BlocPower: Pioneering Affordable Clean Energy Upgrades for Multifamily Buildings
By reducing complexity and increasing affordability, BlocPower is leading the charge to transform older multifamily properties into comfortable, energy-saving living spaces
[Brooklyn, NY, September 18, 2023] — BlocPower, a national climate tech company focused on greening aging buildings, is using its one-stop-shop model to accelerate the transition from fossil fuel heating to all-electric heat pump systems. This comes as the technology grows in popularity, with heat pumps now relied on by more than 100 million households across the globe and surpassing residential sales of gas furnaces in the United States as of 2022.
The company’s approach integrates $0 down financing with local, utility and federal Inflation Reduction Act incentives to increase affordability—while providing clean energy project management expertise to reduce complexity. A partnership with the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts demonstrates the model in action, where BlocPower, Cambridge and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center jointly announced $800,000 in exclusive multifamily clean energy incentives earlier this month.
Innovative, Accessible Financing Options with BlocPower
BlocPower’s mission is to make smarter, greener, healthier buildings possible for all, and project affordability is a central pillar. That’s where the company’s financing comes in, presenting building owners with an option to spread what would otherwise be a significant upfront cost over monthly payments across the lifespan of the heat pump system. Owners can finance energy efficiency upgrades for as little as $0/down, with no lien placed on the building, and standard operations and maintenance included. In cases where the property’s current heating system utilizes heating oil or electric resistance, resulting heating bill savings can help offset the monthly cost.
Oftentimes, BlocPower serves buildings with limited operating budgets and considerable deferred maintenance. Knowing this, the company designed its financing product to be flexible enough to cover projects supportive of the clean energy upgrade. The supporting renovations range from mold and asbestos remediation, to electrical upgrades, to new windows, roofing and insulation.
For many building owners the financing directly enables the upgrade to take place. That was the case for a 24 unit property in Madison, WI, where “BlocPower’s partnership in the electrification of the historic Madison Community Coop’s defunct space heating boiler came at just the right time,” according to a nonprofit supporting the work. “The project could not have succeeded without BlocPower’s ability to step into this mission-driven project by providing critical financing and support.”
BlocPower Specializes in Maximizing Complex Incentives
Clean energy upgrades often qualify for incentives that can significantly reduce upfront costs, but it can be complicated to access this funding even for experienced contractors. Part of the challenge is understanding opportunities and eligibility across local, utility and federal programs—including new incentives available soon through the Inflation Reduction Act. Each potential funding pathway has unique requirements and specifications, in some instances mandating rigid design standards that—if not followed correctly—disqualify the project.
BlocPower works on the customers behalf to maximize and stack rebates and tax credits that increase affordability. For two recent projects, an 8 unit co-op and a 14 unit apartment building, BlocPower secured six-figure incentive payments.
“BlocPower just made it work,” said Lincoln Eccles, the owner of a Brooklyn multifamily building, who approached BlocPower when his building’s boiler failed. “If BlocPower can do my building, they can do any building on the block”
The incentive payment helped replace the failing boiler with a multi-split heat pump system that offered the building’s occupants control over temperature setpoints and all-season comfort.
Many Reasons to Replace Fossil Fuel Systems With Heat Pumps
BlocPower targets replacing fossil fuel furnaces and boilers with electric heat pumps to reduce carbon pollution. Measured over 15 years of operation, a heat pump operating on the nation’s most carbon-intensive electric grid will still reduce emissions 35% versus a high-efficiency gas furnace. This rises to 93% for states predominantly utilizing clean energy, according to a recent report from energy nonprofit the Rocky Mountain Institute.
But heat pumps offer many more benefits than reduced carbon pollution, starting with improved comfort and control. These all-in-one heating and cooling systems provide precise, room-by-room temperature control in all seasons for dependable comfort. Whisper quiet, heat pumps steadily deliver conditioned, filtered air and consistent temperatures throughout living spaces. For owners and occupants, this means no more hot and cold spots and no more complaints.
Because heat pumps are 2-4X more efficient than the most efficient fossil fuel system, some projects also produce heating bill savings ranging from 20-50%. This is most common for buildings burning heating oil or using electric resistance to produce heat and driven by local and global energy prices. In addition to providing post-project energy use forecasts, BlocPower helps customers maximize energy efficiency with smart systems technologies, connect to demand response and community solar programs as well as identify the most economical utility rate class.
Local Laws Another Tailwind for BlocPower and Heat Pump Adoption
Nationwide, municipalities are adopting new laws to phase out fossil fuels, including mandates to install electric technology like heat pumps instead of gas appliances in new construction. In the case of BlocPower’s home base of New York City, two local laws in particular are increasing the pace of building electrification.
The first of which is Local Law 97, which impacts 50,000 buildings across the city and sets carbon pollution limits based on a building’s emissions intensity. Buildings that exceed these caps face fines beginning in 2024 of $268 per ton of emissions above the limit. When the limits become stricter in 2030, many buildings will face six and seven figure penalties without reducing emissions levels.
The fines under Local Law 97 will serve as a financial incentive for building owners to invest in energy-efficient upgrades and sustainable practices, and BlocPower is committed to working with buildings to both understand potential fine levels and develop an electrification and energy efficiency roadmap to get into compliance. For New York City—where buildings account for 70% of total carbon emissions—enforcement of these limits is a critical component of meeting broader climate objectives, including improving air quality.
Another ordinance passed in March of 2023 will hasten the phase out of no. 4 heating oil—supporting healthier communities through the reduction of particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide in the air. Originally slated to be banned in 2030, non-city-owned buildings will face fines of up to $10,000 if they continue to use no. 4 oil after July 1, 2027. Further, the city will stop issuing or renewing building permits for the fuel as of June 30, 2024.
Buildings using this heating oil “have another motivation to consider heat pumps for space heating and hot water,” according to Ian Harris of BlocPower, who has helped dozens of New York City buildings complete clean energy upgrades since joining the company in 2015. “Beyond reducing carbon pollution and improving air quality, this is an opportunity to increase safety and comfort for residents while upgrading our building stock across the city and across the country.”