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Energy Factors in Commercial Mortgages: Gaps and Opportunities

LBNL, UCLA Berkeley, Institute for Market Transformation | September 2016

The commercial real estate mortgage market is enormous, with almost half a trillion dollars in deals originated in 2015. Relative to other energy efficiency financing mechanisms, very little attention has been paid to the potential of commercial mortgages as a channel for promoting energy efficiency investments. The valuation and underwriting elements of the business are largely driven by the “net operating income” (NOI) metric – essentially, rents minus expenses. While NOI ostensibly includes all expenses, energy factors are in several ways given short shrift in the underwriting process. This is particularly interesting when juxtaposed upon a not insignificant body of research revealing that there are in fact tangible benefits (such as higher valuations and lower vacancy and default rates) for energy-efficient and “green” commercial buildings. This scoping report characterizes the current status and potential interventions to promote greater inclusion of energy factors in the commercial mortgage process. It includes the results of a literature review and extensive stakeholder discussions with 40 lenders, owners, service providers, advocacy organizations and others.

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