Collier program back on track to retrofit properties with energy-efficient devices - POLL

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The Collier County Energy Task Force was formed to develop ways for the community to reduce its energy use. Shortly after the task force was created in 2010, the Legislature adopted laws to allow local governments to develop PACE projects.

— A Collier County task force is again moving ahead with creating a program to help retrofit residential and commercial properties with energy-saving devices, after federal concerns had stalled the initiative.

In May 2010, a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program was authorized by then- Gov. Charlie Crist. However, most residential PACE programs were halted by the federal Housing and Finance Agency two months later over a concern that PACE liens would take priority over federally backed Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae mortgages.

The program would offer financing, similar to a special taxing district, to provide voluntary loans for energy-efficiency retrofits of residential, industrial and commercial properties. Loans would be secured by the property and paid back through property taxes.

Florida is one of 28 states with an enabling law to create a PACE program.

Steve Hart, a community leader and member of the Collier County Energy Task Force, updated county commissioners earlier this month on the local program getting back on track. The loans aren't yet available locally.

"There are at least four nearby PACE projects moving forward," Hart said. "The reason we're revisiting this issue is because of the chilling effect the (federal decision) had on the PACE effort nationally – but now we're able to move forward because it is on its way to being resolved."

The Collier County Energy Task Force was formed to develop ways for the community to reduce its energy use. Shortly after the task force was created in 2010, the Legislature adopted laws to allow local governments to develop PACE projects.

Hart said such projects have the added dimension of helping create jobs for those installing the updated, energy-efficient equipment or making improvements to structures.

"PACE allows local government to develop a pool of funds from which property owners can borrow to make energy-reducing improvements and in Florida, it also means they can use the money to harden their homes against hurricanes," he said. "Those loans that property owners take are then repaid over 20 years as an assessment tacked on to their property tax bill."

As for business properties, a year ago Collier commissioners agreed to seek proposals from companies to offer a commercial PACE program.

This was done with the understanding that the commercial program wouldn't require financial support from county government, so that it wouldn't affect the county's bond status.

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"As for business properties, a year ago Collier commissioners agreed to seek proposals from companies that might be able to offer a commercial PACE program," said Len Golden Price, Administrative Services Division administrator. "This was done with the understanding that the commercial program wouldn't require financial support from county government, so that it wouldn't affect the county's bond status."

Two proposals came in, from EcoCities Partners and Ygrene.

"Now we know that there are at least two firms out there that have an interest in providing these services and next we want to find out if the community is interested in utilizing them before making a final recommendation to the (commission) for action," Price said. "This is not the typical process for procuring services or implementing a program, but this is a very new concept and we want to proceed very slowly and methodically."

Florida is one of 28 states with an enabling law to create a PACE program.

Hart said money for these projects is part of the proposal that these companies would bring to the table.

There are PACE programs operating in east coast counties adjacent to Collier, while Lee County is considering a turn-key, fully funded program that would involve minimal county staff time, he added.

"There has been talk of creating one single statewide PACE project," said Hart, who added that at some point the County Commission may decide to do nothing, go forward with its own PACE project or join with another PACE energy project that is moving forward in the state.

Price said the Collier County Energy Task Force recommends a survey to solicit and gauge the interest of Collier property owners.

Should that survey suggest an interest on the part of property owners, Hart said, the task force hopes Collier County officials would go ahead with a request to ask for proposals from companies to oversee the residential PACE program.

"I think everyone would like to reduce their energy costs and everyone would like to see additional jobs created in the community so it's just a win-win for everyone," Hart said. "The 'no action' option, which would drop efforts to create jobs and reduce energy use, is not recommended as being in the best interests of Collier County."

__ For more information about the program, go to www.PACECollier.com.

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Comments » 1

sailingby writes:

We could use examples of how the program works individually; who stands to reap benefits (contractors, etc); are contractors approved by local government to protect homeowners; are there tax or other incentives? So far the concept description is a little flimsy and fraught with potential opportunities for fly-by-night contractor abuse.

Protect the property owners and the tax payers.

In 2010 Michigan passed PACE legislation: "The legislation only applies to commercial and industrial properties. In the case of loans for more than $250,000, there must be (1) ongoing measurements that establish the savings realized by the owner from the energy project and (2) a provision in the contract for the installation of an energy project that the contractor guarantee that the project will save more than its costs and that the contractor will pay the owner, on an annual basis, any shortfall in savings."

In Vermont: The law requires municipalities that establish PACE programs to (1) follow underwriting criteria consistent with standards established by the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities, and Health Care Administration and (2) establish other qualifying criteria to provide an adequate level of assurance that property owners will have the ability to meet assessment payment obligations. The law also limits the maximum amount to be repaid for an individual improvement project to $30,000 or 15% of the property's assessed value, whichever is less.

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