PACE Financing is the Key to Unleashing Energy-efficiency and Renewable-energy Retrofits in Commercial Buildings

PACE funding is provided or arranged by a local government for 100 percent of a project’s costs and is repaid with a voluntary assessment during a term of up to 20 years. The property owner pays its typical tax bill, which now includes the PACE finance charge, and the local government redirects that payment to the investor.

The 542 Westport Avenue Shopping Plaza, Norwalk, Conn., financed a $285,000 lighting upgrade, which reduced electricity costs by more than $17,000 per year. Photo: HARTT REALTY ADVISORS LLC

The 542 Westport Avenue Shopping Plaza, Norwalk, Conn., financed a $285,000 lighting upgrade, which reduced electricity costs by more than $17,000 per year. PHOTO: Hartt Realty Advisors LLC

Capital provided under a PACE program is secured by a lien on the owner’s property. Like other tax assessments, PACE assessments assume a first lien priority and the repayment obligation automatically transfers to the next property owner if the property is sold.

Similarly, in the event of default, only the payments in arrears would come due and the PACE financing does not accelerate. Because assessments are repaid through the property tax bill—a secure payment stream—PACE projects are seen as less risky than other financing mechanisms and, therefore, benefit from lower interest rates from the private sector with no government financing required.

PACE builds on a long history of benefit assessments that a government can levy on real-estate parcels to pay for the installation of projects that serve a public purpose, such as sewers and sidewalks. PACE serves a public purpose by reducing energy costs, stimulating the economy, improving property valuation, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and creating jobs.

Pioneered by the city of Berkeley, Calif., in 2008, PACE is now a proven and effective tool to attract private capital to clean-energy projects. Commercial PACE programs are currently operating in 16 states and Washington, D.C., including more than 2,000 municipalities.

More than 700 energy- efficiency retrofits have been financed to date by commercial and industrial building owners using PACE. Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, a global leader in retail real estate and an S&P 100 company, first used PACE in 2009 and has accelerated its use since then. Prologis, a leading developer of industrial real estate, used PACE to perform an energy-efficiency and renewable-energy retrofit at its headquarters in San Francisco in October 2012.

The 542 West Avenue Shopping Plaza features a solar canopy that powers the exterior LED lights. Photo: HARTT REALTY ADVISORS LLC

The 542 West Avenue Shopping Plaza features a solar canopy that powers the exterior LED lights. PHOTO: Hartt Realty Advisors LLC

In Connecticut, hundreds of owners have elected to use PACE to retrofit their buildings, including the Norwalk Center, a family-owned shopping center, whose owner found PACE was ideal to finance energy-efficiency and renewable-energy improvements. In Bridgeport, Forstone Capital used PACE to retrofit the mechanicals and envelope of its 100,000-square-foot office building, which will save the owner nearly $250,000 in energy costs annually. Without PACE, it would have implemented only a fraction of its desired work scope.

Property owners across the U.S. are using PACE because it saves them money and makes their buildings more valuable. PACE pays for 100 percent of a project’s costs and is repaid for up to 20 years with an assessment added to the property’s tax bill. PACE financing stays with the building upon sale and is easy to share with tenants.

PACE is a simple and effective way to finance energy-efficiency, renewable-energy and water-conservation retrofits to buildings. Building owners who want to take advantage of PACE financing can find out where PACE is available via PACENation, a recognized source of impartial, independent and consensus-based information about PACE.

About the Author

George Caraghiaur
George Caraghiaur is the managing member of Energy & Sustainability Services LLC, Indianapolis, and advises PACENation as a senior fellow while serving on its board of directors.

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