By: Sarah Boren
USGBC Florida, Director of Policy and Programs
Cities and counties across Florida have continued to embrace Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, financing as way to encourage energy efficiency, clean energy and wind resistance upgrades in the residential and commercial building sectors. PACE is an innovative form of financing that allows property owners to finance green building improvements and pay for them over time through their property tax bill. It’s a public-private partnership model that the State of Florida has moved to embrace.
PACE has proven to be one of the most effective public-private partnership tools that local governments can deploy to encourage energy savings, and that is particularly true of the residential sector. For years, policymakers, contractors and manufacturers have struggled to find ways to encourage homeowners to choose the energy-efficient option. PACE has helped unlock substantial energy efficiency and clean energy gains through a few key ingredients:
- Point-of-sale financing: PACE is offered when homeowners are already working with contractors to replace failing or broken systems, or if they are already in the market for green building or resiliency improvements. Approval is often quick, unlike some clunkier government programs.
- Expanded access: PACE is a financing option that is based on the equity in a home and a record of on-time mortgage and tax payments, among other underwriting criteria.
- It improves home improvement: PACE providers brought a public-private partnership -- and its built-in accountability requirements -- to a sometimes-messy home improvement marketplace. Through voluntary actions and state requirements, PACE is bringing a new level of oversight and best practices to the way homeowners interact and resolve disputes with contractors. There’s still work to be done, but leaders from Tallahassee to Sacramento to Washington are working with PACE providers to improve the overall PACE consumer-protection framework.
These developments are all exciting ones for Florida, where multiple large population centers have moved or are moving to make PACE available. Leon, Palm Beach, Collier and Hillsborough Counties will welcome their first programs this summer, and Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee are moving quickly to follow suit. Orlando, Miami-Dade and Broward have been in the PACE game for years, which makes sense given their commitments to sustainability and, for South Florida, the need to give homeowners a mix of tools to improve their homes’ hurricane resiliency. The PACE embrace also comes at a time when residential solar finally has the runway and policy environment needed to take off. In June, Governor Scott signed a bill to implement pro-solar Amendment 4, which voters overwhelmingly approved at the ballot box last November.
Finally, the Florida PACE marketplace is growing more competitive. This month, the country’s largest PACE provider, Renovate America, will enter the Florida market, joining five other growing, active players: Florida PACE Funding Agency, Renew Financial, Ygrene, SELF, and Leon County Commercial PACE Program. By nature, this competition fosters higher standards, lower interest rates and more options -- all good things for homeowners.
USGBC has long supported PACE programs and this momentum, and Florida’s leadership is something to celebrate. From efficient HVAC systems, windows and water heaters, to wind-resistant roofing and residential solar, PACE is an increasingly popular option for homeowners, contractors and local governments. It is surpassing expectations and we hope to see the industry boost clean energy job creation, emissions reductions, and energy bill savings across the state in 2017 and beyond.