PACE program gets second wind with new legislation

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Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs were becoming a popular way to help home and property owners pay for solar and renewable installations or energy efficiency improvements. But the Federal Home Finance Administration’s Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae said last year that they could invalidate homeowners’ loans.

Subsequently, many municipalities stopped offering PACE. Now they’re back on the table thanks to “PACE Protection Act of 2011,” a bipartisan bill introduced in the House by Representatives Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.).

“It saves property owners money by lowering energy costs and, perhaps more important, creates jobs without taxes or government subsidies,” Thompson said in a press release.

“FHFA and other federal agencies simply have to back off, and let the 27 states that have passed enabling legislation for PACE programs get to work reducing energy use, saving homeowners money, and creating jobs,” ADKAP (the Adirondack Climate and Energy Action Plan), an advocacy group, said of the legislation. “Of the 2,565 homes with PACE assessments currently in place around the country, we know of only 2 defaults. That's 1/30th of the national average default rate—which is to be expected, as PACE lowers the cost of living and puts homeowner in a better financial position. The irony is that PACE saves FHFA money, too.”

PACE allows property owners access to lower-cost loans and other financing for solar, renewables or energy efficiency projects. Under PACE programs, property owners repaid the financing through special easements on the owner’s property. The programs were developed locally or even at the state level.

“All of the input we’ve received from the solar industry has been positive,” said Nat Sillin, a spokesperson for Rep. Hayworth. “It will encourage more development. It’s going to mean jobs and sales for the solar industry,” he said.

PACE communities will also see more green construction jobs.

“The bill will have no cost to the tax payer. The Congressional Budget Office is looking into it and may actually benefit tax payers,” Sillin said. “It will certainly create economic activity at the local level.”

Photo: Chris Meehan / Clean Energy Authority