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Published on July 28th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan


Could PACE Get Help from the Energy Bill?

July 28th, 2010 by  

solar roofs PACE


It is really quite sad what Republicans have done to the Senate and what they are doing to the country and the world as a result. Even conservatives Dick Schmalensee, who served on President George H.W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, and Jonathan Kay are calling out their colleagues and friends for their backwards thinking and counter-productive actions (perhaps even better than any non-conservative could).

If one courageous Republican in the Senate wanted to, though, he/she could make a big difference and help turn things around for the highly popular PACE program now. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said that he is willing to add PACE-restoring legislation to a scaled-back energy bill IF he can find a Republican cosponsor to sign onto it.

Why would anyone oppose PACE? Why wouldn’t a Republican step up and be the PACE hero?

I think there is only one reason why. Because they just want to block everything Obama and Democrats bring forward. But hopefully someone will prove this theory wrong with PACE, at least.

If you’re not familiar with PACE, it helped thousands of homeowners across the nation make energy-efficient retrofits and add solar power systems to their homes through a simple surcharge on their property taxes. That is, until Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stepped in. You can read several previous Cleantechnica stories on PACE here to learn more about its great success and popularity prior to that.

As I said above, there is no good reason for Republicans to be against it, but without some support from one of them soon, Reid and others are concerned that it will cause problems in their efforts to get even the weakest of energy bills passed this year.

“The time is too short to do this without Republican cosponsors,” said Cisco DeVries, who was responsible for developing PACE as chief of staff to the mayor of Berkeley 3 years ago. “We know there are Republicans who support this. We need them to sponsor and cosponsor bills.”

Jonathan Hiskes of Grist writes: “It should also appeal to opponents of big government. The programs are funded by local governments selling bonds on secondary markets, so the model essentially uses private capital to finance the improvements. Local governments have used similar tax assessments to fund local improvements, such as schools and sewers, for more than 100 years without federal interference.”

Yes, it should. But saving our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren from the heat waves, droughts, floods, food insecurity, and rising sea levels of climate change, and from the nationality security issues of relying on oil from hostile foreign countries, should appeal to Republicans as well… am I going on a tangent here?

If no Republican steps it up, Hiskes notes that the next two options for PACE aren’t so great:

The first is litigation. California Attorney General (and Democratic candidate for governor) Jerry Brown has sued Fannie and Freddie over the issue, and Sonoma County, Calif., added its own suit this week. But resolution from the courts could take years.

The other option is a 30-month, 300,000-property pilot program floated last week by Long Island Rep. Steve Israel (D), who’s been active in defending Long Island PACE programs. The Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie and Freddie’s regulator, told Israel it would consider the idea.

But PACE advocates such as Penney and Chávez said they oppose a demonstration project, which they say would limit PACE’s growth and discourage Congress from addressing the problem.

PACE was on my “Top 10 Clean Energy Topics to Keep an Eye On” list from earlier this year, but not for these reasons. Thought it should be kicking into full steam by now with its great win-win-win logic and prior success.

Hopefully someone from the Republican party will come and save the day.

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Photo Credit: kbaird via flickr


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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA] — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in this company and feels like it is a good cleantech company to invest in. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort on Tesla or any other company.

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