A year ago, it appeared that a July 2010 statement by the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Authority had effectively shut down efforts in 26 states to enable energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects through Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs. Throughout the past we’ve heard from many cities and counties that hadn’t given up on PACE, and were looking for ways to start—or restart—their programs. Two recent developments may have helped jump-start their efforts.
First, the PACE Protection Act of 2011, a bill that addressed concerns about PACE programs, was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives, and has gained strong bipartisan sponsorship, hardly a surprise given that PACE is one of the few ways to create a lot of jobs without adding to the federal deficit. (We might add that saving money on energy without incurring any upfront cost has the same effect as a tax cut for homeowners and businesses.)
Then on August 31, a California federal court rejected the FHFA’s claim that its 2010 statement was not subject to court challenge, paving the way for a lawsuit by Sonoma County and other California jurisdictions to proceed. The statement itself remains in force, but establishing the right to sue is a big victory for PACE supporters.
In the weeks following these two positive developments, there have been several announcements of PACE funds and programs, including some that are focused on commercial property:
– Ygrene Energy Fund, a California-based clean-energy fund, announced in September it is investing $650 million to finance retrofits, solar installations and other efficiency upgrades in Sacramento, Miami-Dade County and other cities and counties as lead participant in the PACE Commercial Consortium, which also involves Lockheed Martin, Barclays Capital and the global reinsurer Hannover Re.
– The Ann Arbor, Michigan city council on September 17 said it will establish an Energy Financing District and a PACE program funded by a $432,800 loan loss reserve fund from an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) from the U.S. Department of Energy.
– Boulder County, Colorado, announced last week that it would restart its ClimateSmart Program, enacted in 2008 and suspended in 2010, to help families and businesses engage in retrofits and renewable energy installations in a PACE-like structure.
– On September 7, Clean Fund made the “first private investment in a commercial PACE project” with $1.6 million provided through the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program to help pay for a 1MW solar system which, along with previous renewable projects, will enable Sonoma Mountain Village to cover 100% of its electricity needs from on-site renewable power.
At a time when job creation, cost efficiency, energy security and climate change are all key concerns, the actions of these cities and counties are encouraging steps forward. Hopefully, Congress is listening.