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Bank of America tackles a tough market - old buildings in low- and middle-income areas

By Saqib Rahim
E & E Publishing

E&E Publishing takes a look at the market for energy efficiency retrofits, citing our Kat Daniel on the topic.

...The opportunities are hard to add up: If a massive government building is a full meal for a bank, then these buildings are like gathering hundreds of grains of rice. They are owned or rented by Americans who need money for food, health care and other necessities, leaving energy retrofits a distant priority. The lowest-income communities have, historically, had a tough time securing loans at commercial banks like Bank of America.

Yet their businesses and homes are representative of most of the nation's building stock. According to the Energy Information Administration, 95 percent of commercial buildings are 50,000 feet or smaller. And while some energy-conscious homeowners have ventured into retrofits, there are 111 million housing units in America -- 72 million of them stand-alone homes.

"To a great extent, energy efficiency in its current form has been marketed to and most accessible to higher-income groups," said Kat Daniel, program manager for communities of practice at Green for All, an advocacy group focused on fighting poverty through jobs that benefit the environment.

She said banks have so far treated energy efficiency as a risky, boutique investment, so low-income consumers haven't been a target market: "They're really marketed to consumers and programs that are kind of considered a sure bet."

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