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Biggest PACE Green Building Program Launches in California

Fourteen counties and 126 cities in California have launched CaliforniaFIRST, the nation’s largest finance program for green building upgrades that uses the Property Assessed Clean Energy financing model in an effort to help commercial property owners reduce their energy and water use.

The CaliforniaFIRST PACE program allows commercial property owners to use municipal bonds to finance energy efficiency, water efficiency and renewable energy upgrades, which the owners repay through a special assessment on their annual property tax bill. Through a public-private partnership, private capital will be used to supply the upfront funding for the work, so that local government budgets will not be burdened.

CaliforniaFIRST will be administered by Renewable Funding, the same company that launched the nation’s first PACE program in 2008 for residential owners living in the city of Berkeley. The residential energy upgrade platform ran into regulatory headwinds in 2010, but commercial PACE programs have since been launched in jurisdictions including San Francisco, Los Angeles County and Washington, D.C., CaliforniaFIRST says. The CaliforniaFIRST program is the first multi-jurisdictional program of its kind to be essentially statewide in scale.

In addition to traditional banks such as Wells Fargo, there are a number of non-traditional financial institutions that are active in the PACE market.  San Rafael-based Clean Fund, for example, has financed PACE retrofits in California and Minnesota, according to CaliforniaFIRST.
Last year, Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room launched a PACE Commercial Consortium, which brought together Lockheed Martin, Barclays Capital, Energi, HannoverRe and Ygrene Energy Fund in a project that aimed to pump $550 million into retrofitting green building technology in Miami-Dade County, Fla., and $100 million into projects in Sacramento, Calif.

The consortium says these cities’ programs could stimulate $2.3 billion in economic activity and create more than 17,000 jobs.

Sacramento and the Green Corridor group of cities, initiated by the Town of Cutler Bay in Miami-Dade, Fla., are the first municipalities to sign contracts with the consortium’s California-based PACE finance administrator, Ygrene Energy.

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