Questions for BlocPower Enterprise Partnerships

Maximizing & Measuring Decarbonization

What does BlocPower’s proprietary software do to prioritize large, heat leaking buildings?

Yes. We measure decarbonization by assessing energy usage before and after a retrofit. The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) provides average greenhouse gas emission data per kilowatt-hour for electricity grids across the country. We use energy bills pre- and post-electrification to measure the avoided fossil fuel energy consumption and the new electric consumption. These values are converted into CO2 emission reduction by using the EIA conversion factors by locality. 

BlocPower’s software platform is able to evaluate and quantify building energy savings following the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP) Volume I, Option C.  Measurement and verification protocols describe how energy savings are determined from measurements of use, both before and after implementation of a building energy savings project, with appropriate adjustments made for changes in operational conditions. 

In regards to building performance standards, we integrate local mandates, such as Local Law 97 in New York City, in developing and implementing technical solutions in a financially sustainable way. Because of the flexibility of our financing products, we can finance a number of other building interventions, including glazing and envelope, in addition to the typical electrification measures such as HVAC, DHW, and household appliances.

Have you developed metrics to measure actual decarbonization on a project by project basis. Tell us about your local building performance standards, aspirational or mandatory?

Yes. We measure decarbonization by assessing energy usage before and after a retrofit. The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) provides average greenhouse gas emission data per kilowatt-hour for electricity grids across the country. We use energy bills pre- and post-electrification to measure the avoided fossil fuel energy consumption and the new electric consumption. These values are converted into CO2 emission reduction by using the EIA conversion factors by locality. 

BlocPower’s software platform is able to evaluate and quantify building energy savings following the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP) Volume I, Option C.  Measurement and verification protocols describe how energy savings are determined from measurements of use, both before and after implementation of a building energy savings project, with appropriate adjustments made for changes in operational conditions. 

In regards to building performance standards, we integrate local mandates, such as Local Law 97 in New York City, in developing and implementing technical solutions in a financially sustainable way. Because of the flexibility of our financing products, we can finance a number of other building interventions, including glazing and envelope, in addition to the typical electrification measures such as HVAC, DHW, and household appliances.

What is the timeline for upgrading the 6,000 buildings in Ithaca, NY, where BlocPower is managing America’s first city-wide building decarbonization effort?

Every municipality and state is different and presents unique challenges, but BlocPower has deep relationships with community groups, policymakers and utility bodies in each area that we operate.

There are some states where fuel switching is prohibited so utilities cannot count energy savings from a decarbonization project to their program goals. The market transformation policies and codes that support building decarbonization include but are not limited to:

  • Building codes requiring all electric new buildings
  • Fuel switching 
  • Incentives from state and local governments as well as utilities to cover part of the upfront costs of building electrification projects as they are still not cost competitive with like-for-like appliance replacements
  • Special tariffs to encourage building electrification 
  • Workforce development initiatives
  • Contractor financial 
  • Educational support
Have you run into state law or regulatory issues that are barriers?

Every municipality and state is different and presents unique challenges, but BlocPower has deep relationships with community groups, policymakers and utility bodies in each area that we operate.

There are some states where fuel switching is prohibited so utilities cannot count energy savings from a decarbonization project to their program goals. The market transformation policies and codes that support building decarbonization include but are not limited to:

  • Building codes requiring all electric new buildings
  • Fuel switching 
  • Incentives from state and local governments as well as utilities to cover part of the upfront costs of building electrification projects as they are still not cost competitive with like-for-like appliance replacements
  • Special tariffs to encourage building electrification 
  • Workforce development initiatives
  • Contractor financial 
  • Educational support

Finances

What are the financial incentives for early participation?

There are numerous incentives available for participation in the program at any stage and BlocPower ensures that customers maximize their savings by stacking and managing every incentive available.

How does BlocPower make money on the leases?

Customers make low monthly payments over the course of the length of their lease, our profit is what is left after paying for things like operations, maintenance and debt repayment.

How we can access investors and capital?

Ithaca’s program will use an innovative financing model built to benefit the local community and economy. Building owners can immediately access energy-saving heating and cooling systems, hot water systems, solar panels and additional smart technology for no money upfront. BlocPower further funnels money back into Ithaca by training local community members in green economy jobs and partnering with local contractors.

Graphic showing relationships between BlocPower, partners, investors, contractors and building owners.


BlocPower secured an initial $80 million green loan project finance facility with Goldman Sachs and Microsoft. Additional funding, $50 million, will be provided by Alturus, a private equity firm focused on energy as a service. The company is also in the application process for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office to secure $1 billion of debt from the federal government.

BlocPower is ready and able to leverage this financing in any community across the country. For each city to best attract private funding, they should provide code support to favor decarbonization (e.g. natural gas bans or moratoriums), be able to provide incentives of any sort to help property owners cover the costs, and look to promote the value of decarbonization generally.

How do the investors make money if the payments are key to the savings of the owner. Where do the profits come from?

Debt investors receive a flat interest rate return on the money they loan BlocPower and we use customer payments to repay the debt obligation.

What happens at the end of the 15-year lease of clean energy equipment?

The customer will be able to buy out the remaining depreciated value of the equipment at the end of their lease.

Workforce Development

How does workforce training work with BlocPower?

BlocPower launched the historic Civilian Climate Corps in New York City in 2021 that trains individuals from all walks of life for careers in the clean and green economy — a program that any city in the United States can model, replicate and implement. 

In Ithaca, NY, BlocPower will coordinate with community organizations to transfer our knowledge and best practices.

How would a ‘green jobs corridor’ work here?

Workforce development can and should include vocational schools and community colleges, along with apprenticeships, training, certifications and credentialing programs. With the wide variety of jobs that will be created by the green economy, there are opportunities for everyone, regardless of age, ability or history.

In Ithaca, NY, we are supporters of the their “Green Jobs Corridor” proposal through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s American Good Jobs funding opportunity.. If it is funded, it will provide robust, equitable training for equitably accessed, well paying clean energy  jobs in Ithaca and the surrounding communities. BlocPower will be a primary hiring party for the trained individuals.

Partnering Process

How will you reach out to building and home owners? The early minority and the early majority? Do community organizers go out to people in the early majority?

One of BlocPower’s core methods of outreach is based on a “Community Advisory Board” model. It was developed out of our founders’ community organizing roots. This is foundational to our early outreach and involves us soliciting input from hundreds of local leaders, advocates and property owners to learn their concerns and goals. 

A smaller group is then selected to meet regularly and collaborate with BlocPower and the city on a series of awareness and education initiatives, including community events, press interviews, webinars and email marketing. We develop sustained, long-term relationships with the local community groups that have laid the groundwork for this partnership. We want to make sure folks understand the reasons behind this program and how, by participating, residents will benefit from improved public health.

How will we get landlords on board?

BlocPower has a long and successful history of partnering with building owners. A key benefit of modern, all-electric heating and cooling is that gives residents control over their heating and cooling needs, drastically reducing tenant complaints. Further, if a landlord commits to a lease with BlocPower, we will provide two maintenance visits a year (scheduled in advance) to keep equipment up and running as well as remote monitoring to catch issues before they become problems. 

In terms of coordinating with tenants, BlocPower removes the stress since all that is needed beyond the coordination required for equipment installation is a brief training session on monthly cleaning of indoor unit filters. This is a task similar to removing a lint filter from a dryer and either using a lint brush, or running the filter under some water to clean.

Are there any specific anti-displacement / prohibitions of rental increases for a certain time period for multi-family landlords required to use that will protect low-income renters after the retrofits are done?

BlocPower supports policies that go further to protect renters. In fact, many of the projects we do are because of requests by the tenants for better living conditions. 

However, the intricacies of the landlord-tenant relationship vary widely from state-to-state, locality-to-locality, and in contractual arrangements between landlord and tenant leases. BlocPower is willing and able to discuss what a suite of complementary policies might look like to ensure equity and fairness for tenants.

What about elders on fixed incomes? How do you deal with mortgages and secondary market mortgage holders? What about people anticipating reselling their home?

BlocPower financing is set up to work well with other mortgages. This is in contrast with programs like PACE, which can put the property owner at risk of losing their home or property. The contract is attached only to the equipment installed, not to the underlying real estate. It is subordinate and also separate from any mortgages at the property.  

The financing is designed for times where the property may change hands as well. When the home or property is re-sold, in most cases, the contract can simply transfer to the new property owner. Alternatively, the current property owner can pay off the remainder of the contract (BlocPower can calculate a “buy-out” at that time) with proceeds from the sale. Generally, this cost is added to the sale price to the new buyer. 

How have good relationships with utility companies been established? What sort of data can they provide?

BlocPower works to establish strong relationships with the utilities operating in the communities where we partner. Our relationships are built on understanding our mutual interests and goals to serve building owners. 

BlocPower uses data from the local government as well as utilities to build our analytics and insight software. Utilities that participate with BlocPower provide sample sets of data to facilitate modeling of usage based on a variety of building types in a geographic area. Typically, this is monthly data usage over a period of several years. Personal identifying information is hidden, secure and never exposed to any outside users. In general, we request the following information from utilities with which we partner:

  • Energy Consumption Data 
  • Local costs, savings, incentives data for energy system upgrades 
  • Buildings Data
  • Buildings and energy consumption datasets would ideally cover all buildings, but at minimum our models require data for 1,000 buildings for each building type: residential, multi-family residential, and small commercial.
Does BlocPower partner with colleges and universities?

BlocPower eagerly partners with local colleges and universities where there is willingness and opportunity.

Mechanics of Building Decarbonization / Electrification

How do you assess buildings and select which models and equipment are best for certain building types and criteria?

BlocPower’s proprietary software allows us to assess each building as a unique entity and select the most effective energy efficiency upgrades available. 

BlocPower has deep relationships with equipment manufacturers, both established and emerging. Without relying on one particular brand for any given situation, our software allows us to assess each building as a unique entity and select the most efficient and effective equipment for it.

How does BlocPower select the type and manufacturer of equipment to install?

BlocPower is constantly expanding its equipment manufacturer relationships to ensure we are able to deploy the modern, electric equipment and appliances best suited to a given building, community and city.

When retrofitting, what do you do with all the removed gas stoves, water heaters, oil furnaces, etc?

BlocPower follows local municipal guidelines for the management of removed appliances and technology.

Types of Projects

Do you have any examples of mid-size projects, such as entire neighborhoods?

Yes. New York City hired BlocPower in 2016 to retrofit over one thousand buildings to address ConEdison’s demand reduction mandate. The three-year contract had BlocPower deploy our platform to reach and serve 2,000 owners of 5-50 unit residential buildings in Brooklyn and Queens and will address ConEdison’s demand reduction mandate. The program was called the Community-Based Retrofit Accelorator (CBRA).

We helped building owners identify, implement and finance energy efficiency and water conservation retrofits in their buildings, which were financed using existing utility incentive programs, a new City-sponsored loan product structured to preserve affordable housing and third-party financing arranged by BlocPower. We completed the program under budget and ahead of schedule.

We are able to approach our interventions in ways that a sponsoring municipality or utility's goals are met, though there are challenges and opportunities to all of these proposed paths.

Do you have an example breakdown of the finances of a house?

Please see below for breakdown of finances on a New York State single family home, approximately 2,000 sq. ft. in size, obtaining a $0 down lease from BlocPower for an oil-to-heat pump retrofit.

Before Retrofit

Energy Bill (Over 15 Years): $32,179

After Retrofit

Energy Bill (Over 15 Years): $14,506

Contract Term: $15,022

Net Savings During Contract

$2,651

Savings Post-Contract Term

$17,673

Do individual home owners need to agree to do the whole laundry list of retrofit actions? What if building owners want a custom approach?

All building owners are eligible for a completely free implementation plan that breaks down the retrofit options available for them. They will then be able to move forward (or not) with any combination of upgrades that they wish.

What do they have to offer in rural areas? Especially if there are no installers here.

While BlocPower is constantly expanding its contractor network, we’re also working to train the next generation of workers in the green economy. This is a plan we would lean into for rural areas.

Software

What data do customers need to use BlocMaps?

Per our data approach, we can work with any amount of data availability as we’ll work to find, clean, model, or, if needed, procure all the necessary data. However, models become more accurate the more data we get.

A sample list data requests include:  

For municipal clients:

  • Buildings Data
  • Local costs, savings, incentives data for energy system upgrades 
  • We will also request energy consumption data from the local utility, and we welcome any support clients can provide in sourcing this data. 

For utility clients:

  • Energy Consumption Data 
  • Local costs, savings, incentives data for energy system upgrades 
  • Buildings Data
  • Buildings and energy consumption datasets would ideally cover all buildings, but at minimum our models require data for 1000 buildings for each building type: residential, multi-family residential, and small commercial.
How fast can we stand up BlocMaps for a new place?

After data receipt, our software, data, and engineering teams can produce a new instance of BlocMaps within approximately 1 month.

What are the different score insights in BlocMaps, and how are they calculated?

Heat Pump Feasibility: This score indicates technical feasibility for a heat pump retrofit. A higher score means a building is more likely to be a good fit for an air source heat pump. The score accounts for building parameters that influence the engineering, design and installation of ASHP projects, including building geometry and size. 

Need for Environmental Justice: This score reflects the historic impact of environmental injustice on that building’s occupants. A higher score means that the area that the building is located in has environmental hazard exposure, water quality issues, and/or socioeconomic demographics that indicate a high need for environmental justice. Data is sourced from the US EPA’s EJScreen tool. The score consolidates 29 different indicators that our algorithm determined to be the most indicative of differences in environmental fairness.

Energy Efficiency Potential: This score refers to the building’s potential energy savings if energy efficiency measures are implemented. A higher score means that a building is more likely to benefit in energy and cost savings from an EE retrofit. The score accounts for building parameters like fuel type, HVAC type, building age and type, energy usage intensity, and climate region to predict potential annual energy savings normalized for gross sq. ft.

Can building owners use BlocMaps?

At this time, BlocMaps is for sustainability program owners at municipalities and utilities. In doing public engagement about the program, our users may share visualizations or data from BlocMaps to illustrate the program’s impact, but the tool is not meant for building owners to use directly. This direction is informed by the adoption results of our initial BlocMaps product, which got more traction with city and utility officials than individual building owners.  

The feature that BlocPower has built for building owners is our Instant Building Report, an automatic project recommendation tool that helps us and/or our client with building owner intake. When BlocPower partners with a city or utility on a program, we can configure an Instant Building Report for that place, and it will use the same datasets that power BlocPower.

What are BlocMaps’ security measures?

Our data and systems are secured and encrypted to meet or exceed industry standards. Only authorized employees are able to access personally identifiable information (PII), and accessing corporate systems requires two-factor authentication.

What is the Bezos Earth Fund-sponsored Building Data Collective, and how does it connect to BlocMaps?

In December 2021, BlocPower received a $5.5 million grant to create an open source energy model dataset for buildings across America. The project will aggregate data from various sources and compile a database for any city, state, community group, or individual to leverage in support of green building upgrades in their community. The resulting database will help solve pervasive challenges in building analysis since historically, building data is highly fragmented, inaccessible, and often inaccurate.

BlocPower is forming a 501(c)(3) organization to steward this project in conjunction with Earth Fund to convene partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). These partners will provide research fellows, PhDs, grad students, professors, and relevant datasets to the broader Building Data Collective. 

The Building Data Collective’s database will be a major input into the BlocMaps dataset, but BlocMaps and its predictive modeling tools will remain a proprietary software product that BlocPower customers are able to license and customize in support of their programs. Cities and utilities will be able to use the Building Data Collective Buildings Database for free, without any requirements to use BlocMaps.

Maximizing Resilience

Is BlocPower creating microgrids? Does state law prevent it? Need cooperation from the utility?

Some municipalities and states have different definitions of microgrids. At BlocPower, we define microgrids as relatively small, controllable power systems composed of one or more generation units connected to nearby users that can be operated with, or independently from, the local high-voltage transmission system. 

When BlocPower electrifies a building, we install Distributed Energy Resources (DER) such as controllable heat pumps, solar and battery storage. In general, those assets could become components of a microgrid. However, BlocPower is not tying individual buildings together, which is key to the development of a microgrid. 

Still, these combined assets could certainly qualify as a Virtual Power Plant (VPP). If a building owner or city partner wants the solar and energy storage that BlocPower installs to function as such, BlocPower would work with any regulatory bodies required to ensure compliance.

What is BlocPower doing with Community Choice Aggregation (CCA)?

BlocPower supports the work of CCAs and is certainly able to partner with them in a variety of capacities. The City of Ithaca, NY — where BlocPower is managing America’s first city-wide building electrification program — has recently passed Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) legislation, allowing them to designate that all energy purchased in their community come from renewable sources, unless opted out individually by the property owner.

Using 100% Renewable Energy

How have you used energy storage effectively?

Energy storage systems can provide short-term energy and reduce an area’s reliance on the electricity grid. 

In New York City siting energy storage projects in multifamily buildings are a challenge due to local codes, but our financing product can incorporate storage into any package of measures. Further, because all of our projects are internet-connected, storage projects can participate in any grid-response programs that are locally available.

Please provide more details on the hydrogen as a component of a renewable energy effort?

BlocPower aims to bring city-scale building electrification programs across the country. As utilities are seeking solutions to blend natural gas with hydrogen or/and “green” gas, BlocPower will compare electric heat pump building conversion to the option of continuing to use fuel-burning equipment with cleaner blended gas. They will assess the impact in terms of CO2 emission reduction.   

Our assumption is that “100% hydrogen” as a fuel source is likely not going to be a part of the solution for individual, small buildings any time soon.

Do the economics not always work out for electrifying natural gas systems?

No, they don’t. When building owners have recently installed natural gas systems to heat their homes, the financial benefits of a heat pump have a longer payback period than we would prefer. Still, some building owners upon learning the many benefits of heat pumps choose to make that investment, particularly when they learn about the negative health impacts posed by gas appliances, such as stoves.