Maxwell Alum’s Energy Idea Peaks President’s Interest

Jeffrey Eckel, CEO of Hannon Armstrong (MPA, ’82) was flabbergasted to get a call from a White House staffer inviting him to a meeting with Presidents Obama and Clinton, VP Biden, Larry Summers (Chair-CEA), Carol Browner (WH Energy Czar), Rahm Emmanuel (COS), along with the CEO’s of Bank of America, Honeywell and Johnson Controls in order to discuss how to unlock the market for energy efficiency improvements in the commercial office building (“COB”) market and create jobs quickly.

As it turns out, Eckel has been toiling in obscurity in this area for years and having made more mistakes in trying to find a financing solution than anyone else, is now recognized as having useful experience. Since buildings account for 40% of all GHG emissions and the COB market 50% of that amount, this is a ripe area for financial innovation.

“Well Jeff, what is your view? You’ve been working in this area a long time,” said President Obama.  Eckel responded that the finance problem could not be solved unless the efficiency improvements were financed on an unsecured basis, but could be partially secured with a remote ability to “dial-back” the savings in the event of Owner default. Additionally, further that in this finance market, no one would take the risk unless there was a DOE Loan Guarantee available and that we would send along the language fix that needed to be made to allow this to happen. OMB is currently considering the language, but it does not look promising that they will do the right thing.

After graduating from the Maxwell School, Jeffery Eckel worked at Wartstila Power Development where he implemented power projects in Puerto Rico, Honduras, Jamaica, Pakistan, and China. Eckel then pursued a position at Hammon Armstrong where he has developed and administered energy service companies in the U.S. and abroad.

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