2017 Semifinalist
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
January 1, 2017

The Pennsylvania Treasury Department initiated Keystone HELP (Home Energy Loan Program) in 2006 under its authority as a prudent investor of state assets entrusted to it in a fiduciary capacity — funds held for principal protection and return, not appropriated funds for programs. The statewide program provided capital by purchasing loans made by AFC First Financial for approved energy efficiency (EE) improvements installed by a network of contractors managed for competence, knowledge of conservation principles, and business ethics. Supplemented by state and federal program funds to enable below-market interest rates, Keystone HELP became one of the most successful unsecured EE loan programs in the country. The program made 14,500 loans by the end of 2014 that provided $110 million in financing to Pennsylvania homeowners, and by 2012, the Treasury determined that it would be prudent to recapitalize a portion of its EE loan portfolio by selling some of its loans. Extensive ensuing research and marketing activities revealed that national capital markets were uninterested in the modest size and limited geographical diversity that the Treasury portfolio offered. At the same time, similar energy conservation efforts in numerous jurisdictions began identifying shortages in available capital as constraints on their ability to expand efficiency lending efforts. Treasury recognized the absence of a national warehouse to aggregate EE loans at sufficient scale and diversity as a wide moat frustrating access to capital markets. In response, the Treasury partnered with the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) to enlist a team of stakeholders to stand up a financing facility to bridge this divide. Private entities such as AFC, Citigroup, and Renewable Funding had each reached similar conclusions regarding the need for a facility. They joined the Treasury and NASEO to design, capitalize, and launch Warehouse for Energy Efficiency Loans (WHEEL), a facility connecting EE loan programs needing capital with secondary market capital investors looking for securities backed by reliable revenue streams. WHEEL began acquiring loans in April 2014, and issued in June 2015 the first securities backed by EE financing assets. The inaugural national bond issuance raised $12.58 million from secondary market purchasers that was recycled to WHEEL’s investors, enabling them to support new lending to homeowners. Having established the new asset class and proven the concept of a national financing facility for EE programs, WHEEL is acquiring loans for a second securitization, with other states now joining Pennsylvania as sponsors of residential EE loan programs for their residents.

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