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PACENation Summit Recap: A Pivotal Event for the PACE Market

 

“If you look at what we’re all doing around sustainable energy—making sure we are addressing this global issue of climate change in pragmatic, cost-effective ways—it’s everybody working together. I think that’s a huge part of what’s going on with PACE.” – CO Gov. John Hickenlooper

On February 29th, the doors of the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Denver opened to almost 400 professionals from diverse backgrounds for the first-ever national summit dedicated to building the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) market.  These individuals are the members of PACENation, a movement that is activating billions of investment dollars in clean energy upgrades to buildings throughout the United States.  PACENation’s members met at the First Annual PACENation Summit with a common goal: to secure PACE’s place as a mainstream financing option for renewables and energy efficiency everywhere.

As the Summit organizer and host, we were thrilled with its success. Participants came from 36 states, representing 230 organizations ranging from advocacy groups to government agencies, financial institutions, ESCOs, tech companies, and PACE service providers.  Attendees participated in a mix of plenary and focused learning sessions, enjoyed a rallying keynote speech from Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper, and had ample opportunities to network with old friends and make new ones. We are humbled to be part of such an inspiring and motivated group of individuals, and thank each of our sponsors, speakers, and all the members of PACENation who made this event possible!

 

Our Anthem video debuted at the Summit – watch it here.

The State of PACE

 

In the first plenary session, titled “PACE Works,” we announced that PACE has already financed about $1.7 billion across 80,000 energy improvements for homes and businesses, and this investment has created almost 17,000 new jobs. This first Summit session also announced our organization’s adoption of a new name: PACENow has become PACENation. We are still the national, impartial, advocate and proponent of PACE, but with a new focus on being an organization providing resources, tools and networking opportunities for our members.

The discussion, moderated by PACENation founder Jeff Tannenbaum, included Mike Lemyre of Ygrene Energy Fund, Cisco DeVries of Renew Financial, Ari Matusiak of Renovate America, and Jessica Bailey of Greenworks Lending. Each discussed the market’s successes, challenges that remain, and visions for its future. In both residential and commercial PACE, “there’s really a revolution taking place,” said Lemyre, and PACE is growing “on an exponential curve.” To see some of PACE’s success stories, check PACENation’s Market Data and Case Studies, or download the “PACE Works” Presentation.

In the second plenary session, “R-PACE: State of the Market,” PACENation’s Executive Director David Gabrielson moderated a discussion with Ari Matusiak of Renovate America, Candace Vahlsing of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, and Cliff Staton of Renew Financial, about some of the open questions facing residential PACE, including the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)’s and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)’s current stance on PACE liens. R-PACE, which has been surging in California and Florida, is poised to expand throughout the country. Renewed support for PACE from President Obama’s administration may be the key to making that possible, and the session experts discussed how expected guidance from the FHA may help, by allowing PACE liens to coexist with federally-supported mortgages in a way that protects the interests of all parties. PACENation’s members are hopeful that workable FHA guidance will lead to solutions with the FHFA.

The session’s speakers made the case that PACE benefits both homeowners and mortgage lenders, and explained how PACE places special emphasis on protecting consumers.  It was suggested that federal regulators should take note of the work already done by residential PACE programs to ensure their customers are completing home improvements that truly save money and increase the value of their homes.

 

Consumer Protections

 

In a session on consumer protection standards, Barbara Spoonhour of the Western Riverside Council of Governments and Rich Chien of San Francisco’s GreenFinanceSF PACE program introduced ideas around the growth of the residential PACE market: “As the numbers get bigger, there’s a need for standards to protect consumers and investors.”

The programs that Chien and Spoonhour represent – GreenFinanceSF and the HERO Program – place especially high importance on quality contractors, certified products, and compliance with all local, state and federal policies. The HERO program has an extensive catalog of policies to ensure consumer safety, and it has established itself as a leader in this area. HERO takes care to offer PACE only to homeowners that receive a fair quote on a quality product from a certified contractor, and only if all debts on their property are less than 90% of the property’s value. The program also runs a call center for customers, and it has launched an online portal to answer questions on home sales for homeowners and real estate professionals.

Consumer protections are becoming increasingly important as more PACE programs enter the market in states that currently offer PACE, and as residential PACE is made available in more states in the months and years to come. At the Summit, we met with our Board of Directors, who tasked our staff with surveying, synthesizing, socializing and releasing PACENation residential best practices and consumer protection policies.

 

PACE in Colorado

 

Commercial PACE (C-PACE), offered now in 16 states and over 2,000 municipalities, continues to expand to more states, and C-PACE programs have helped hundreds of business owners save hundreds of millions on their energy costs. Our choice of Denver for PACENation’s first annual Summit in part reflected our support for Colorado’s new statewide C-PACE program launched just last month. The third day of the summit featured multiple sessions exploring the details of the state’s new PACE program.

The CO-PACE program creates a statewide benefit district and is now operating in Boulder County, with Denver and 10 other counties at various stages of implementation. The state chose Sustainable Real Estate Solutions (SRS) as the program’s administrator. To administer a PACE project, SRS can arrange funding from a set of pre-approved private capital providers, but the program operates as an “open market” that also allows building owners to secure funding from other sources. Any municipality in Colorado can opt into CO-PACE and make use of the statewide administration platform. For more information on opting in, visit the program’s Counties and Government page.

To commemorate the launch of the CO-PACE program and to give his support to the PACE community, Governor John Hickenlooper gave the summit’s keynote address.  He remarked:

“…if you look at what we’re all doing around sustainable energy—making sure we are addressing this global issue of climate change in pragmatic, cost-effective ways—it’s everybody working together. I think that’s a huge part of what’s going on with PACE. It’s that collaborative ability to begin to show the public this isn’t just about burning less hydrocarbons—it’s also about saving money and putting it into people’s household budgets or commercial property owner’s budgets; it’s about economic development; it’s about job growth; and it is about a sustainable energy future.”

PACENation applauds the Governor for leading the way with PACE, which will be an economic development engine and help mitigate carbon pollution from any of the thousands of Colorado businesses who choose to use PACE.

 

What’s next?

 

The Summit marked the first national event where professionals in PACE markets across the U.S. have come together to share their knowledge and experiences with each other. PACENation believes that when the PACE community shares their knowledge, it boosts all the participants in this nascent and growing market.

We expect PACE to continue its exponential growth over the next year, and with guidance on the way to clear up some of the questions disquieting the residential market, R-PACE could boom even bigger than we’ve expected. That’s why now is a pivotal time for PACE. We’re thrilled to continue to convene all the experts in this market, and we’ll see you at the Second Annual PACENation Summit in 2017.

 

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