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“Depending on how much they’re willing to implement, they could save between 5 and 20 percent” of their energy bill, said Ramin Moghaddass, an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering at UM and the director of the Industrial Assessment Center.

Costs could start to fall for Florida consumers who want to finance energy efficiency improvements with no money down and no credit check.

That’s the optimistic view from Paul Handerhan, a principal of the new Fort Lauderdale-based company, Clean PACE Inc., created to promote and certify program providers in the Property Assessed Clean Energy program.

Over the summer, four providers reached agreements with Broward County to offer property owners countywide the opportunity to finance a wide variety of energy efficiency and storm hardening improvements. Palm Beach County is working out details and expects to finalize agreements by early 2017, Handerhan said.

“Having them compete against each other, ultimately we’re going to see better consumer protections, interest rates and contractor controls,” Handerhan said. “We’re seeing that now. PACE providers are starting to get somewhat competitive in their offerings in order to gain market share.”

Unlike traditional loans, repayment is set up as an assessment on the owner’s property tax bill, and the loan can be transferred to a new owner when the property is sold. Homeowners with mortgage loans can have the repayments rolled into their monthly mortgage bills.

Eligible projects include solar energy systems, new roofs, new hot water heaters, new air conditioning units, upgraded insulation and impact-resistant windows and doors. Customers see cost savings right away as utility bills and homeowner insurance bills fall, supporters say.

Renew Financial, approved on June 14 to offer PACE financing programs countywide in Broward, officially launched its program in Florida.

Cisco DeVries, the company’s CEO, said his business recently certified 150 Florida contractors for PACE programs and is ready to market the program to homeowners throughout Broward and many cities in Palm Beach and other counties.

“Already, the company has hundreds of thousands of dollars in approved contracts with Florida homeowners, many of whom can’t afford upfront costs for expensive improvements,” DeVries said, adding, “We help them knock down those barriers. Formed in 2008 in California, the company completed more than $300 million in residential PACE projects in the state over the past two years. It’s growing very quickly. We signed contracts for more than $49 million in projects in August.”

Interest rates for financing through Renew Financial range from mid-6 percent to low 8 percent, depending on the size and term of the financing, among other factors.

“Assuming interest rates remain low overall in the financial world, consumers could see competition driving rates lower,” DeVries said. Competition is good for consumers and good for cities and counties they serve. Our approach is to encourage multiple PACE providers in cities so everyone benefits. But it’s critical for the programs to have strong rules — clear disclosures to consumers and protections for everyone involved so this continues to evolve.”

The other PACE providers approved to compete countywide are Ygrene Energy Fund, which pioneered the concept in the South Florida market over the past year; Renovate America; and Florida PACE Funding Agency.

Handerhan predicted the PACE market could see some companies offering interest rates as low as 5.9 percent regardless of the loan term. Also, some might seek an edge by lowering origination fees, which tend to be slightly higher than traditional financing.

“Those higher fees come with benefits borrowers don’t get from traditional financing,” Handerhan said. “If I go to a bank and borrow $10,000, I’m kind of on my own at that point. If the contractor walks away, I owe that $10,000 regardless. With PACE, the provider manages every step of the process, including pulling permits and certifying the contractor. The customer only signs off at the end of the process.”


Source: SunSentinel

To be the “Greenest School on Earth” in the eyes of the U.S. Green Building Council, it takes more than a few solar panels on the roof.

GreenestSchoolThose are nice, of course. But you also need to teach sustainability throughout the curriculum and engage students in improving environmental performance. The greenest schools have an “all-school approach,” says Rachel Gutter, director of the group’s Center for Green Schools.

This year the council is giving its top award to Dunbarton High School, in Ontario, Canada. Gutter says it exemplifies the top-to-bottom ethos, even if its building is less shiny and energy efficient than some. “The place where green schools can make the biggest impact—and where they fall down—is the level of engagement from the school occupants and the broader community, and whether they’ve created a culture of sustainability,” Gutter says.

GreenestSchool4Dunbarton has a 40-seat outdoor classroom (meant to bring students closer to nature), a 5,000 square foot “pollinator garden” (designed to attract butterflies and the like), and “bee condominiums” (stacks of wood with holes to provide shelter for insects). It’s also installed energy efficient lighting and windows, introduced an organic waste management program, and takes part in an Atlantic salmon restoration program. Many of these initiatives are led by students.

“One of the things we loved about Dunbarton is that so much of its activity is driven by the students and the community. We really believe that is the way it can be sustained and magnified,” Gutter says. “They’re also applying sustainability across many different subjects, from photography and art classes to finance and math.

The “Greenest School on Earth” title is a little misleading as the council doesn’t actually survey the planet for the best school. Instead, schools submit their own applications and a team of judges choose the ones it likes most. This year, schools from 20 countries came forward and the criteria encompassed three categories: how well schools are reducing energy, water and waste; how well they’re enhancing health and well being in their environment; and how well they’re teaching environmental “literacy.” The judging is subjective and relative: Schools are awarded for progress as much as absolute accomplishments.

GreenestSchool9The judges gave an honorable mention to Vele Secondary School in Limpopo, South Africa. Unlike Dunbarton, which was built in the 1960s, it’s a new school with its own energy monitoring system, natural ventilation, and gardens for growing food. But it doesn’t engage students in the same way Dunbarton does, according to Carly Cowan, Center for Green Schools’s international program manager. “The big differentiating factor between Dunbarton and Vele is that Dunbarton’s students showed a lot more leadership and initiative in making the school green,” she says.

The big point is that schools can do a lot, even without big resources. What matters is whether people are willing to get involved. “There’s always an accessible project to be advanced at the student level or faculty and administration level,” says Gutter. “You can start anywhere and move on from there.”


Source: FastCoExist

The most recent initiative makes it a goal for the costs of solar to continue their trend downward to meet those of conventionally generated electricity by the end of this decade.

This comes with the announcement by the White House reinvigorating solar energy through the Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative.  These goals don’t only come from government offices.  Laboratories too are leading the way. Technological advances are helping along the trend, as silicon may be able to be replaced as the main ingredient in solar panel construction.  A recent discovery that a light-absorbing material known for a century may work in solar panels and dramatically increase their efficiency has the industry talking.  Thanks to the combined developments, the cost per watt of solar-generated electricity may fall to the 10-20 cents per watt range where fossil fuel-generated electricity resides.

All that said, the opportunity for commercial space users to take advantage of these new technologies and for commercial landlords to convert their properties into energy-producing ones remains mired in the financial barriers and customs of an industry that views (and pays for) property improvements for multi-tenant buildings in very specific ways.  To answer the question of how the costs and benefits of solar improvements are apportioned usually needs to begin with how such improvements are paid for.

One California company says they have used real estate legal forms to address this problem. Working with a leading law firm, EPR Squared, a real estate firm specializes in cracking the tough problem of opening commercial rooftops to solar.  In solar improvement,  as with most other features of commercial property usage, the all-important capital source is the third party financier.  But the territory is new and forms and deals have little precedent to work with.  Establishing revenue flows on a tenant or space subdivision basis to cover construction costs and to apportion energy-generation benefit requires a new kind of real estate deal. EPR Squared says they’ve constructed such a boilerplate.

According to real estate research firm data cited by Energy Producing Retail Realty, Inc. Founder/CEO, Chris Pawlik, 90 percent to 95 percent of commercial building rooftops remain essentially beyond the reach of third-party financing, “When you have a commercial building with multiple tenants,” Pawlik said, third parties “can’t technically finance those unless the owner takes it on, and commercial owners won’t do that.”

Third-party financiers, he explained, “can get an agreement signed or financing in place because they have the credit of the off-taker that takes care of the risk.” With a twenty-year commitment, third-party financiers have certainty that their loan will repaid. But, Pawlik said, “owners typically own properties five to seven years and tenants are typically in properties five to ten years. You can’t have a ten- to twenty-year agreement in situations like that.”

EPR Squared’s idea is to create a real estate interest on the property and have it be a separate interest from the improvements and from the land. It is similar to agreements with property owners for cell tower and billboards, though, Pawlik stressed, the solar legal structure is not identical. DLA Piper, which Pawlik called “the gold-standard, top-tier law firm” for commercial real estate, “has finalized the form documents we need to take to the owners to show them how this structure would work.”

EPR2 has “a dozen or so deals in the pipeline with groups that have either portfolios of properties or single properties,” Pawlik said. The first deal, he explained, must be one that demonstrates to the 60,000 California real estate brokers, agents and mortgaging agents that “this is almost identical to a real estate transaction.” When they see commissions in it for themselves, he said, “we can really scale the idea and bring it to a size at which pension funds and insurance companies will start looking at it.”


Source: Commercial Source