Property-Assessed Clean Energy could be coming to Minnesota

Photo CC licensed by flickr user Wayne National Forest

I write a lot about planning here, but the other half of my work is focused on energy and climate change.  I intend to post more about these topics in the near future, starting with this post.

Today Governor Pawlenty signed a Jobs bill contains many provisions, most of which don’t directly relate to energy.  However, a provision overlooked by most news outlets is enabling language for Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE).  PACE is a tool that helps overcome one of the largest barriers for homeowners to energy efficiency and renewable energy projects: upfront costs.  Local governments (cities and counties) sell bonds which are paid back through voluntary assessments on the properties of individuals who participate in the program.  Loan paybacks are much longer (15 to 20 years) than typical home equity loans or existing energy improvement loans, so the amount of energy savings can sometimes be greater than the loan payback cost.

Another advantage to these programs is that  the assessment stays with the property, not the individual, so homeowners do not have to assume they will live in one place for 20 years to see the benefits of a renewable energy system, for example.  These programs can also have significant benefits for the local economy.  Boulder County’s Climate Smart Loan Program, which distributed its first round of funding in 2009, has already paid out over $7.5 million to contractors for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.  The vast majority of this work was done by local contractors, and the 75% of the bonds were sold locally, providing “green” investment options to residents.

PACE programs already exist in many cities and counties.  The enabling legislation that became law today means that cities and counties in Minnesota can begin building their own PACE programs.  If you’re interested in making it easier to do energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, start pestering your local elected officials now.  Tell them they now have the power to build these programs and you are interested!