Highlights

  • Assessed the potential for expanding Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing to tax-exempt entities in jurisdictions with active PACE markets (CivicPACE).
  • Developed public materials defining CivicPACE, enabling practices and procedures, ideal organizational segments, market conditions, lender participation, financing and contractual arrangements, and engagement strategies—including sample contracts, guides, and checklists—allowing for program replicability.
  • Established at least two pilot solar projects of small commercial scale (10-100 kW) for different types of tax-exempt organizations (e.g., schools, affordable housing, and houses of worship).
  • Distributed lessons learned and best practices from the pilot projects, and developed replicable plans summarizing the structure, development, and implementation process for CivicPACE projects to serve as case studies for program designers and practitioners nationwide.

Background

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Report:
CivicPACE Project Factsheet CivicPACE Project Factsheet
Author:  CivicPACE

An overview of the CivicPACE project and financing mechanism.

While C-PACE has experienced national growth in recent years, many potential adopters face constrained access—or erroneously assume they are ineligible—due to their status as tax-exempt organizations. The CivicPACE project provided the tools needed to address underwriting and access challenges for tax-exempt entities—including houses of worship, nonprofit affordable housing, community clinics, and educational institutions—in jurisdictions with active PACE markets.

The CivicPACE program worked with local jurisdictions in Ohio, Michigan, Arkansas, and Washington, D.C., as well as federal agencies with jurisdiction over affordable housing—like the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Agriculture—to demonstrate the potential for expanding C-PACE financing to civic organizations across the country.

Launching and Expanding CivicPACE

The project team—comprised of The Solar Foundation, Urban Ingenuity, and Clean Energy Solutions, Inc.—supported the development of CivicPACE markets in several states by implementing replicable CivicPACE-financed solar projects, sharing lessons learned from active and completed CivicPACE projects, providing policy recommendations, and engaging financing, legal, solar+storage, and nonprofit stakeholders.

The CivicPACE team released the report CivicPACE: Enabling Policies & Procedures – Exploring The Treatment of Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy for Solar on Tax-Exempt and Public, which advanced an understanding of the PACE regulatory landscape by exploring the legal and policy environment surrounding tax-exempt organizations and outlining how these organizations can take advantage of PACE financing.

Ballard Spahr LLP worked with the CivicPACE team to provide a legal understanding of how tax-exempt capital might support projects in public housing authorities and how to deploy this type of capital into appropriate transaction structures for faith-based institutions and other nonprofits.

The completed memo discusses several factors, including various financing options, the underlying legal basis for financing, potential limitations and policy barriers to PACE financing, key target areas and certain considerations with respect to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policies and HUD-related housing programs, including Rental Assistance Demonstration programs and Freddie Mac and FHA lending issues. The CivicPACE team will use this memo to provide education and engagement on PACE for tax exempt organizations to further adoption.

Resources

Report:
CivicPACE: Enabling Policies & Procedures – Exploring ... CivicPACE: Enabling Policies & Procedures – Exploring The Treatment of Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy for Solar on Tax-Exempt and Public
Author:  CivicPACE

This report explores the legal and policy environment surrounding tax-exempt organizations and outlining how these organizations can take advantage of PACE financing.

Report:
Options for PACE Financing Alternatives Options for PACE Financing Alternatives
Author:  Ballard Spahr, LLP

This memo provides a legal understanding of how tax-exempt capital might support solar projects for public housing authorities and nonprofits.

Pilot Projects

Case study:
Phyllis Wheatley Young Women’s Christian Association’s Redevelopment ... Phyllis Wheatley Young Women’s Christian Association’s Redevelopment Project
Author:  CivicPACE

This case study details the first use of PACE financing for a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development assisted mixed-finance public housing property.

The project team completed their first project in Washington, D.C.—an active PACE market with a steady pipeline of projects—to engage potential stakeholders and create sustained interest in CivicPACE. The Phyllis Wheatley Young Women’s Christian Association’s redevelopment project included $700,000 in financing for the installation of solar and energy efficiency equipment—the first use of PACE financing for a HUD-assisted mixed-finance public housing property. The PACE financing, authorized for solar power and deep energy and water upgrades, helps the property run more efficiently. Savings from those improvements will help pay for the new equipment and reduce the building’s utility costs.

Case study:
Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School ... Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School Project
Author:  CivicPACE

This case study describes how a nonprofit organization used Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to add solar and upgrade efficiency measures.

The CivicPACE team also completed a case study on the PACE-financed solar and efficiency retrofit project at Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom Public Charter School, a school of 350 preschool and elementary students in Washington, D.C. The energy- and water-saving mechanical upgrades, in conjunction with a rooftop solar PV system, will provide the school nearly $10,000 in benefits per year at no upfront cost. This project represents an innovative opportunity for many schools to immediately see positive cash-flow results that can be used to improve the lives and education of their students.

Distributing Lessons Learned and Best Practices

The project team’s plan is focused on maximizing its geographic impact. To do this, the team is prioritizing underserved solar markets, as well as property owners with national reach. Future pilot projects are geared toward addressing questions of property-type viability (e.g., houses of worship) and policy applicability (e.g., federally subsidized housing).

Ultimately, the lessons learned and best practices from the pilot projects will be distributed as case studies in a CivicPACE Toolkit and Replication Guide intended for program designers and practitioners nationwide.