Collier County took a tentative step Tuesday toward creating a program to green up energy use at homes and businesses.
Commissioners voted 4-0 to have the county’s lawyers and financial advisers work with a grassroots citizen task force to iron out the details and report back in September.
The task force, Rebuilding Collier’s Energy Use, has proposed the program as a way to help pay for energy efficiency retrofits that will cut the county’s carbon footprint and create new construction jobs at the same time.
“Any reduction in energy use that creates a job is moving forward,” said task force Chairman Steve Hart.
The task force grew out of an audit of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions that called for a 10 percent cut in the community’s carbon footprint by 2020.
The Collier Building Industry Association and the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce urged commissioners to explore the idea further.
“We see this as a win-win,” Collier Building Industry Association President David Aldrich said.
Collier’s unemployment rate stood at 11.4 percent in April 2010, down from 12.4 percent in March. The unemployment rate in April 2009 was 9.1 percent, according to the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation.
Commissioner Jim Coletta suggested that the county start pre-registering potential applicants on the county’s website but other commissioners cautioned against raising expectations.
“I have a lot of questions,” Commission Chairman Fred Coyle said.
He said he wanted to know more about who would administer the program, how it would be funded and how the county’s costs would be covered.
The program the task force envisions would take advantage of legislation called PACE, for Property Assessed Clean Energy, signed by Gov. Crist last month.
PACE sets out a financing mechanism for local governments to create a pool of money homeowners and businesses can tap for projects from electric car chargers to energy efficient windows.
Other possible uses for the money include insulation upgrades, solar panels, wind turbines and energy efficient air conditioning.
Modeled after programs in California, the law in Florida was expanded to include projects to make buildings more hurricane resistant.
Homeowners and businesses who borrow PACE money would pay it back with an additional property tax assessment over 20 years.
The obligation to repay the money runs with the property and would be assumed by the new owner if the property is sold.
Some of the big details to be worked out are what projects would qualify for the money and how much money would be available and from what source.
Local governments can either provide start-up money or raise money by borrowing it or issuing bonds, according to an analysis by Nabors Giblin and Nickerson law firm.
Outside financing could require local governments to put up money to back the bonds or loan, according to the analysis.
No other Florida city or county has put together a PACE program to take advantage of the new law.
Connect with Eric Staats at www.naplesnews.com/staff/eric_staats/.