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The Promising Power of PACE

  |   Advocacy, Energy Efficiency

The decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement doesn’t mean we give up the fight. It just means the fight shifts to the local level: states, counties, and cities.

 

One promising, bottom-up approach that communities can use to fight climate change is Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, a California innovation developed almost a decade ago. PACE mobilizes private capital to empower individual property owners to make energy and efficiency improvements and pay for them over time as an additional line item on their property taxes. PACE can lower utility bills and create jobs – all at no cost to public budgets. It’s no surprise that PACE enjoys bipartisan support, and that PACE-enabling legislation has been approved by more than 30 states.

 

In California alone, improvements already financed by PACE are expected to slash CO2 emissions by more than 4 million tons – equivalent to taking more than 750,000 cars off the roads for a year. PACE is on track to conserve more than 10 billion gallons of water, which during the last five years of drought has become an increasingly fundamental issue for our quality of life. Additionally, PACE is projected to save more than 15 billion kilowatt hours of energy in California, which is the equivalent of powering more than 1.5 million homes a year.

 

PACE offers local communities a critical tool for fighting climate change and making the most efficient upgrades affordable. As a major contributor to California’s green economy, it is estimated that PACE has also created more than 25,000 clean-energy jobs – most of which cannot be offshored or automated.

 

Right now, two pieces of legislation that could impact Californians’ access to PACE financing are in committee hearings.

 

SB 242, proposed by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-9th District), seeks to build on the protections created last year by the passage of AB 2693 (Dababneh). Senator Skinner’s bill would enact a comprehensive set of program requirements that will further protect homeowners and ensure the integrity of PACE assessments.

 

Specifically, SB 242 calls for PACE providers to confirm financing terms via live telephone calls with homeowners; consider income and monthly obligations to underwriting; create a forbearance protocol for homeowners who demonstrate they cannot make a payment; and refrain from providing a contractor with an estimated approval amount for a homeowner. These measures will bolster PACE’s existing consumer safeguards and ultimately strengthen this important financing resource.

 

While we appreciate the diligent work of Assemblywoman Anna Caballero in crafting the second bill, AB 271, we are concerned that this bill would impose regressive changes that will eliminate current consumer protections and fundamentally undermine the PACE program. Removing PACE from the secure tax roll, as AB 271 proposes, would remove the enforceability of the obligation. This would ultimately increase the costs to local governments and homeowners and have the unintended consequence of increasing foreclosures. For these reasons, we oppose AB 271.

 

If you agree that PACE is a critical tool for California’s citizens, communities, businesses and government to meet their established environmental and climate goals, and bolster our economy, please contact your California state senator and ask them to vote for SB 242.

 

If you are against legislation that undermines PACE, and regresses gains already made in consumer protection, we respectfully ask that you contact your California state assemblyman and ask them to vote against AB 271.

 

 

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