Energy efficiency financing

Going to Extremes to Fund an Energy Upgrade? There Are Easier Options

By Michael Norbeck

The sticker shock associated with certain energy efficiency upgrade projects can lead some small and medium-sized business owners to go to extreme lengths to pay for the measures.

Here’s a an example: The Treehouse Café, a small restaurant in Bainbridge Island, Wash., solicited donations from its customers to fund a $3,000 energy efficient lighting upgrade.1 The restaurant added a 1% surcharge to all guest checks over $10, with the opportunity for customers to opt out of the donation if they didn’t want to contribute.

While this financing method, known as crowdsourcing or crowdfunding, is innovative and ultimately proved successful for the Treehouse Café, it can be time consuming and the same idea might not work for other types of businesses. Additionally, it runs the risk of backfiring if it produces pushback from customers.

Fortunately for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) customers, there are easier ways of financing energy efficiency projects. Rebates, incentives and On-Bill Financing loans provide low-cost or no-cost options for businesses. The following is a closer look at how these three financing options work at PG&E.

What they are: Rebates are payments you receive after you’ve upgraded to new, energy-saving equipment.2 Products that qualify for rebates can be found in PG&E’s catalogs.3
Eligibility requirements: The installation address must have a commercial gas or electric account with PG&E. If the rebate is for an electric product, you must have an electric account and gas equipment rebates require a gas account.
How to apply: Before you begin, make sure the product you’re planning to purchase and install qualifies for a rebate. PG&E’s rebate catalogs provide a list of the equipment it offers rebates on and links to the product qualifying websites. For a paper application, go to and download the form.4 You’ll find detailed instructions on page two. You’ll need to have the rebate catalog for your products handy to fill in information on page five (rebate code, unit and value are located in the catalogs).
How they are paid: Rebate checks are mailed within six to eight weeks after PG&E receives your application and all proofs of purchase.
How rebates are calculated: Each product PG&E rebates has a unique potential energy-saving value. Check out PG&E’s rebate catalogs to find a product’s rebate value, potential annual savings and estimated payback timing.

What they are: Customized incentives are for pre-approved projects that retrofit or install new energy efficient equipment to save energy. These projects are typically much larger or more complex in scope than those that qualify for a rebate.
Eligibility requirements: The installation address must have a commercial gas or electric account with PG&E, which must inspect and approve the project prior to the removal of the existing equipment/systems and the installation of new equipment/systems. Project applications must demonstrate energy savings that earn an incentive of at least $2,000 to be considered for program eligibility. PG&E finalizes the incentive amounts after completing a technical review of the project for program eligibility and compliance. The actual incentive amount may vary from the submitted amount.
How to apply: Go to, download the Customized Application Form5 and fill it out. Then email or mail the form to your PG&E representative or to the address on the application.
How they are paid: PG&E finalizes the incentive amounts after completing a technical review of the project for program eligibility and compliance. The actual incentive amount may vary from the submitted amount.

What it is: On-Bill Financing allows eligible PG&E commercial customers to obtain zero-interest loans of $5,000 to $100,000, with payback periods of up to 60 months, for a wide variety of energy efficient projects. Government agencies in PG&E’s service area can be eligible for loans of up to $250,000 that come with payback periods of up to 120 months.6
How loans are paid back: Loans are paid back based on projected energy savings, via installments on the customer’s monthly PG&E bill.
Eligibility requirements: The business has to have been a PG&E non-residential customer for at least 24 months and it has to have had a consistent utility payment history over the past 12 months. Energy efficiency measures installed must qualify for a deemed or customized energy efficiency rebate or incentive. OBF finances project cost, net of rebates/incentives.
How to apply: The first step is to contact a PG&E Customer Relationship Manager at 1-800-468-4743 or visit

Want to learn more about potential energy efficiency project financing options? Download PG&E’s eBook "Financing Energy Efficiency Projects for Your Business" to discover a variety of available options.

  1. Entrepreneur
  2. Pacific Gas and Electric
  3. Pacific Gas and Electric
  4. Pacific Gas and Electric
  5. Pacific Gas and Electric
  6. Pacific Gas and Electric

Financing an energy upgrade doesn’t have to be an extreme sport. Learn more.
  • SMB Blog Author
    Michael Norbeck
    Expert Program Manager, Transaction Services with PG&E. Michael oversees the On-Bill Financing (OBF) Revolving Loan Program, working with PG&E’s Customer Relationship Managers and Channel Partners to help customers overcome investment hurdles for energy efficiency. Michael joined PG&E following 10 years in the energy industry, including work managing sustainability strategy for large IT companies; consulting for industrial clients on energy management and related process optimization; and heading strategic planning processes for energy infrastructure resiliency. Michael can be reached at

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