Combining Solar And PACE In Connecticut: A Potential Game Changer

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solarIn my last post about Connecticut’s clean energy finance efforts, I alluded to an important innovation in their Property Assessed Clean Energy (“PACE”) financing program for commercial properties. PACE programs have been in place for several years, and the basic concept is that property owners are able to pay back clean energy financing through their property tax bill over time. Rates tend to be low because property taxes are almost always paid back and the PACE assessment will survive foreclosures.

To date, PACE transactions have generally been structured as a set of fixed payments to finance retrofits managed by the property owner. Functionally, these transactions have been quite similar to loans. In the solar industry, however, the vast majority of financings have been structured as leases or power purchase agreements (PPAs) in order to fully capture the tax benefits associated with solar investments. This has generally resulted in fairly low use of PACE by solar installers and limited installations of solar on commercial properties. (Most commercial properties have large mortgages and are not good candidates for additional financing unless PACE or On-Bill Repayment (OBR) can be used to improve credit quality. The exceptions are buildings that are owned or occupied by very high quality credits, such as a large corporation or city.)

Connecticut is breaking new ground by allowing leases and PPAs to participate. The lease or PPA payments would simply become part of the property tax bill. If necessary, true-up mechanisms could be used to adjust payments and ensure that customers are not overbilled. Additionally, we understand that this flexibility will likely be available for innovative energy efficiency financing for commercial properties. EDF has long advocated for this type of flexibility (and we see this as a major benefit of OBR), but – to date – PACE programs have not incorporated this feature.

Hats off to Connecticut for once again showing us how to get things done!

Article by Brad Copithorne of EDF, appearing courtesy PaceNow.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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