk and offer discounted prices, passing the savings on to those who buy these items from the city. They also can provide a rebate for specific, or “preferred” appliances.
Leasing Assistance: Jurisdictions can lease energy-efficient equipment to businesses and residents so that at least the initial cost of purchasing and installing green equipment is passed on to the city or state. This makes green building attainable for those who do not have the funds to lay out for green equipment. While governments may have to make the initial investment, they will generally get most, if not all, of that payment back from the lessees.
Utility Incentive Programs: Most states offer incentive programs designed to help offset energy costs. These include public purpose programs administered by utilities, state agencies, or other third parties and paid for by utility ratepayers; utility programs administered by local utility companies and paid for by utility ratepayers; or programs sponsored by state agencies funded by general tax revenues.
Learn more about funding opportunities for green building here: http://www.epa.gov/greenbuilding/tools/funding.htm.