Keeping P.A.C.E.

With federal stimulus funding available to encourage clean energy job creation, communities around the country, including Vermont, see no better time than the present to take advantage of a national energy efficiency loan program known as the Property Assessed Clean Energy (P.A.C.E.) program.  

“As a strong advocate for energy efficiency and sustainable energy, I am pleased Vermont is among the states that is moving forward with programs to help homeowners pay for energy saving improvements in their homes,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said. “PACE is a win-win-win because it saves families money on their energy bills, creates local jobs, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”

Yet, federal mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac brought uncertainty into the equation by questioning whether or not a homeowner’s use of a PACE loan would have a negative impact on the viability of their mortgage.  “Recent actions by federal regulators have left Vermont and other states uncertain about whether the programs go forward,” Sen. Sanders said. “I think the regulators should reconsider.”

Offering an innovative way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements, PACE programs allow homeowners to finance these improvements, paying back the capital financed over time on their property tax bill; thereby overcoming the traditional barrier of lack of upfront capital.  Both the financing obligation and the improvements stay with the property, offering long-term benefits and utility bill saving for the homeowner, and helping lower energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in communities.  Sanders and his colleagues have asked Vice President Joe Biden to step in and clarify the situation in a way that both allows for the continued use of the PACE program and without having a detrimental effects on mortgages. 

Vermont is one of 22 states that has adopted the PACE program, which was started in Berkeley, Calif., in 2008. According to the Brattleboro Reformer:

The Vermont Legislature included PACE in the Vermont Energy Act of 2009 and the state now allows towns to sign on to the program. If towns want to sign on, voters at town meeting must approve the program. Five towns have so far approved the program, including Halifax, Putney and Westminster and another 40 or so are considering a vote in November, or next year at town meeting. Once the program is approved, the town sets up a Clean Energy Assessment District.  The towns administer the loans and provide financing, with the property owners agreeing to a special lien and assessment on their properties.

To read the Brattleboro Reformer article, click here.

To read the senators’ letter to the vice president, click here.