Public-Private Efficiency Loans

By Published On: August 7, 2014

Options for easing the financing of renewable and water energy efficiency projects on homes and businesses have come, gone and been reborn. In addition to attempts to create a state bank to meld public and private dollars to offer low-interest financing to clean energy projects, city and county programs providing upfront project financing in exchange for long-term property assessments are trending upward once again. A public-private partnership, CaliforniaFirst, offering to cover the upfront cost of clean energy installations under what is known as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) was formally launched August 5. CaliforniaFirst includes 17 counties and 146 cities. It provides homeowners upfront loans to be paid back over several years via line items in property tax bills. “The brilliance of PACE is that it’s a financing mechanism that is a middle ground,” offering upfront loans with repayments stretched out like mortgage payments, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland) said. She noted that home refinancing is tied to a mortgage. The cost of efficiency and renewable retrofits, however, are usually amounts that don’t justify formal refinancings, Skinner added. The energy retrofits are aimed at lowering both utility bills and the carbon footprint of buildings. These efficiency financing programs took off just before the housing mortgage crisis. In June 2010, they were frozen by the Federal Housing Finance Agency—which oversees Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the housing mortgage agencies. Those entities objected to the regional clean energy loans because the efficiency liens had priority over federal mortgages in the event of foreclosures. Since the housing market recovery, the federal government has said little about these public-private financing schemes. It would not comment on the $10 million reserve fund created last year in the California Treasurer’s Office to cover missed mortgage payments for homes with federal mortgages and PACE financing. In theory, a California Green Bank could help finance mortgage efficiency programs, said Cisco De Vries, Renewable Funding chief executive officer, a CaliforniaFIRST partner. If 1 percent of the homeowners in the counties and cities that are CaliforniaFIRST partners carried out efficiency and renewable retrofits, 28,000 MWh of energy would be saved, 76,000 MWh of solar energy produced, 29,600 tons of carbon dioxide eliminated, and 5,000 jobs created, the partnership asserted.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now