Could PACE Get Help from the Energy Bill?

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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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Zachary Shahan

Zach 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], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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3 thoughts on “Could PACE Get Help from the Energy Bill?

  • “Why would anyone oppose PACE?”

    Well, as a lifelong Democrat, it’s not so much that I oppose it, it’s that I see it as much ado about nothing. There is no proof that this tool will significantly move comprehensive weatherization retrofits. In fact the scattering of programs (except for Long Island) point in the opposite direction — that it is a “windows-and-patio-doors plus solar” program. Most of the folks I know, who have been in this business for a significant amount of time, have been more likely to simply ignore PACE as a small boutique tool with limited value in limited communities, but not really worth fighting for (or against.)

    • i think the move to solar that it promotes and facilitates is one of its key benefits. something very needed. & given how fast it was being used in the places where it was implemented, a lot of people (users and those watching the growth) do seem to think it is a very worthwhile project.

  • “There is no proof that this tool will significantly move comprehensive weatherization retrofits.” Doug, I must respectfully disagree.

    I am a building performance contractor here in Sonoma County, California. Our PACE program is the largest in the nation, only 16 months in operation, with lots of details to be worked out, but in that time over 1100 projects have been funded. About 16 of those retrofits were done by our company Applied Building Science. Because of FHFA’s ruling, I will soon have to lay off about half of our 15 employees. Our projects are typically deep energy retrofits that usually cuts our client’s utility bills significantly and greatly increases their comfort and occasionally even the healthfulness of their homes.

    PACE financing programs, if allowing to resume, will be a valuable tool in the coming transition from fossil fuel based economy to a renewable energy future. The fastest, cleanest, and most economical way to produce energy and to achieve energy independence is to stop wasting the energy we are producing now.

    The national banks don’t want competition, which wouldn’t be so bad if they were lending, but they’re not. Our grandchildren will not consider FHFA’s killing of the option of PACE funding by local governments as a reasonable and prudent act. This decision must be overturned for them.

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