For businesses, clean energy program presented

Legendary New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter spoke in favor of the clean energy program.

Legendary New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter speaks in favor of the clean energy program at a recent Board of Selectman meeting.
— Ken Borsuk photo

Commercial businesses in Greenwich may soon be in for a financial treat if the resolution for a state program that allows for low-cost clean energy upgrades is approved by the Representative Town Meeting (RTM).

The program was presented at last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting by the chief investment officer of Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), Greenwich resident Bert Hunter.

According to Mr. Hunter, Commercial and Industrial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) is a “financing security mechanism” that allows commercial, industrial and multifamily property owners to receive 100% upfront, long-term financing for energy upgrades to their buildings using private capital.

The program is administered by CEFIA, the nation’s first “green bank,” as part of the state’s Energize Connecticut initiative — an important effort as the state with the highest energy costs, second only to Hawaii, Mr. Hunter said.

Already adopted by 16 towns across the state, including nearby Norwalk and Stamford, C-PACE “really goes beyond clean energy,” he said. “We’re going to look at the whole spectrum of what we can do,” he said, although “energy efficiency is by far the most important” aspect. Property owners are eligible for a range of upgrades under the program, including high-efficiency lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades and controls, renewable energy systems, and building enclosure improvements.

The program provides 100% financing with “attractive interest rates” for a period of up to 20 years, and the financing is arranged with private capital providers, and with CEFIA, for the property owner, Mr. Hunter said. The property owner must then agree to have an assessment attached to the property, which is placed on the owner’s property tax bill. Property owners then pay for the energy improvements over time through this additional charge without having to use their own funds, and the repayment obligation automatically transfers to the next owner if that property is sold.

After an energy upgrade project proposal is passed through CEFIA’s technical review team, the cost of the property’s energy upgrades may not exceed the total savings expected from those upgrades, Mr. Hunter said. So if a property owner is expected to save $500,000 in energy costs, that owner may raise up to $500,000 in financing. Similarly, if energy measures are expected to last for 10 years, an assessment placed on the property may be made for up to 10 years, he said.

The town’s part in the C-PACE program is risk-free, Mr. Hunter said. If the program were to be adopted, Greenwich’s only responsibilities would be to factor C-PACE assessments into the existing tax and assessment collection schedule and to turn over to CEFIA only funds that had already been collected from property owners. The town would also deal directly and solely with CEFIA, no matter how many outside private capital providers contributed to funding, he said.

The advantages of opting into C-PACE are numerous, Mr. Hunter said. The program improves long-term property values, reduces emissions and therefore pollution, creates jobs, and allows property owners the freedom to choose their capital provider from those qualified by CEFIA.

After listening to Mr. Hunter’s presentation, First Selectman Peter Tesei reiterated that local businesses could not take advantage of the C-PACE program if the town doesn’t opt into it.

“We’re being responsible to act in support of this,” he said. With only an administrative role to play and no risk to the town, it’s clear that the program would be beneficial to Greenwich and its commercial businesses, he said.

Also presenting to the selectmen in favor of C-PACE was Greenwich resident and legendary New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter. Mr. Richter is the original founder of Healthy Planet Partners, a consulting firm that provides funding, expertise and networking to help its clients minimize their energy consumption, costs and impact on the environment.

The technology required for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements is not only available but in demand, Mr. Richter said. Most people would like to be more energy-efficient but find that they are constrained by the costs involved. The C-PACE program, he said, is a great solution to the problem. The key to the program, he added, is that the town holds no risk.

RTM member Erf Porter, who had attended the meeting to address another agenda item, also spoke on behalf of the program, noting that few efforts have been made to reduce energy consumption on the commercial side of the spectrum. Additionally, he said, C-PACE would give commercial property owners the chance to improve their competitiveness, which is ultimately good for the town.

At the conclusion of the C-PACE presentation, Mr. Tesei and his fellow selectmen passed a motion to bring the resolution to opt into the program to the RTM, the town’s legislative body, which will review C-PACE for final approval.

 

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