A startup founded by a former CPS Energy executive is helping companies use newly transferable tax credits to speed up the shift to green energy.
For the past two years, Ever.green, a clean energy project funding and tax credit marketplace co-founded by former CPS Energy Chief Operations Officer Cris Eugster, has connected companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprint by buying renewable energy certificates (RECs) from developers seeking investments to build green energy infrastructure.
RECs, also called “green tags,” are a market-based instrument that certifies the bearer owns one megawatt-hour of electricity generated from a renewable energy resource.
Now, the two-year-old Seattle-based startup has expanded its offerings, partnering with public accounting firm Baker Tilly to help companies take advantage of newly transferable tax credits thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act.
As with the REC market, big companies can invest in clean energy projects and in return get tax credits that will help them meet environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) goals.
In both cases, the end result is more renewable power.
Eugster, who splits his time between Seattle and San Antonio, where his family still lives, said he and product designer Michael Leggett founded Ever.green with the intention of speeding up the American transition to green energy.
“I have gone all in on this clean energy transition,” he told the San Antonio Report. “We had already started a company around bringing corporate dollars to renewable energy projects through the RECs piece of it, so it was natural to say, ‘Hey, now that these tax credits are transferable, we can also help companies utilize those.'”
He offered an example of how the transferable tax credits can benefit both parties.
A project developer might offer an investor $1 million in credits for $500,000. The developer gets the quick infusion of cash allowing them to build, say, a solar project, while the investor saves their company money and moves it closer to meeting its ESG goals.
Ever.green earns its stake from bringing together investors and developers, and through transaction fees from the sale of RECs and tax credits.
Eugster, who left CPS Energy in 2021 after a 12 year tenure, served as a clean energy champion by significantly expanding the utility’s solar products and energy efficiency programs.
He originally departed — coincidentally, just a week after Winter Storm Uri slammed Texas — to become CEO of nationwide power producer NAES Corp., but stayed with the Washington-based company for less than a year before leaving to launch Ever.green.
While the IRS has yet to issue final rules on how the tax credits will be regulated, Ever.green and Baker Tilly are already putting together deals, Eugster said.
Baker Tilly’s expertise in tax, compliance and energy laws helps Ever.green clients navigate the required clean energy project identification, business case analysis and due-diligence processes, said David Dollihite, a managing director in Baker Tilly’s energy practice.
Already, big-name companies are jumping on board. At the end of March, REI, the outdoor recreation cooperative, announced it was celebrating its 10th anniversary by buying RECs and tax credits from Ever.green to help developers launch new green energy projects.
One project, REI said in a press release, based in Texas, will supply an estimated 2,500 megawatt hours annually, enough to fully meet the power needs of its six stores in Houston and Dallas.
Big Sun Solar, a San Antonio-based solar canopy installer that built the city’s largest solar panel-shaded parking lot and CPS Energy’s distributed community solar project, is already reaping the benefits of Ever.green’s programs.
Co-founder and CEO Robert Miggins said the company has launched half a dozen smaller solar projects with funds generated through Ever.green, working with Texas landowners interested in building small and medium-sized solar farms on their properties.
“Partnering with Ever.green help us, number one, to move at a faster pace, and two, they have found a way to sell RECs at a premium because they are bringing new projects online,” he said.
Speed and time are of the essence, Eugster said; the longer the U.S. puts off building new solar projects, the bigger the number of megawatts needed per year for the U.S. to meet its 2030 and 2050 climate goals, Eugster said.
While about 20 gigawatts of solar are currently being built in the U.S. annually, the need is three or four times that, said Baker Tilly’s Dollihite.
“Just to have a chance of meeting those 2030 goals that people keep talking about, we need to be building 65 gigawatts annually,” he said. “So the problem that we’re going after is, ‘How do we facilitate project flow to close the gap somewhat?'”
Dollihite has followed Eugster’s career since the former CPS Energy exec was Houston’s chief sustainability officer in the mid-2000s. Baker Tilly has also worked with CPS Energy, the San Antonio Water System and the City of San Antonio.
Eugster emphasized a local benefit of Ever.green’s efforts.
“Ultimately what we do lowers the cost of solar for communities like San Antonio because we have outside dollars coming in to support those projects,” Eugster said. “When the Inflation Reduction Act happened last year, it was a huge game changer for all of us. It just — it’s massive, what it has the potential to do.”