Enable PACE for economic development, energy conservation

February 10, 2017

Categories: Clean Energy, Clean Energy, Northern Plains Resource Council, Plains Speaking

By: Tyler Gernant, Rob Farris-Olsen, and Jay Cederberg

If you’re interested in supporting PACE or other clean energy legislation at the Montana legislature, please get in touch with Alicia at 406-248-1154 or via alicia@northernplains.org. Northern Plains has a Clean Energy Lobby Day coming up next week and is also always interested in helping people testify at bill hearings throughout the legislative session.

This winter, many of Montana’s families and businesses are facing high utility bills resulting from old or inefficient homes and buildings that are in need of upgrades. While improvements like more insulation or a more efficient boiler could save property owners more money on utilities than they cost, over the long term, the upfront cost of these upgrades presents a challenge for many Montanans.

That’s why a bipartisan coalition of cities, counties, contractors, business owners and banks have come together with Gov. Steve Bullock around a solution that utilizes private financing to help Montanans save money on utilities, expand local businesses, create jobs and increase the economic vitality of Main Street Montana.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a proposed program that funds energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation upgrades to existing buildings with private capital from banks and investors. Financing is repaid as an assessment on the property’s regular tax bill over a term of up to 20 years. This is a tried-and-true financing mechanism similar to special improvement districts (SIDs), which many of our communities already use for sidewalk and sewer improvements. The annual energy savings for a PACE project are designed to exceed the annual assessment payment, so property owners save money from the start.

PACE can power economic development in Montana’s communities. By providing affordable financing for renovations to existing buildings, PACE encourages businesses to invest in the area and create jobs using the local workforce. When property owners can affordably finance upgrades, more projects are undertaken and completed, creating more work for HVAC, insulation, lighting, and electrical contractors, engineers and suppliers.

PACE is a program with no cost to the taxpayer. Projects are funded using private capital from banks and investors. The public-private partnership between private capital and cities or counties allows banks to lend more in their communities and invest in Montana’s families and businesses while meeting local governments’ economic development goals. In a year where our state faces a tight budget and many competing infrastructure priorities, this is the solution we need.

The first step towards having a vibrant PACE program here in Montana is passing PACE enabling legislation, as 33 states across the nation have already done including neighboring Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nebraska. In total, PACE has led to over $3 billion in investment into 132,820 residential and commercial projects nationwide since 2008 and created nearly 33,000 jobs.

The 2017 Montana Legislature is considering PACE-enabling legislation. Once the legislation is passed, PACE will be completely voluntary for cities and counties, and for individuals within them. Local governments can choose to opt in to the PACE program, or not. Property owners in jurisdictions that have chosen to opt in can apply for PACE financing to make needed upgrades, or not. The voluntary nature of PACE allows Montanan’s more choices when it comes to financing upgrades to their homes and businesses.

We all want a brighter future for our communities. That’s why we urge the 2017 Montana Legislature to pass PACE legislation – providing property owners more choices to finance needed building upgrades, saving people money on their utilities and strengthening local economies.

For more information about PACE and to see the broad coalition of support behind the program visit www.mtpace.com and sign on in support!

This post is authored by Missoula County Treasurer Tyler Gernant, Helena City Commissioner Rob Farris-Olsen, and Jay Cederberg of Air Controls, a HVAC and refrigeration company in Billings.

220 South 27th Street, Suite A
Billings, Montana 59101
(406) 248-1154