ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County Executive Adam Bello joined local officials Wednesday to sign a bill for the Energize New York Open Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program.

The program “channels private capital to commercial and non-profit building owners to make energy upgrades to their building.” Officials say this allows for “improvement of properties, lower operating expenses, and a positive impact on communities.”

“To truly confront the issues we face with our changing climate we need to marshal every tool available to us to help reduce green house gas emissions, decrease energy use, support a green innovative economy, and become a more climate-smart community,” Bello said. “Today I’m going to sign into law another one of those tools which will establish a sustainable energy loan program known as Open C-PACE here in Monroe County.”

Monroe County’s PACE bill is designed for commercial buildings only, not residential, but commercial and residential PACE programs share a similar foundation. The bill passed unanimously in the Monroe County Legislature with a 27-0 vote.

Financing for these projects is authorized by state and local law, with repayment secured through a benefit assessment lien on the property.

“This program allows commercial and non profit building owners to tap private financing to make energy upgrades to existing buildings or build new construction to higher energy standards,” Bello said. “With this important clean energy tool, companies here in Monroe County can take advantage of a unique financing option that will pave the way for more renewable energy projects in more efficient buildings. This is a win for all of us; updated and efficient buildings results in lower costs and energy uses in carbon footprint.”

According to officials, Energize NY Open C-PACE differs from traditional bank loans because:

  • Financing is available for up to 100% of the project cost, or can be combined with other financing
  • Competitive private financing from EIC-approved capital providers
  • Customizable loan terms up to the expected life of the improvement(s) (generally 20-30 years)
  • Benefit assessment lien is subordinate to municipal taxes and senior to other liens (consent from mortgage holder is required)
  • Automatically transfers to new owner upon sale of property
  • Available for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures (projects are qualified according to NYSERDA’s C-PACE Guidelines)

“Open C-PACE is not public financing, it costs no tax-payer dollars,” Bello said. “What it does is, it creates an alternative to traditional loans by authorizing a municipality to add a special assessment to the property that is equivalent to the cost of the qualified energy improvement. The borrower then pays off the loan through installments over the court of several years. This law will help Monroe County become a leader in protecting the environment, reducing carbon emissions, and moving toward clean and renewable energy.”

Full press conference:

County Executive Bello was joined Wednesday by county legislator Michael Yudelson (D-13), Matt O’Connor Co-Chair of the Monroe County Climate Action Plan Advisory Committee, local developer Al Spaziano, and Ethan Elser of PACE Equity.

“It is just one element of the Climate Action Plan’s first phase, which we look forward to completing in the next several months,” Yudelson said. “I was glad to introduce this legislation in conjunction with County Executive Bello, and getting us to the point where we are able to make it available to the community. It will be good for the climate and have no impact on taxpayers — that’s the way government should work.”

“Not everything in the Monroe County Legislature gets accomplished with a unanimous vote and this one was 27-0,” O’Connor said. “I want to selectively tank all of the legislators for their collective wisdom. Let’s hope commercial property owners take advantage of this program in the coming future.”

“This is a win-win, I would say, for property owners, developers, and the taxpayers of the county,” Elser said. “We’d be happy to work with you on projects and help you achieve your sustainability goals whether it’s renovating your property, or building new properties.”

Residential versions of PACE programs have been under scrutiny where critics say it’s a “system where private home-renovation contractors hired by cities put priority property liens on the houses of people who are not qualified to pay them back. John Oliver of Last Week Tonight said last month the residential PACE programs can leave vulnerable people, like seniors and the disabled, in situations where they end up losing their homes or in financial distress.

To reiterate, the PACE program for Monroe County signed into law Wednesday is exclusively for commercial properties, not residential.

This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide updates as they become available.