Professor N. Kulatilaka: Turning Green into Green

in Emerging Research, Energy & Environment Sector, Faculty in the News, Finance, News, Social Impact
April 12th, 2013

The annual magazine Research at Boston University has profiled the pioneering work and social impact of the School of Management’s Nalin Kulatilaka. In their feature “Considering Community,” they write,

Perhaps it is no wonder that an electrical engineer who became a professor of finance would take an interest in how green buildings can provide monetary benefits for the people who have the resources to fund renewable energy projects….

That’s part of the story of Nalin Kulatilaka, who teaches in the School of Management and is a codirector of the Clean Energy & Environmental Sustainability Initiative.

“My research is on sustainable energy investments,” Kulatilaka says. “From renewable energy sources like solar and wind to energy conservation and energy efficiency investments like building retrofits.”

The thrust of his work is to incentivize the up-front funding for green energy buildings from banks and other sources by writing a new kind of contract for the loans that fuel such changes. The contracts are intended to monetize the savings that green energy can achieve, so that the investors who put up the capital can capture some of the money saved as revenue from the project.

“We are now designing contracts where the building owner and tenant could share the savings.”

Recently, Kulatilaka has worked on buildings owned by the Cambridge Housing Authority in Central Square. Some were heated entirely by electricity, some were particularly leaky, and all lacked the investment capital needed for retrofits.

“My contribution there, with Professor of Earth & Environment Robert Kaufmann and a team of students, was to first assess the opportunity; to try to quantify what the savings would be by using various statistical techniques that analyze the demand patterns of the building,” he says.

“We are now designing contracts where the building owner and the tenant could share the savings. These would occur in such a way that funding could be attracted from conventional—or at least semi-­conventional—sources like large banks.”

Read the full article at Research at Boston University, or see another profile of Professor Kulatilaka’s work on “New Approaches to Funding Social Enterprises.”