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Momentum builds to restore local energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives: one more chance to support PACE clean energy programs!

Kit Kennedy

Posted August 17, 2012 in Living Sustainably, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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Thanks to a legal victory, there’s one more chance for supporters of energy efficiency and solar power to tell the Obama administration to bring back the popular clean energy finance programs for homeowners known as PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy).  If you already know all about PACE clean energy programs, you can urge the federal government to restore PACE programs.  Act now, because the comment period closes on September 13th.

If you are new to PACE, read on.

A PACE Refresher

Despite the gridlock in Washington D.C., states and towns across the United States are making progress toward a clean energy future for our nation – one that will center on more efficient energy use and renewable power sources such as solar, not dirty fossil fuels.  Because buildings consume almost half of all energy used in the United Stated and account for 75% of electricity usage, retrofitting buildings to make their energy use more efficient and cleaner has huge potential to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

And so some twenty-seven states across the country have green-lighted local financing programs that make energy efficiency upgrades and installing solar panels more affordable for homeowners and lower their electricity bills.  With PACE programs,  homeowners can easily pay for improvements to make their homes more efficient by installing insulation, better windows and more efficient heating and cooling systems, or to produce their own clean power by putting solar panels on their roofs. Through these programs, homeowners save money, towns create green jobs and we all enjoy more clean energy and less power plant air pollution that affects our kids’ health.  

Here in New York, where I live, the Town of Babylon on Long was an early adapter of PACE. To learn more about Babylon’s program and to see a great video about Long Islanders who participated, click here. And two dozen other towns and cities across New York State were also poised to adopt PACE programs, from New York City to Binghamton. The federal government even provided $40 million in stimulus funds to New York towns to implement PACE.   Sounds like a win win for homeowners, communities, green jobs and the environment, right?

Not so fast.   Then FHFA, the federal agency that regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage market giants, stepped in.   Although energy efficiency and renewable power improve the value of homes and allow homeowners to save more money, FHFA has refused to acknowledge these benefits.  And so, in July 2010, this federal government issued orders, without any public notice or opportunity for comment that stopped PACE programs across the country from moving forward.   The State of California, local governments in California and Florida, the Town of Babylon here in New York, together with NRDC and the Sierra Club, all took legal actions to try to reverse this damaging decision.

What’s the Good News?

Las year, a California court issued a preliminary order directing FHFA to give the public a chance to weigh in with the federal government to express their support for reviving these important job-creating clean energy initiatives.   To start this process, FHFA issued an initial  proposal in January, still refusing to bring PACE programs back.  Luckily, more than 33,000 Americans, state and local governments and other stakeholders weighed in to call on FHFA to revive PACE programs. 

Now FHFA has a new proposal for the public to comment on – and it’s still bad news for clean energy supporters. Luckily, the public has a chance to weigh in again.  Please urge FHFA to restore PACE programs — and act now, because the comment period closes on September 13th.

And more good news: last week the California court weighed in again with a final decision that FHFA violated federal law when it rolled back PACE programs without providing for notice and comment and has required FHFA to follow through with a final rule, after considering more input from the public.

If we continue to make our voices heard, we can win the fight to restore PACE programs across New York State and across the country, and strike a blow for clean energy over dirty fossil fuels.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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