The Washington County commissioners hope to make it easier for businesses to obtain low-interest, long-term financing that will make properties more energy-efficient, use renewable energy and conserve water.
A resolution establishing a program, known as Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, was unanimously approved Thursday morning by the three-member board.
“The loan repayment has a line item on their county tax bill,” explained Jeaneen Zappa, director of operations for Western Pennsylvania outreach at the Energy Efficiency Alliance, after Thursday’s commissioners’ meeting.
“The county takes in that loan payment and sends it back to the lender, and it gives them better financing terms for the longer period of time for repayment, and it gives them lower interest rates.”
Known as “C-PACE,” the commissioners also entered into a cooperation agreement with PPL Sustainable Energy Fund to administer the program in Washington County.
PPL Sustainable Energy Fund is an offshoot of the Pennsylvania Power and Light utility company, which was founded 100 years ago.
The minimum amount for a project is $10,000 but the average project is $250,000 said Holly Edinger, director of special projects for the Sustainable Energy Fund, based in Schnecksville, Lehigh County.
Some of the energy-saving measures could include LED lighting with lighting sensors and controls; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning upgrades; variable speed and frequency drives on motors, fans and pumps; energy storage systems, high-efficiency chillers, boilers, furnaces, heat pumps and water heating systems; insulation and window replacement; and geothermal energy.
A survey and proposal must be completed to predict annual energy or water savings, electrical demand reduction or renewable energy capacity.
Each approved C-PACE project requires a statement of levy and lien agreement that is signed by the property owner, the capital provider and the local unit of government.
“Your passage of this resolution and the positive impacts it will generate demonstrates that policies can both support a strong economy and a strong environment,” Dan Alwine, policy fellow for the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, told the commissioners during the public comment of their meeting.
“We are ready to work with you and the redevelopment authority to promote and utilize C-PACE as an economic development tool and as a way to improve building efficiency throughout the county.”
Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill in 2018 that gave local governments the authority to establish a C-PACE program.
In Pennsylvania, C-PACE can be used for existing commercial buildings and agricultural properties, plus construction of commercial, industrial and nonprofit properties. In a mixed-use building in Pennsylvania, the loan can only be used for commercial space, not residential space.
The county’s participation beyond Thursday’s resolution means the county agrees to collect C-PACE payments as part of the real estate tax assessment.
A C-PACE lien transfers to the new property owner when a building is sold.
Washington is one of 12 counties to join the program after Lawrence and Allegheny.