ALBANY, NY - The Department of Energy awarded New York communities $40 million in federal stimulus funds to help property owners implement energy efficiency and small-scale clean energy projects that will help lower their electricity bills. New York could allow more communities throughout the state the opportunity to do this by amending existing legislation, according to a coalition of New York clean energy advocates.
Source: Vote Solar
The following New York jurisdictions received the grant awards through the federal Retrofit Ramp-Up Program: New York City and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). A consortium of 14 northern Westchester towns, led by Bedford, New York.
In their grant applications, the jurisdictions proposed using an innovative financing model to pay for the projects, called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). PACE programs provide a funding mechanism for municipalities to help property owners cover the up-front costs of energy efficiency improvements or renewable energy projects. Owners are then able to pay off the projects through an incremental charge on their property taxes, over an extended period of time of up to 20 years. This makes the projects affordable by allowing property owners to enjoy substantial savings on their energy bills as they make payments – often with the savings immediately exceeding the costs.
The programs are entirely voluntary. There is no requirement for municipalities to create PACE programs, or for homeowners to participate in them. If the property is sold, the financing can be transferred to the next property owner, along with the ongoing energy savings.
"PACE financing gives our town and the 14 Northern Westchester Energy Action Consortium towns the tools we need to help property owners save money on energy costs, support community job growth in the construction trades, reduce air pollution that causes ailments like asthma, lower our use of imported oil and help create a clean energy community – all without impacting our general municipal budget," said Mark Thielking, Director of Energy Resources for the Town of Bedford, New York.
"We need innovative tools like PACE financing to help our communities save money, conserve our resources and improve our neighborhoods," added Lee Roberts, Supervisor of the Town of Bedford.
Current New York law, however, only authorizes use of the PACE program with federal funds. The state should expand this economic opportunity to more New Yorkers by amending the existing legislation to allow cities, counties and towns throughout the state to leverage federally supported programs with more funds, and for others to implement such programs with other funding sources, including private funding sources. This would not only be good for property owners, it would create significant business opportunities for the mortgage banking community, which can participate in various stages of the PACE financing system.
"PACE is a powerful tool for driving green job growth and making real progress in the fight against climate change. We want to see all New Yorkers have access to the many benefits of these clean energy finance programs," said Shaun Chapman, Director of East Coast Campaigns for Vote Solar. "There's no reason to restrict the programs to municipalities receiving federal funds. I look forward to working with New York's lawmakers to make a quick legislative fix that unleashes PACE's full potential."
"These New York communities will put federal stimulus funds to work in their own backyards – allowing property owners to lower their bills with energy efficient home renovations and investments in clean energy," said Alisa Valderrama, Financial Analyst at the NRDC. "And – hopefully – it's only the beginning. The state should take action to expand the PACE program so more New Yorkers can take advantage of this economic and environmental opportunity."
"This low cost financing makes it easy for consumers in New York state to hit the climate change trifecta: less pollution, lower energy bills and a healthier planet," said Mary Barber, campaign director for the New York region of Environmental Defense Fund. "Reducing needlessly wasted energy is the fastest and cheapest way to save money and reduce greenhouse gas pollution that causes climate change. The next step is to expand this clean energy financing to make it available to even more households and businesses."
"The initial NY PACE programs and DOE funding are the catalysts for a state wide roll-out of PACE finance which will accelerate deep building retrofits in New York's dense cities, energy efficiency improvements in the suburban housing stock and colder upstate climate, and both efficiency and renewable energy power improvements across the commercial real estate sector," said Jeffrey Tannenbaum, founder of PACENOW.org.