PACE touted as beneficial clean energy loan program for Erie County

Dec 21, 2018

Erie County is being urged to get into an energy conservation loan program, making loans to businesses and owner-occupied multiple unit housing.

The program is called PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy. Like many of these programs, it's to make loans to families and businesses to encourage conservation and make property more comfortable and cheaper to operate.

While each county is different, PACE doesn't always cover single-family homes. The county legislature hearing Thursday night was part of the process of starting the program in Erie County.

Sage Green from PUSH Buffalo said it is a good program for low-income people in the county.

"To make sure that these are accessible, that there is no stigma related to how people access the things that are their right, their needs and the best solution for the most vulnerable or marginalized individuals," Green said. "So for us, we are really looking forward to the county's work in accessing people across sectors, so working across low-income households, small businesses and nonprofits for whom PACE is an incredible option."

Locally, there have been years of calls for government to make more energy loans, usually butting against budget restrictions. PACE is different. No one showed up to oppose the plan.

Joe Del Sindaco is PACE advisor to Energize NY which runs the program. Del Sindaco said the payment method is the key.

"The reason why it's important is because the lending community becomes much more comfortable with financing projects like these when the repayment of the loan is on the tax bill," Sindaco said, "and the reason why they're comfortable with that is because the likelihood of default is so much lower when the payment is made through a tax charge as opposed to conventional financing."

Other speakers said the loans could go for energy-saving programs like geothermal heating, an increasingly common method of heating and air conditioning using the temperature of the soil as a key energy source.

Bill Nowak, executive director of the New York Geothermal Energy Association, said PACE makes the investment in renewal energy simpler.

"When someone looks to install renewable energy in their building, in their business, in their home - whether it's solar, geothermal - one of the first things they face is the up-front cost," Nowak said, "and the PACE legislation is something that would really help many people with that. The interest rates are generally lower. It's generally more accessible than conventional financing."