Green loans, green leases, green buildings.
The US Energy Information Administration estimates that the residential and commercial sectors of the US economy used 42 percent of the energy consumed in the country in 2010.
In residences, space heating was the largest use (41%), followed by electronics, lighting and other appliances (26%), water heating (20%), air conditioning (8%), and refrigeration (5%).
Commercial buildings consumed 51 percent of their energy use for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), 21 percent for lighting, and the remaining 28 percent for water heating, refrigeration, computers and office equipment, cooking, and other uses.
Clearly, energy conservation and efficiency technologies applied to US buildings have the potential for great savings of energy, but may come at the cost of increased installation or retrofit payments by consumers.
One of the hindrances to greater penetration of energy conservation systems, particularly in the residential market, is the up-front cost. This is particularly the case during the ongoing recession, which has drastically affected credit markets, employment, income, housing starts, mortgage foreclosures, and commercial building construction and leases.
Patent number 7,904,382, “Methods for financing renewable energy systems”, invented by David Arfin of Palo Alto, CA, and assigned to Solarcity Corporation (Foster City, CA), was issued on March 8, 2011. It is classified in the USPC as 705/38; this is a business method classification covering the processing of credit or loans.
Claim 1 states:
A method for financing renewable energy systems, comprising:
displaying by a computing system, home loan options and lease options for a renewable energy system;
receiving, by the computing system, a first selection of a home loan for a homeowner from the loan options;
receiving, by the computing system, a second selection of a lease for the homeowner from the lease options: arranging the home loan for a homeowner in which the interest payable by the homeowners is at least partly tax deductible;
offering the lease to the homeowner for the renewable energy system;
increasing the profits of selling said renewable energy system by obtaining more favorable lease terms and decisions from a lessor with particular internal rates of return (IRR) decision criteria as a result of defeasing the lease debt;
determining, by the computing system, a deposit of cash proceeds from said home loan into a trust held by an escrow agent for the single purpose of paying lease payments for said lease as each payment becomes due;
receiving a plurality of lease payments for said lease when each payment becomes due thereby seasoning said home loan such that the risk of any holder-in-due course reduced thereby;
selling said home loan to said holder-in-due-course;
selling any renewable energy credits (REC's) that obtain from installing or operating said renewable energy system;
and increasing business operating profits with any tax incentives that obtain from installing or operating said renewable energy system;
wherein, the proceeds from said home loan are effectively used to defease the debt represented by said lease.
This business method for financing renewable energy systems includes offering a home loan to a homeowner in which the interest payable by the homeowner is tax deductible. A lease is also offered to the homeowner for the installation and use of a renewable energy system. Cash from the home loan is placed into an escrow account for making lease payments for the renewable energy system.
The patent, which is found in the Industry area of patentECO, demonstrates the linkages between major sub-ecosystems within the overall clean technology patent ecosystem. Although its USPC classification places it as part of industry, its actual application or effect lies within the Energy sub-ecosystem, specifically within the community of clean technology patents covering renewable energy.
Just as in a forest ecosystem, there is a complex web of relationships and information flows between patents, how they are classified, their claimed purpose, and their ultimate effect.