While Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) has experienced national growth in recent years, many potential adopters face constrained access due to their status as tax-exempt organizations. Nonprofits are often erroneously assumed to be ineligible for PACE because they do not pay property taxes. The CivicPACE project provides the critical 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 will work with local jurisdictions in Ohio, Michigan, Arkansas, and Washington, D.C., as well as federal agencies with jurisdiction over affordable housing (i.e. 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.
The project team, comprised of The Solar Foundation, Urban Ingenuity, and Clean Energy Solutions, Inc., supports 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.
In 2015, 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.
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.
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 school 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 cash-flow positive results that can be used to improve the lives and education of their students.
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.