Property Assessed Clean Energy funding workshop attracts statewide attendance

Friday, July 16, 2010 | 6:24 p.m. CDT; updated 4:57 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 17, 2010

COLUMBIA — Representatives from 19 municipalities gathered to learn how to make Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) funding a reality in Missouri.

The PACE workshop drew more than 80 Missourians to Columbia on Friday. Jason Hughes of Renew Missouri, an organization focused on promoting renewable energy in Missouri and the event’s sponsor, was expecting 50.

The workshop follows Gov. Jay Nixon’s signing of a bill to allow the use of PACE financing systems in Missouri.

PACE is a method of funding energy efficiency upgrades in buildings. Monthly payments are added to utility bills. PACE bond payments are lower than the projected energy savings, so consumers get overall lower utility bills. Utilities benefit because it reduces their need to build new plants.

The idea is to encourage homeowners to make improvements such as denser insulation and triple-pane windows, which can have high upfront costs and low short-term returns.

Attendees came from around the state to express the diverse needs of their communities.

Serving Seniors

Rosalind Williams, director of Planning and Development for Ferguson, said her community is focused on the needs of its senior citizens. Making houses not only more comfortable, but cheaper to live in, encourages seniors to not move out of Ferguson, she said.

Williams said senior citizens aren’t an attractive demographic to most lenders, but PACE financing would allow them to afford adding value to their homes.

No Cherry Picking

John May of Creve Coeur wants to be sure PACE benefits everyone, not just the wealthy municipalities.

One proposal he saw for a PACE program “cherry-picked” the wealthier counties of St. Louis and St. Charles and avoided the poor.

“I got a little hot,” May said after hearing that proposal.

May also cautioned against rushing into any financing system without being sure of the risks. Believing in safety without surety led to the recession and the Deepwater Horizon disaster, he said.

Fannie May and Freddie Mac oppose PACE funding. They believe that the stipulations of PACE financing could displace mortgages the lenders hold.

Their opposition has halted progress on PACE across the country, but is receiving heavy criticism.

The majority of the workshop was spent discussing how communities could best organize and implement PACE programs.

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