By Amy Kolb Noyes
Thirty-five Vermont towns are already designated Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) districts, and the question of whether to become a PACE district is on several more warnings for Town Meeting Day. Bristol, Hinesburg and Salisbury are among the towns considering PACE district designation. If you’re not quite clear on what it means to be a PACE district, you’re not alone. Here’s a short primer:
The Vermont Legislature authorized municipalities to create PACE districts in 2009, with the goal of making energy efficiency and renewable energy projects more affordable through a public financing option. The legislation was amended in 2011, to create the program that is now in place. The PACE program is administered through Efficiency Vermont and, in Burlington, the Burlington Electric Department. Only residences and businesses located in a PACE district are eligible to participate. Voters in a given municipality must authorize the designation of their city or town as a PACE district.
In setting up a PACE district, a municipality creates a fund through municipal bonds or other municipal debt, from which residents can borrow money to finance eligible energy efficiency and renewable energy projects at their homes, rental properties, and businesses.
Residents who are in good financial standing with their city or town can borrow money from the fund for energy efficiency improvements, such as home insulation or window and door replacements, or to install a solar, small wind, or other renewable energy system. The municipality puts a lien on the property until the loan is repaid and the loan is transferable to the new owner, should the property be sold. Loans payments are made along with property tax payments, for a period of up to 20 years.