July 23rd, 2010
The webinar was a success. Recap can be found here:
Full webinar recording: http://votesolar.org/PACEwebinar_july29.wmv
For PCs: the recording includes audio and PPT slides
For Macs: the recording only includes audio. You can follow along by downloading the presentation slides here (PDF).
Campaign Update: Time is running short on summer, and even shorter before the August congressional recess. We still need to be aggressive in our support of PACE at the National level. The focus turns to the Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee. But all members of Congress need to hear from us.
Here is your quick daily digest of news and updates from the national campaign to protect PACE from the actions of the FHFA. If you are new to the issue, here are some resources for you.
We will host an interactive webinar on Thursday, July 29th at 1pm ET/ 10am PT to get into the details of the federal PACE campaign. Join us to help work on how to best address issues raised by the Senate Banking Committee, hear about the current status of PACE Commercial programs, and to hear from Sonoma County on how they kept their program going.
1. Update on Recent Events
The last two weeks have seen a flurry of action across the nation in support of PACE. Here are some of the recent highlights:
- The “PACE Assessment Protection Act” was introduced in both the House and Senate. HR 5766 (Thompson) has attracted over 40 co-sponsors.
- PACE stakeholders have met with dozens of Senators and Representatives from across the country
- The National Association of County Officers issued a resolution supporting PACE and demanding action be taken to safeguard PACE programs.
- Dozens of communities from Florida to New York to California have introduced city council resolutions demanding immediate action be taken to safeguard PACE. For example, Miami Dade County Florida passed their resolution on July 20.
- Thousands of petitions and letters have been sent to Congress in support of PACE. For example, over two thousand Floridians sent letters to their Senator, George LeMieux, asking that he support PACE legislation.
2. Action Request
As we enter the final weeks before Congress adjourns, it is more important than ever to keep up the pressure. Time is short, but we have a real chance to move legislation through Congress if we keep working.
- EVERYONE: KEEP THE PRESSURE ON CONGRESS. Call your Representative and Senator and ask them to support the PACE Assessment Protection Act. Don’t have much time? Sign the petition through Vote Solar.
- LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: Pass a resolution supporting PACE and asking Congress to take action (visit PACENow.org for a sample resolution).
- COMPANIES AND ORGANIZATIONS: Send a letter on your letterhead to your Senators and Members of Congress urging immediate legislation to save PACE.
We have a Senate Bill. Yesterday, the Senate introduced legislation requiring lenders to adopt sound underwriting standards that support PACE financing programs. It is the companion legislation to the House Bill (pdf) introduced last week.
We still have a tough road ahead in Congress. Yesterday’s Senate decision to nix major climate and renewable energy legislation after 18 months of debate serves as a timely reminder of just how hard it can be for strong policy to successfully navigate Congressional waters. And with just a few weeks left before the summer recess, it’s a race against time to send PACE legislation across the finish line. The good news is that PACE is a bi-partisan issue – we have a real opportunity ahead of us to see support from both sides of the aisle move PACE legislation forward.
We need your voice more than ever. Here are two ways you can help . . .
- Contact your representatives in Congress to urge them to pass PACE-protecting legislation. We’ve made it easy here. Have you already taken action? Consider encouraging your friends, family and colleagues across the country to do the same.
- Spread the word via your local newspaper. It’s as easy as writing a letter to the editor. We’ve draft a sample letter below that you can customize and use to send a public message that you care about the issue.
As always please check out: http://pacenow.org/ for support materials and additional information.
Our community and others across the country have a promising new tool for unlocking investment in our local clean energy economy. Called Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE, this innovative municipal finance program allows property owners to make energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements and to pay for the cost over time through their property taxes. It’s an entirely voluntary program that creates green jobs right here and reduces energy bills for our homes and businesses.
But these promising local programs are under attack from Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and their regulators at the FHFA. The lending giants, which own the vast majority of American mortgages, recently declared that PACE violates the terms of their mortgages. These actions have shut down PACE programs here and nationwide, throwing a massive wrench in American economic recovery and violating the century-old right of local governments to assess local property taxes for a public purpose.
There are 37,000 similar special assessment districts that are used to finance everything from sewers to sidewalks, yet federal regulators have singled these clean energy assessment districts for their attacks. The regulators and its lenders at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have no right to trample on one hundred years of legal precedent for this type of local government finance. In addition to violating state’s rights, their action impedes one of our nation’s most promising efforts to move toward fossil fuel independence.
As our voices in Congress, Rep. ______ and Senator ______ should stand up for PACE and resolve this dispute with Fannie and Freddie once and for all.
July 15th, 2010
By now, you’ve seen us talk plenty about PACE, the popular finance model that helps property owners overcome the upfront costs of green retrofits and boosts local job growth in the process. (In case you have missed it, welcome back, and check our PACE resource page for more info). You’ve probably also heard that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued letters suggesting that property owners they lend to may be prohibited from participating in PACE programs (not insignificant considering that together these two organizations back around half of U.S. home mortgages). Then just last week, the lenders’ regulators at the Federal Housing Finance Authority (FHFA) issued a statement further mischaracterizing the programs and their risk to lenders. This all stops PACE programs dead in their tracks, attacks a long-standing local government authority, and throws a massive wrench in American green job growth and investment. Not good.
Over the past few months, the FHFA and its lender compadres have raised a number of concerns about PACE programs, which are a new twist on a century-old local government authority to finance projects that benefit the public good. Through deliberate discussion and careful analysis with administration officials and other stakeholders, each of those concerns was subsequently resolved as adding near-zero risk to the mortgages. And yet Fannie, Freddie and the FHFA have continued undermining PACE.
Enough talk. It’s time for legislative action to keep these quasi-public entities — themselves the subject of much scrutiny for their role in the subprime mortgage crisis — from putting the brakes on green economic recovery. That counter-attack is now in full swing.
Leaders in Congress are stepping up to the challenge. Just moments ago, Representative Thompson (D-CA) introduced “the PACE Assessment Protection Act,” which would require Fannie & Freddie to use underwriting standards that “facilitate the use of property assessed clean energy programs to finance the installation of renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements.” That’s House-Bill-speak for making sure that Fannie and Freddie can’t deny or trigger defaults on mortgages for upstanding PACE participants. We expect to see their colleagues in the Senate follow suit with their own PACE legislation.
Other policymakers from all levels of government and both sides of the aisle have joined the fray to protect local governments’ rights to implement PACE. On Wednesday, California’s Attorney General filed suit against Fannie, Freddie and the FHFA. That comes a day after the town of Babylon, New York, one of PACE’s early adopters, announced its intention to sue as well. Leaders from Governor Schwarzenegger (whose letter is most impressive when read in Terminator-style accent) to Governor Ritter, from Mayor Newsom to Mayor Bloomberg, are urging positive action (see the full roster of high-profile correspondence at PACENow.org)
Hundreds of organizations including businesses, municipalities, and non-profits like Vote Solar are voicing support for legislation. We could use your help too. If you’re representing an organization, please check PACENow.org to find contact information for your Federal Legislation Outreach Team Leader. If you’re a concerned citizen (and who isn’t), take action here. Your elected officials in Congress need to hear that you support PACE legislation.
A bit more about all that’s at stake . . .
Vote Solar, NRDC and other partners have helped enable PACE programs in more than 20 states nationwide (and counting). With strong support from the Obama administration, $150 Million in federal funds has been allocated to PACE programming. And cities and counties from coast to coast have made moves to get PACE programs up and running for their residents. By putting boots on roofs and hammers in hands, these green retrofits would create thousands of local jobs. Even modest estimates for national PACE implementation expect the creation of approximately 160,000 long-term, green jobs for our economy. Fannie, Freddie and FHFA have taken aim at one of the most significant national efforts we’ve ever seen for driving green job growth, energy bill savings and greenhouse gas reduction in our built environment.
And as if the future of our environment and our economy don’t put the stakes high enough, Fannie and Freddie’s success would also deal a significant blow to local government rights. Local governments have the constitutional authority to assess property taxes and use those taxes to pay for projects that benefit the public good. For over a hundred years, cities and counties have been using a widely adopted mechanism of land-secured financing to make improvements to sewage systems, sidewalks, and other projects that serve a public purpose. PACE programs use that same authority to finance energy efficiency, solar, water conservation, and other approved green retrofits on private property. If Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHFA strip away these special financing districts for clean energy, it also calls into question the other 37,000 special assessment districts allowing public improvements like sewers and sidewalks.
PACE is not a perfect solar silver bullet for every resident of every city. But we at Vote Solar strongly adhere to the premise that the more business models, financing options and product offerings available, the better chance we stand in making solar a cost-effective, mainstream energy source. By tapping a new pool of capital and marrying efficiency with renewables, PACE is one model that offers a vision of entirely new scale and scope. And as federal climate and energy legislation continues to languish, the true value of this type of local tool for greenhouse gas reduction becomes more and more evident.
We think PACE deserves to move forward. We hope you’ll join us in asking Congress to make sure that Fannie, Freddie and FHFA don’t stand in the way.
June 18th, 2010
PACE financing is one of those issues that has sweeping implications for clean energy adoption, but can be just so darn difficult to understand (see: net metering). If you can you believe it, the current acronym (PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy) is a major step toward intelligibility from what we were first calling it (Municipal Property Tax Financing . . . or MPTF?). Acronym alphabet soup aside, it’s a topic that mixes the intricacies of tax law and bond finance with mortgages and clean energy. Like we said, not easy.
To that end, check out this article in today’s Wall Street Journal that provides a nice overview with perspectives from customers, local governments and financiers all involved in PACE programs today: “Solar Power Boosted As New Loan Program Grows.”
A sneak peak for you . . .
A typical residential system’s price tag is a huge hurdle for most homeowners. Clearing that hurdle is the main mission behind an effort gaining momentum around the country called Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE. It allows people to borrow money from municipalities for energy efficiency upgrades and pay it back through their property taxes.
The article also contains reference to the Fannie/Freddie concerns that could effectively put PACE programs on hold. For those who aren’t already following the issue, on May 5, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued ‘Lender Letters’ that suggested that property owners with mortgages from these lending giants may be prohibited from participating in PACE programs. The move attacks the constitutional right of local governments to assess property taxes and throws a massive wrench in American green job growth and investment. It’s a big problem.
The Department of Energy, state and local governments, and many others (including Vote Solar) are working hard to address this problem. Yet, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have repeatedly missed their own deadlines for resolving the issue. It’s time to step up the pressure.
Now we are urging key Members of Congress to step in and help remedy this harmful impasse. Click here to add your voice to the call for PACE action.