Using “Easy Money to Do Hard Things” – How to Leverage Federal Funds for Your Green Project
By Susan Jarvis
March 8, 2010
HDR Sustainable Development Inc. Senior Vice President John Williams facilitated a webinar aimed at helping cities identify and develop new funding opportunities and create a model based on Sustainable Revenue over Investment. During the hour-long session, Municipal Waste Management Association (MWMA), the environmental affiliate of the United States Conference of Mayors, addressed the challenges specific to an urban environmental department, including sustainability, solid waste and recycling.
Williams began his session by explaining that cities were poised to take advantage of the new transformative economy, which is green based and focused on alternative energy, energy conservation, green jobs, and reduction in green house gas emissions. As cities move forward in identifying funding opportunities, they should focus on the leverage and legacy of their projects. “Future funding will be driven by results,” said Williams. “In order to get your share or more of available funding, cities need to identify their projects with federal priorities. Cities should consider using easy money to do hard things,” advised Williams.
As cities pull together their grant applications for the Energy and Environment Block Grant and other funding opportunities, Williams suggests cities implement a Sustainable Return on Investment (SROI), in order to get a truer picture of the project’s overall economic and environmental impact. SROI adds to the traditional financial model of cash value. SROI includes effects on productivity, health and safety, mobility, effects on green house gas emissions, air quality, water, and solid waste. “Sustained Return on Investment takes into account all the social, environmental and economic impacts,” he said.
Williams walked participants through the process of developing the SROI model, which includes identifying all three elements you want to include, quantify data assumptions, identify risk, and quantify the direct and indirect effects. Once the SROI has been determined, the city is able to create a green business case. “Find the right shade of green for your city,” advised Williams. He continued, “Begin by defining the probability of return. Funders want to know would sustainability occur without the investment, outline the real benefits of the project and tell the story of your vision. It’s important you provide a transparent case and know the foundation of every data point.”
In conclusion, a well articulated grant or funding proposal should cover the following:
- identify the net costs and benefits of your proposal;
- predict the likelihood the project will achieve its goals;
- identify how the project affects green jobs; and
- contribute to higher energy efficiency, alternative energy sources and overall sustainability.
For more information about SROI or the Municipal Waste Management Association, contact Susan Jarvis at 202-861-6760 or email@example.com.