Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation awards $90,000 to Environmental Finance Center

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Trustees of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation have awarded a grant to the Environmental Finance Center at the UNC School of Government to work in partnership with the North Carolina On-Bill Working Group to provide education, support and other resources to rural cooperative utilities to expand energy efficiency opportunities across the state.

The Environmental Finance Center, Appalachian Voices, and the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA), in collaboration with the North Carolina On-Bill Finance Working Group – which also includes Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) – will work with electric member cooperatives in North Carolina to provide the education and support resources needed to establish on-bill energy efficiency programs.

On-bill energy efficiency programs cover the upfront cost of energy efficiency retrofits, which customers then repay on their monthly bills using a portion of the realized savings. For a residential customer, this is comparable to a no- or low-interest loan that allows them to pay for energy efficiency improvements in their home, such as improved insulation, more efficient heating and cooling systems, and duct sealing. The on-bill model removes the significant cost barrier for making energy efficiency upgrades; ideally, the savings achieved as a result of the improvements exceed the loan payment over time.

“The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation believes in the importanceof creating a sustainable and environmentally sound economy,” said Joy Vermillion Heinsohn, assistant director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. “By expanding access to energy efficiency across North Carolina, this project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also saving money for rural North Carolinians, who otherwise would spend a significant portion of their income on residential energy use. We are proud to be a partner in helping the Environmental Finance Center at the UNC School of Government initiate an energy efficiency program that will have far-reaching effects across rural North Carolina.”

“We’ve seen over and over again the key linkage between environmental stewardship and economic development. We are excited to have an opportunity to work on a project that integrates the two together so seamlessly,” said Jeff Hughes, director of the Environmental Finance Center at the UNC School of Government. “By educating rural electric cooperatives in NC and local advocates on the role of energy efficiency in achieving community goals for job creation, job security, and infrastructure investment, the project will create resources and tools that can be replicated throughout North Carolina in the future. We are looking forward to learning from the communities involved in this project in a way that serves them, but also helps us meet the needs of similar communities throughout North Carolina and the Southeast.”


The Environmental Finance Center at the UNC School of Government is dedicated to enhancing the ability of governments and other organizations to provide environmental programs in fair, effective and financially sustainable ways. The work of the EFC is focused on a variety of environmental areas, including water resources, clean energy, solid waste management and land conservation. The Environmental Finance Center is a part of the School of Government at UNC Chapel Hill, which provides educational, advisory, and research services for state and local governments.  For more information, visit www.efc.sog.unc.edu.


The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) is committed to improving the quality of life of all North Carolinians. ZSR invests in statewide, regional and community-based organizations that are dedicated to building an inclusive, sustainable and vibrant state. The groups that ZSR supports both work to build healthy, robust communities at the local and regional level and engage in education, civic dialogue and advocacy around issues of importance to communities and to North Carolina. ZSR currently focuses on the areas of community economic development, environment, public education, social justice and equity and strengthening democracy. The Foundation is a 79-year-old private foundation based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. For more information or to learn more about ZSR, visit www.zsr.org.


Environmental Finance Center at the UNC School of Government – Jeff Hughes, jhughes@unc.edu, 919-843-4956 

Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation – Shaheen Syal, shaheens@zsr.org, 336-705-3207