On-Bill Financing: Cost-free Energy Efficiency Improvements


Although there is a strong business case for using energy-efficient technology, a significant barrier to its adoption is the initial cost of new appliances, HVAC systems, furnaces, insulation, lighting or weatherization. On-bill financing allows customers to overcome cost barriers by providing financing for these upgrades, which are then paid over time via charges on their utility bill.

On-bill financing programs may require “bill-neutrality,” meaning energy-efficiency efficiency savings on monthly bills must be greater or equal to a customer’s loan payments. This approach provides customers with efficiency upgrades at no added cost, since the expected energy savings from efficiency improvements are greater than the on-bill finance costs. Default rates have been found to be lower than with other loans, making them lower risk for lenders—customers may be more likely to make payments as they appear as part of their gas or electricity bill. Policymakers have encouraged on-bill financing programs in a number of states by authorizing the use of public benefits funds for these programs, creating pilot programs or requiring utilities to adopt an on-bill financing program.

The purpose of on-bill financing for energy-efficiency efficiency is to promote efficiency improvements in existing homes and buildings. Programs can also increase access to energy-efficiency efficiency technology for those that cannot afford the upfront costs, namely middle and low-income customers, renters, residents of multifamily properties and small businesses. For example, the South Carolina “Help My House” Rural Energy Savings Program Pilot led to a 34 percent reduction in energy use for residential program participants and resulted in average annual savings of $288 per home—the total savings after loan payments.

On-bill financing programs can also be arranged to use utility bill repayment history to underwrite upgrades, allowing customers with poorer credit scores to access financing. The structure of on-bill financing programs is highly dependent on a number of factors including utility regulatory structure, state consumer lending laws, target audience, program goals, the source of capital and the administrating entity. Twelve states have enacted legislation to create loan funds for capital, create pilot programs or require utilities to offer on-bill financing. Another 19 states have utilities with on-bill financing programs in place (note: Nebraska's program is not currently active).

See the chart on State Legislation for On-Bill Financing.

US map of state action

Financing Avenues: Loans and Tariffs

On-bill financing can be utilized for commercial, industrial or residential owners and tenants; residential programs can be structured to single-family or multifamily housing. Programs may serve a single or multiple markets. To get started, on-bill financing programs use capital from revolving loan funds, public benefits funds, utility shareholder funds, grants or private investors. Some programs use the customer loan model—where the loan is tied to the property owner—while others utilize a tariff model—where the loan is tied to the meter. Tariffs may not require a utility to significantly alter its business model, but do require the utility to process on-bill payments until the full cost of the financing is repaid. Tariffs may not create a lien and are ideal for rental properties, as the debt—and benefits of the upgrade—stay with a property when a tenant moves. Loans function best for owners that can take on additional debt, but may be non-transferable if the property is sold. Another form of financing, a service agreement, blends the loan and tariffs models and has been used in multifamily housing programs, such as when a landlord pays utility bills on a multifamily housing unit.


On-bill financing can bring the benefits of energy efficiency, and renewable energy, to a broader range of utility customers by eliminating or significantly reducing upfront costs for efficiency improvements. Customers’ savings from increased efficiency often exceed loan payments, so customers see immediate benefits. On-bill financing builds on the relationship between utilities and their customers and programs can provide security to utilities and lenders by allowing a utility to disconnect power if the customer defaults on the loan. Utilities can bundle financing with other efficiency incentives, such as rebates or tax credits. With default rates below three percent, on-bill financing is relatively low risk relative to other loan default rates. On-bill financing is possible for gas or electric companies, although financing programs for multiple fuel sources becomes more complex. Increased efficiency can help keep all customers’ rates lower and avoid costs of new power plant construction. Programs can increase their impact by bundling on-bill financing with marketing, technical assistance through energy audits, cost sharing tools like rebates, use of prescreened contractors for services and post-installation inspections for quality assurance. On-bill financing programs can also assist states with meeting Energy Efficiency Resource Standards.


While on-bill financing can generate benefits for customers, this policy tool creates several challenges for state lawmakers, regulators and utilities. Private lenders may perceive on-bill financing to be of higher risk and be unfamiliar with energy efficiency lending, whereas utilities may not comfortable with the idea of acting as a lender, and may need to redesign their business model and billing systems to implement the administrative components of programs. Additionally, utilities may not have the means or the desire to become lending institutions. Additionally, property owners may not want to accrue more debt.

On-bill loans require adherence to state consumer-lending laws, while on-bill tariffs may require regulatory approval. Education and outreach are also important to a program’s success. Using disconnection of service by utilities as a method of security payment may raise consumer protection issues. On-bill financing is only one method for promoting energy efficiency and other state or utility initiatives—regardless of whether they involve financing—may be more effective in achieving efficiency goals or targets.

On-Bill Repayment

On-bill repayment is another emerging finance tool. While on-bill financing refers to programs that utilize ratepayer, utility shareholder or public funds, on-bill repayment programs leverage private, third-party capital for financing. Banks, credit unions or financial institutions provide the loan capital and loan payments are displayed on utility bills. This approach allows third-party institutions to take care of administrative functions, while utilities only need to process payments. On-bill repayment obligations can utilize several different financing vehicles, including loans, leases and power purchase agreements (or PPAs, which serve as agreements to buy and sell energy savings over time). On-bill repayment can also be sole sourced or open sourced—programs in New York and Oregon use a single source of capital while Hawaii is currently developing an open source model where banks and investors compete for customers. On-bill repayment has been implemented in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia; on-bill repayment  is in development in California, Connecticut, Hawaii and Minnesota.

State Activity

Twelve states have enacted legislation to authorize public benefit funds for capital, to create pilot programs or to require utilities to offer on-bill financing or on-bill repayment. Legislation intent on creating on-bill financing programs can explore a variety of topics and consider numerous factors. For example, states should examine whether on-bill financing is the best mechanism for achieving a state’s goals, or if a program such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing would better meet these goals. Additionally, states may select which technologies and energy efficient upgrades are available for financing, or direct the state’s public utility to do so, rather than utilities. If a state implements on-bill repayment, stakeholders must determine whether utilities or third-parties financers assume the risk. Lastly, similar to any policy, on-bill financing programs should be structured to reflect a state’s environment and goals, and may not fit a specific model.

There has been state activity at the public utility commission level as well, including a 2012 Pennsylvania order exploring the costs and benefits of energy efficiency financing opportunities, such as on-bill financing.

For an update on 2015 state action, please visit our 2015 Energy Efficiency Legislative Update. For an update on 2014 state action, please visit our 2014 Energy Efficiency Legislative Update.

2014 Legislation

Currently in 2014, 10 states have considered legislation related to on-bill financing.

  • Legislation carried over from the 2013 session in Hawaii, New York and Vermont remains pending, although not necessarily active (see “2013 Legislation”).
  • California: Assembly Bill 2017 (failed) would have authorized the Public Utilities Commission to require an electrical or gas corporation to develop and implement an on-bill repayment program for energy efficiency, renewable energy, distributed generation, energy storage or demand response improvements for rental properties by allowing for the repayment to be included in the utility bill.
  • Kentucky: House Bill 195 (failed) would have required retail electric suppliers to take energy-efficiency measures and implement energy-efficiency programs, such as on-bill financing, that increase energy savings over a period of time.
  • Michigan: House Bill 5397 (pending) would enable municipalities to establish residential clean energy programs and offer financing, including on-bill financing, for energy efficiency improvements.
  • Minnesota: House File 2375 (failed), House File 2834 (enacted) and Senate File 2049 (failed) would authorize for on-bill repayment to be offered for all electric and gas utility customers for energy conservation improvements and certain renewable energy sources.
  • Nebraska: Legislative Bill 978 (failed) would have authorized funding for electric and gas utility on-bill payment programs for energy conservation programs under the Low-Income Home Energy Conservation Act.
  • New York: Assembly Bill 8945 (pending) would authorize additional provisions to the state’s on-bill recovery program, including defining a utility’s responsibility and programmatic requirements. Companion bill to Senate Bill 5286 (2013). Assembly Bill 10038 (pending) would create a commercial on-bill financing program in the state.
  • Oregon: House Bill 4105 (failed) would have no longer required the Public Purpose Fund Administrator to initiate pilot programs exploring the effectiveness of energy efficiency technologies, including on-billing financing, and would allow the Director of the state Department of Energy to initiate such programs.
  • Virginia: House Bill 1001 (pending- carried over to 2015) would require electric utilities to file a plan for implementing an on-bill financing program for residential customers with the State Corporation Commission.

2013 Legislation

In 2013, eight states considered legislation for on-bill financing. For a complete list of enacted and pending energy efficiency financing legislation from 2013, click here.

  • California: Senate Bill 37 (failed) would have authorized the Public Utility Commission to require electric and gas utilities to offer on-bill repayment for renewable energy, distributed generation or demand response initiatives.
  • Connecticut: House Bill 5591(failed) would have expanded on-bill financing programs to residential, small commercial and industrial utility customers to finance installations and upgrades of technology relating to energy efficiency, renewable energy and smart meters.
  • Hawaii: Senate Bill 1087 (enacted) authorized the use of green infrastructure bonds for energy efficiency projects, including on-bill financing, and required the Public Utilities Commission to investigate an on-bill financing program for clean energy technology, demand response technology, and energy use reduction and demand side management devices. Companion bill is House Bill 856 (failed).
  • Illinois: Senate Bill 2350 (enacted) requires certain electric or gas utilities to offer an on-bill financing program to owners of multifamily master-metered residential or mixed-use master-metered buildings. Establishes that certain building owners may not use the program in such a way that repayment of the cost of energy efficiency measures is made on the tenant's utility bills.
  • Maine: Senate Paper 246 (failed) would have authorized transmission and distribution utilities and gas utilities to provide grants and loans, including on-bill financing loans, for qualifying fuel switching equipment. Senate Paper 512 (failed) requires the Public Utilities Commission to ensure that all electric ratepayers procure all energy efficiency resources found by the commission to be cost-effective, reliable and achievable; allows the commission to impose any order on transmission and distribution utilities necessary to achieve the energy efficiency savings. The bill would extend existing on-bill financing programs offered by utilities to include energy efficiency measures.
  • Maryland: House Bill 1173 (failed) would have authorized the Public Service Commission to establish a Small Commercial Energy Efficiency On-Bill Financing Program and permitted the Commission to require a utility company to participate in the program.
  • New York: Senate Bill 5286 (pending- carryover) would amend the Green Jobs – Green New York on-bill energy service company energy efficiency payment program, defining a utility’s responsibility and programmatic requirements.
  • Vermont: House Bill 437 (failed) would require the Department of Public Service to study the potential for renewable heating and cooling technologies, accessible to customers through on-bill tariffed financing.

Table: State Legislation for On-Bill Financing

Have an addition or amendment to this chart? Please contact us.

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Loan Range and Interest Rate

Administering Entity




Sempra On-Bill Program (loan)

On-bill repayment in development

Assembly Bill 1613 (2007);

Assembly Bill 2791 (2008); Assembly Bill 758 (2009)

Multifamily residential; commercial; industrial; nonprofit; schools; local, state, tribal and federal government; agricultural; institutional

(depending on utility)

Sempra will provide rebates for 10% of the cost. The remaining cost is offered through a loan up to $250,000, with 0% interest for repayment within 10 years

Utilities, including Sempra Energy, which includes Southern California Gas and San Diego Gas and Electric; Southern California Edison; Pacific Gas and Electric

Public benefits funds, administered by utilities; California Hub for Energy Efficiency

Financing; California Alternative Energy and Advanced

Transportation Financing Authority

2007 legislation authorizes on-bill financing for combined heat and power customers and 2008 legislation made minor revisions. 2009 legislation required the Public Utilities Commission to investigate the ability of utilities to provide energy efficiency financing options to customers. Program has helped meet state energy efficiency resource standards. Sacramento Municipal Utility District offered an on-bill financing program although initial difficulty with billing has led the program loans to be billed separately from utility bills.


CT Small Business Energy Advantage and Home Energy Solutions(loans)


On-bill repayment in development

House Bill 5005 (1998)

Small commercial (determined by average peak demand)

Utilities will provide rebates for a percentage of the cost. The remaining cost is offered through a loan averaging $8,000 - $12,000, with 0% interest and repayment within 3 years

Utilities, including Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating

State Energy Efficiency Fund, which includes American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds; ISO-New England Forward Capacity Market Revenues; Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative profits

1998 legislation created a public benefits fund, the Energy Efficiency Fund, for on-bill financing programs and authorized utilities to implement on-bill financing. Municipal electric utilities are required to establish their own energy efficiency funds. Program goals were to manage peak loans and improve customer satisfaction. Programs use a combination of rebates and loans. Program has helped meet state energy efficiency resource standards. United Illuminating uses pre-selected contractors for efficiency improvements. Legislation in 2013 also established a residential, “clean energy” on-bill financing program to begin by April 2014.


How$mart by Habersham EMC (tariff), as well as past pilot programs (tariff)

House Bill 1388 (2010)


Varies according to program: pilot programs offered loans up to $5,000, with 0% interest for repayment within 5 years; Habersham EMC offers loans with 3.95% interest for repayment within 10 years

Oglethorp Power Corporation, Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (pilot programs); Habersham Electric Membership Corporation; Electric Cities of Georgia

Georgia Environmental Finance Authority funds; American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds; private funding

Legislation authorizes development authorities to administer on-bill financing programs. Pilot programs were implemented from 2010 – 2012 by Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Electric Cities of Georgia or the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia. A number of programs are still in operation, including Habersham EMC’s program under Oglethorp Power Corporation.


Hawaii On-Bill Financing Program (tariff)


On-bill repayment in development

Senate Bill 3185 (2006); House Bill 1520 (2011); Senate Bill 1087 (2013)

Residential; commercial (small business)

Pending; estimated annual servicing volumes of $12,000,000 - 14,000,000 through 5,000 tariff obligations

Hawaii Energy (formerly); a request for proposals for a program administrator was released in Fall 2013

Public benefits funds; Green Infrastructure Bonds

2006 legislation established a public benefits fund for energy efficiency and demand side management. 2011 legislation directs the Public Utilities Commission to investigate on-bill financing for residential electric utility customers. Authorizes the commission to implement a program. 2013 legislation authorizes the use of green infrastructure bonds for energy efficiency projects; bond revenue can be used for on-bill financing. Energy audits are required for all customers. Program has a bill-neutral requirement. The state has also had an on-bill financing program for solar water heaters, the SolarSaver Pilot Program.


Illinois Energy Efficiency Loan Program

Senate Bill 1918 (2009); Senate Bill 2350 (2013)

Residential; multifamily residential; commercial (depending on utility)

Loans range up to $20,000, with an interest rate of 4.99% for repayment within 10 years

AFC First Financial

National Penn Bank; utility ratepayer funds

2009 legislation is a state requirement for utilities to provide on-bill financing programs to residential customers, if utilities service more than 100,000 customers. Legislation also allows for third party lenders to provide loans. 2013 legislation expands on-bill financing to multifamily and master-metered buildings. Programs vary based on utility offerings.


How$martKY (tariff)

House Bill 1 (2007, Special Session 2)

Residential; multifamily residential; commercial; non-profit

Loans range up to $15,000, with an interest rate up to 6.99% for repayment within 10 years

Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED); Kentucky Home Performance

Community development financial institution funds; foundation funds

Legislation requires the Public Service Commission to eliminate impediments to utility adoption of cost-effective demand-management strategies. Program has helped meet state energy efficiency resource standards. Program is under the KY Energy Retrofit Rider and includes four utilities: Big Sandy Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation, Fleming-Mason Energy Cooperative, Inc., Grayson Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation and Jackson Energy Cooperative Corporation. The program was originally a two year pilot that became a permanent program in September 2013 by Public Service Commission Order.


Several programs, including National Grid’s Energy Efficiency Small Business and Residential Program (loan) and Western Massachusetts Electric Company (loan)

Senate Bill 2768 (2008)

Residential; commercial (small business)

National Grid will pay 70% of the cost of the energy efficient installation, customers will financing the remaining 30% with 0% interest for repayment within 2 years; Western Massachusetts Electric Company will also pay 70% of installations and financing the remaining 30% with 0% interest

National Grid; Western Massachusetts Electric Company

Utility ratepayer funds

Legislation is a state requirement for utilities to offer on-bill financing to municipal customers and created a pilot program for electric utility customers that ran in 2009, Energy Pay and Save. Legislation also created a fund for energy efficiency programs.


Bangor Hydro Electric-Maine Public Service pilot program (loan)

Senate Paper 306 (2009)

Commercial (small businesses)

Loans range up to $10,000, with an interest rate below 7.75% for repayment within 5 years

Efficiency Maine

Efficiency Maine Trust, which include American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds through the BetterBuildings program

Legislation requires the Public Utilities Commission to conduct a study of the feasibility of establishing an on-bill financing program for small business and residential customers. The Public Utilities Commission released a report integrating this program with an existing state efficiency program, Efficiency Maine. Program applies to heat pumps.


In May 2014, the Minnesota legislature enacted House File 2834, authorizing on-bill repayment programs for electric and natural gas utility customers.


New York

On-Bill Loan Recovery Program

Green Jobs—Green New York Act (2009); Power NY Act (2011)

Non-profit; residential; multifamily residential; commercial (small business)

$3,000 - $25,000, with an interest rate of 3.49% for repayment within 15 years

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)

Revolving loan fund; Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative profits; state energy fund; third-party capital (On-bill repayment)

2009 legislation authorizes on-bill financing programs administered by NYSERDA. 2011 legislation establishes a state requirement for utilities to offer on-bill financing. Program has two tiers of loans: tier I are loans bundled for sale to the private market (on bill repayment) while tier II loans are financed by utilities. Program has a bill-neutral requirement. Covers electric, gas, and heating fuel measures. Program was launched in 2010.


Several programs, including Clean Energy Works Oregon (loan); MPower Oregon (loan)

Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Technology Act (2009)

Residential; multifamily residential

Clean Energy Works Oregon offers loans between $2,000 - $30,000, with an interest rate of 5.25 – 5.99% with repayment within 20 years

State Department of Energy; Clean Energy Works Oregon; City of Portland Housing Bureau

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds through the BetterBuildings program; Energy Trust of Oregon; state loan programs; local governments; workforce investment boards; foundations

Legislation is a state requirement for utilities to offer on-bill financing. Loans are either paid on utility bills or directly to lenders. Loan can transfer across homeowners for a fee. NW Natural and Questar implemented on-bill financing pilot programs from 2000 to 2002.

South Carolina

“Help My House” Rural Energy Savings Pilot Program (loan)

S.B. 1096 (2010)


Average loan was $7,700, with an interest rate of 2.5% for repayment within 10 years.

Central Electric Power Cooperative; Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Economic Development Loans and Grants

Legislation authorizes utility on-bill financing programs. Program achieved 34% reduction in energy use the year following efficiency improvements. Customers experienced an average annual savings of $288 after loan payments. Program has a bill-neutral requirement. Program goals included avoiding new power plant construction, demand-side management, rehabilitating manufactured housing and increasing customer satisfaction. Program completes a back-end energy audit to determine if all efficiency goals are met.

Utility On-Bill Financing Programs

Utilities in an additional 19 states administer on-bill financing programs although there has been no legislative action to create these programs. Below are examples of programs in these states.

  • Alabama: The Dixie Electric Cooperative offers an energy efficiency on-bill financing program. The Tennessee Valley Authority implements Energy Right Solutions, an energy efficiency on-bill repayment program, in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The program began offering on-bill financing in 1978 and switched to an on-bill repayment model in 2007; the program has provided over $500 million in residential and commercial loans since its creation.
  • Arkansas: The First Electric Cooperative offers on-bill financing loan programs for residential customers, with loans between $500 and $15,000 with repayment periods between one and five years.
  • Colorado: Fort Collins Utilities offers residential customers on-bill financing for energy efficiency, solar photovoltaic and water conservation loans. Loans range from $1,000 - $15,000, along with an application and loan settlement fee.
  • Indiana: The city of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership launched an on-bill financing program in 2011 with U.S. Department of Energy BetterBuildings funds aiming to provide 1,000 loans.
  • Iowa: Black Hill Energy offers on-bill financing for high-efficiency home heating equipment, such as boilers and furnaces, for residential, gas-utility customers. The program also offers energy efficiency rebates in lieu of financing.
  • Kansas: Midwest Energy launched an on-bill financing program for residential customers in 2007; the program later expanded to commercial and industrial customers. Midwest Energy now implements the How $mart Kansas program, a tariff program for HVAC, lighting, insulation and geothermal projects.
  • Maryland: Two Maryland utilities, Pepco and Baltimore Gas and Electric, offer on-bill financing programs through the Small Business Energy Advantage program. The program was developed through guidance from the Maryland Energy Administration and is funded by utility bill surcharges. The programs offer unsecured, zero-percent-interest Energy Advances, which appear as line-items on utility bills.  Energy Advances must be fully repaid within 12 months or 24 months, depending on the utility. There is no bill neutrality requirement.
  • Michigan: Michigan Saves, a non-profit, has administered a pilot on-bill financing loan program for customers of the Cherryland Electric Cooperative. A credit union provided financing to both residential and commercial customers. Semco Energy also offers on-bill financing.
  • Minnesota and Wisconsin: Through 2013, Alliant Energy offered a Shared Savings program for energy efficiency upgrades for agricultural and commercial customers with a repayment term less than five years and a default rate below one percent. Additionally, an on-bill financing pilot program, New London Resource Project, was implemented in Wisconsin between 1993 and 1995. Two utilities and two public-power associations offered on-bill financing to residential, commercial and industrial customers, yielding savings of 1.8 GWh and 93,000 therms across the life of the investment. The pilot reduced peak demand by 15 kW in the summer and 44 kW in the winter. Madison Gas and Electric currently uses on-bill project financing for commercial customers.
  • New Hampshire and Rhode Island: National Grid has offered on-bill financing in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island, providing over 16,000 loans to commercial and residential customers with two year repayment plans. Additionally, New Hampshire implemented a pilot program, Pay As You Save (PAYS), for Public Service of New Hampshire and New Hampshire Electric Cooperative utility customers. The New Hampshire Electric Cooperative and Public Service of New Hampshire now offer the SmartSTART on-bill tariff program.
  • New Jersey: New Jersey Natural Gas offers a residential, on-bill loan program with zero percent interest loans between $2,500 and $10,000 through the Save Green Project. The program bundles rebates and free energy audits for qualifying customers. Public Service Gas & Electric Company also offers an on-bill financing program for multifamily residential properties, with a 10 year repayment period and priority given to New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA) financed affordable housing projects.
  • Texas: Texas utilities have operated several small on-bill financing programs, including a program offered by the Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative.
  • Vermont: Burlington Electrical Department provides an on-bill financing program to business customers through a U.S. Economic Development Administration grant. The program combines incentives with the loans, aiming to offer 1,500 loans of an estimated $6,000 in value.
  • Washington: Community Power Works offers Seattle residential and commercial customers on-bill financing for efficiency improvements and a reduced price for energy audits.

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Federal Activity

  • The U.S. Department of Energy, through American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, invested more than $31 billion in energy projects, including energy efficiency block grants and weatherization programs.
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Economic Loans and Grants funds allowed the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina to launch an on-bill financing pilot program in 2011. The success of the program has inspired multiple attempts at federal legislation for a Rural Energy Savings Program Act, which currently included in the 2014 Farm Bill.
  • In December 2013, the USDA announced an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan program, which will provide $250 million annually in federal loans to support energy efficiency programs operated by rural electric cooperatives and rural utilities.

Thanks to the Environmental Defense Fund; Harcourt, Brown & Carey; and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for providing comments on this report.