Renewable energy, ROI become inseparable partners

100% financing facilitates solar, other energy efficiency upgrades

By Shaun W. O’Neill, President and CRO, Concord Servicing

Energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness are now going hand in hand. One-hundred percent financing can be obtained to upgrade existing resorts and homeowner associations, as well as include many new energy-saving technologies into new-builds.

That’s the assessment of Jared Meyers, Vice-Chairman and Founding Director of Florida’s Climate First Bank and Chairman of Orlando, FL-based Legacy Vacation Resorts. Climate First Bank in St. Petersburg, FL is the nation’s first community bank dedicated to making energy efficiency a financially-compelling and ROI-wise investment. With very affordable financing options and the ability to substantially lower future operating costs, Meyers sees renewable energy as a win-win proposition whose time finally has arrived. It’s none too soon, given rising prices in general along with increasing pressures to reduce dependency on foreign carbon-based fuels.

Energy efficiency ROI, operating cost reductions achieved in multi-unit and single-family developments

Meyers, also founder and Chairman of St. Petersburg-based Salt Palm Development, a single family, townhome and condo developer, has documented the financial wisdom of energy efficiency upgrades in many different types of developments, including his own single-family home.

“We’ve had a 94% energy offset on my home since 2018. At properties where solar is in the mix, we’re looking at 40 to 80% offset. With these savings, we’re looking at 15% payback each year for a 100% payback within seven years,” Meyers notes.

For those concerned about having sufficient capital, Climate First’s 100% financing offers a way to realize benefits right away, Meyers adds.

“Every development can control their own energy costs, which given high inflation right now, makes solar, windpower, geothermal and other upgrades a very timely move,” Meyers emphasizes. “At the resort level, our position is if it’s a decade or less payback, we don’t require executive approval to proceed. This is a way to pay today’s dollars to control tomorrow’s energy costs.”

Meyers points out that longer-term paybacks also merit strong consideration, given today’s opportunities amid growing utility costs. He notes, “When you consider that electricity bills are regularly increasing, even a 20-year payback with solar—a 5% ROI—makes sense.”

Meyers is walking the talk. By year-end, all Florida Legacy Vacation Resorts properties are slated for outfitting with renewable energy products and systems. Other properties in Colorado, Nevada, and New Jersey will follow suit. Substantially lower operating costs impacting eight resorts and more than 100,000 families annually will add up quickly.

He points out, “All timeshare condos are perfect for solar retrofits. With up to 100% financing, you’re paying less starting month one. This obviously makes financial, as well as environmental, sense.” He points out that the best benefits for developers come with being non-profit or partnering with a non-profit such as an HOA association.

Quality control is a key decision-making criterion

Meyers points out that reputable solar installers and manufacturers offer performance guarantees to provide a clear and complete idea of energy offsets going forward. One excellent way to ensure that the installer and manufacturer are reputable is to use an institution such as Climate First Bank to vet them. “Obviously, a bank only wants to lend based on solid footing. In addition to vetting, banks also can provide recommendations based on prior experience,” Meyers says.

To ensure getting all ducks in a row, Meyers strongly advises companies to do their homework upfront. “You have to get more than ‘guarantees,’ you need the right type of warranties on everything,” he says, adding, “That doesn’t just include solar panels. All other elements, such as inverters, wiring, racking systems, and the like need to be covered by the right warranty.” It’s good to use the right bank, one that knows, understands, and has first-hand experience in this realm.

“Any resort doing improvements can benefit from a complete review of anything that can save energy, and therefore energy costs. This can include programmable thermostats, HVAC systems, insulation, sealing, appliances, high-efficiency systems, water heaters, the roof itself. The list goes on to include pool equipment, showerheads, faucets, and even flapper devices on toilets. And, then there’s property landscaping, where additional savings can be realized,” Meyers notes.

His recent LinkedIn post offers dramatic food for thought: “There is no longer a good reason to postpone upgrades to your condo association or homeowners association with Climate First Bank’s new lending product that can provide up to 100% financing. As a board member on 13 associations, we’ve already tested this loan product and now are in the process of putting it in place everywhere…The sad and horrific collapse of Champlain Towers in Surfside Florida last year will happen again if condominiums do not upgrade deficient parts of their buildings. And it only makes sense to incorporate energy friendly upgrades at the same time to reduce your costs and carbon footprint.”

Another incentive for energy efficiency upgrades now is the likelihood of diminishing tax credits. Meyers points out that today’s dollar-for-dollar 26% tax credit that reduces taxes by that amount is expected to drop to 22% by year-end. In addition to only paying 74% with the tax credit, there are accelerated depreciation benefits that enable writing off the equipment much faster, he adds.

The landscape is shifting quickly. Seen as an expensive investment for years, energy efficiency upgrades using renewable energy are now becoming very cost-effective, saving money by substantially lowering utility costs and providing an excellent hedge against future energy costs.

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Longtime ARDA and Chairman’s League member Shaun W. O’Neill is President and CRO of Concord Servicing, and a respected strategic thinker and subject matter expert who evaluates and initiates growth opportunities across multiple asset classes. With Concord since 1997, his focus is consumer lending, servicing, collections, and loss mitigation.

Jared Meyers is the Owner and/or Chairman of several companies headquartered in Florida, including Legacy Vacation Resorts and Salt Palm Development. He also is Vice-Chairman and Founding Director of Climate First Bank based in St. Petersburg, FL, a values-based community bank focusing on environmental sustainability.

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