By LAWRENCE “LARRY” CLARK, QCxP, GGP, LEED AP+, Energy and Sustainability Consultant, Sustainable Performance Solutions LLC

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing continued to expand in 2016, and I believe its growth in 2017 will be even more impressive.

Called a “world-changing idea” and one of “20 ways to build a cleaner, healthier, smarter world” by Scientific American magazine, PACE is a means of financing energy-efficiency upgrades, water-conservation improvements, and renewable-energy installations for commercial and residential buildings. It is available in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Sixteen states have active commercial PACE programs that can be used to finance HVAC upgrades.

Although PACE has been around since 2008, its early adoption was hampered by court challenges and by the refusal of government mortgage guarantors, such as the Federal Housing Finance Agency (through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to accept PACE residential loans. In 2015, the FHA and VA changed their positions, and the cumulative residential dollars securitized by PACE increased by more than 300 percent in the ensuing 12 months.

PACE is unique in that it is tied to properties, not to owners (hence, no requirement for personal guarantees), and repaid through a special non-ad valorem tax assessment. It is true off-book financing, and if a property is sold, the PACE assessment goes with it.

Commercial PACE has grown some 300 percent over the last couple of years and is poised to pass the thousand-project mark. I believe 2017 should see commercial PACE approach a billion dollars in cumulative project financing. It is hoped HVAC retrofits will be a significant part of that.