PACE Has Returned To Berkeley, Birthplace Of The PACE Program

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Originally published in the ECOreport

HERO Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is now available in 186 Californian cities and counties. The County of San Mateo and Woodside have opted in and the number of communities in the Bay area is approaching two dozen. PACE has returned to Berkeley, the birthplace of the program.

Back in 2009, homeowners had to pay thousands of dollars to put solar panels on their roof or making extensive energy retrofits. The Mayor of Berkeley’s Chief of Staff, Cisco DeVries, recommended that they be allowed to finance these improvements through a loan paid back through their property taxes.


The program was dealt a serious blow in 2010, when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac refused to back mortgages with PACE liens on them. (PACE liens take priority over mortgage companies in the event of foreclosure.)

Berkeley was among the communities that dropped out and PACE supposedly died.

The following year, JP McNeill launched HERO PACE in Riverside County. One of the programs main drivers was the strategy of using the contractor community to market the program to prospective property owners.

unnamed-1-1“It feels like PACE is coming full circle here in Berkeley, and HERO is very proud to offer our services in the city where it all began in California,” said J.P. McNeill, CEO of HERO. “Now that we’re up and running here, we hope that other Bay Area cities will follow Berkeley’s example and make HERO available to local residents who are eager to go solar, use energy more efficiently and – particular during these dry times – conserve water.”

The real breakthrough came when the state of California passed Senate Bill 96 in the fall of 2013. That removed the concerns raised by mortgage entities and opened the door for PACE to spread throughout much of California. Thus we now find HERO in 185 cities and counties.

DeVries has returned to the PACE world, as the CEO of Renewable Funding.

HERO has reached Berkeley and will be accepting residential applications in about 12 weeks. According to their most recent press release:

 “Berkeley was an early adopter of PACE; we’ve long recognized the potential of this financing approach to encourage a meaningful shift toward improved water and energy efficiency, not to mention widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies like solar,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “We also recognize that demand is high for PACE financing, and we believe that adding HERO to our list of providers will be a real boon for homeowners here.”

 In addition to helping homeowners save on energy and water bills, HERO spurs local job creation by increasing demand for contractor services. The HERO Program has helped to create more than 2,500 jobs in California since its launch in December 2011.The program has been adopted by 185 communities in California and helped to fund 16,500 residential projects, totaling more than $300 million in financing.

 “HERO Financing allows homeowners to conserve water and lower energy use, both of which are critical given the drought and climate change,” said Dave Pine, President of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. “Hopefully, communities throughout California will follow the lead of San Mateo County, Berkeley and Woodside and embrace this innovative program.”

 A wide variety of efficiency products are available to property owners through the HERO Program. Some of HERO’s most popular products include water-saving technologies, solar power panel installations, whole-home heating and cooling (HVAC) systems, energy-saving windows and doors, roofing and insulation. HERO also has more than 50 product lines to help homeowners save water during this extended drought, including high efficiency toilets, faucets and showerheads; drip irrigation systems; rainwater catchment systems; gray water systems; as well as artificial turf and drought-tolerant landscaping. 

Participation in HERO is 100-percent voluntary for both local government agencies and property owners, and is cost neutral for jurisdictions. A growing number of California cities and counties are partnering with multiple PACE providers to increase financing choices available to consumers. The HERO program has received the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award in California, the Urban Land Institute Best of the Best, and the Southern California Association of Governments President’s Award for Excellence.

Photo at top of page: Berkeley from Indian Rock by Angelo DeSantis (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Roy L Hales

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the Cortes Currents (formerly the ECOreport), a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of British Columbia. He is a research junkie who has written over 2,000 articles since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

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