First PACE Lunch + Learn

The Virginia Energy Efficiency Council is diligently working to build a coalition of support for Property Assessed Clean Energy financing, or PACE, and to provide guidance and resources to localities interested in developing PACE programs.  To assist with this effort, VAEEC has initiated a series of events across the Commonwealth suitably called “PACE Lunch + Learns”.  Each event is open to anyone interested in learning more about PACE; however, these events target commercial property owners, contractors, lenders, and local government officials.  Knowledgeable speakers from the field will provide attendees with information on PACE and answer PACE-related questions.  VAEEC is teaming up with different sponsors to host the events and provide a complimentary lunch to all in attendance.

On Monday, December 5, VAEEC and Williams Mullen kicked off the first Lunch + Learn for the Hampton Roads/Norfolk area with a diverse group of nearly 30 people in attendance. Speakers included Abby Johnson, Bill Nusbaum, and Rich Dooley.  Abby Johnson is the President and founder of Abacus Property Solutions, an independent real estate advisory firm.  Abacus provides PACE project development and consulting and works with capital partners to identify PACE opportunities and develop PACE programs.  Bill Nusbaum is an attorney with Williams Mullen, a full-service law firm, which is a key stakeholder in developing PACE financial underwriting guidelines with the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy along with Abacus and VAEEC.  Rich Dooley is the Community Energy Coordinator with Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) in Arlington County.  AIRE’s goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions from County operations.  Arlington County is the first locality in the Commonwealth on track to develop a PACE program.

The presentation provided a wealth of knowledge for all in attendance as it covered many different aspects of PACE.  Here are my key take-aways:

  • PACE provides a win-win opportunity for property owners, contractors, localities, and lenders. Through PACE financing, commercial and multifamily property owners can receive 100% project funding for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation upgrades. The loan is paid back as a line item on the property tax bill, and in most cases, the utility savings from the funded projects cover the costs of the loan.  Additionally, as a senior lien status, PACE assessments stay with the property upon sale.
  • Contractors benefit from PACE through increased sales volume and improved profit margin. By helping customers reduce costs and improve the value of their property, customers are able to spend more on additional building improvements.
  • PACE spurs economic development within localities. Not only does PACE provides jobs, it improves building stock and increases property values, which produces more revenue for the jurisdiction.  PACE serves as a redevelopment tool for older buildings at little to no cost to the locality; third party providers carry the cost of starting and maintaining the program.  Furthermore, PACE helps decrease a locality’s carbon footprint.
  • Based on the types of questions posed by the audience, the advantages of PACE to lenders is perhaps the hardest to grasp. In order for a PACE program to be full-fledged and offer the most benefits to all parties involved, the existing mortgage holder must consent to allow PACE to take senior lien status. However, PACE is still beneficial to lenders because it increases the value of their collateral.  Moreover, PACE improves a property’s net operating income (through reduced utility bills), and the project is cash flow positive (the loan payment is typically less than the energy savings).  In fact, over 200 lenders nationwide have already consented to make their mortgage junior lien status because they recognize these benefits.
  • Arlington County is on track to become the first locality within the state to develop a PACE program. Other localities, such as Norfolk, the City of Fairfax, and Richmond have expressed interest in developing PACE programs.
  • To facilitate interest in and garner support for PACE, Arlington engaged with the real estate community and coordinated with the private sector and several County departments. By building a relationship with these groups, there was enough interest in PACE to begin developing a program.  Currently, Arlington is in the midst of finalizing a Program Administrator.  The program is on track to launch in early 2017.

Our next PACE Lunch + Learn is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31 in Ashland.  Stay tuned for a Lunch + Learn event in your area.