Erie County businesses have a new way to finance environmental improvements, under legislation approved Thursday by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
County government has reduced its environmental load by a quarter, to go along with the Paris climate accords. Poloncarz wants the rest of the local economy to cut its greenhouse gases, so he is going into the state's Property Assessed Clean Energy Program or PACE.
"Regardless of what is done at the federal level, Erie County will do all it can to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to meet the standards of the Paris climate accords," Poloncarz said. "I'm very proud to say, and you have already heard, as a county we have already done that. We have already met the 26 percent reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases as required by the accords. However, as a community we weren't there yet."
PACE loans money to businesses and multiunit residential owners for up to 100 percent of the cost of clean energy improvements, like efficient lighting, insulation, smart heating and cooling systems. The loans can be paid back over 20 years on the property tax bill and if the property is sold, the loan goes to the next owner.
Environment and Planning Commissioner Thomas Hersey said this is not a new program.
"This is ready for implementation here in Western New York, now. It's being implemented across the state," Hersey said. "There are other businesses in other parts of the state that are benefitting from this program and using this financing. There's a very good track record of things being paid back."
Hersey said that means there are controls from the beginning to ensure these are legitimate borrowings.
The program is being backed by the Western New York Sustainable Business Roundtable, which represents dozens of businesses.
"Sustainabillty and prosperity work together, hand-in-hand, and not in conflict with one another," said Roundtable Vice President Ali Adelman. "PACE really supports this mission. It supports the mission of the SBR. It supports the mission of our members, who really care that this is going to be a great thing and a good milestone in moving forward and being an economically and an environmentally resilient Buffalo Niagara region."