Mesa County commissioners this week agreed to let owners of commercial and industrial buildings take advantage of a Colorado program that facilitates financing of clean-energy investments, something the county previously had been reluctant to do.
The commissioners unanimously agreed to let the Colorado New Energy Improvement District conduct the Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program, or C-PACE, within the county. The program is an initiative of the New Energy Improvement District, which was authorized under the New Energy Jobs Creation Act of 2010 and subsequent bills amending it.
The program allows eligible building owners to finance up to 100% of qualifying energy-efficiency, renewable-energy and water-conservation improvements. They obtain financing through private capital providers with repayment terms up to 25 years. Repayment occurs through a voluntary assessment, similar to a sewer district assessment, on a building owner’s property tax bill. The annual energy cost savings usually exceeds the annual assessment, which allows for capital-intensive equipment upgrades, according to C-PACE’s website. The assessment runs with the property, meaning it can transfer to the next owner in the case of a sale.
Thirty-six counties in the state now participate in the program, with all of the rest except Weld County in discussions with C-PACE about possibly participating, according to C-PACE’s website. Participating counties agree to collect the assessment payments from property owners, and can levy a servicing fee of up to 1% of the assessment amount.
County Commissioner Scott McInnis said at a commission meeting Monday the idea of the county joining the program has been around for three or four years, but he indicated the county had some reservations about it as it was proposed at the time.
“We want to make sure that it doesn’t become a burden to the county or a burden … to commercial property owners,” he said.
New Commissioner Cody Davis took the lead in working with the C-PACE program on amending the proposed contract agreement to address county concerns. He said the county wanted some say when applicants go to C-PACE with proposals because ultimately the county is on the hook in cases such as when a property owner defaults on a loan. The agreement requires that applications be referred to the county for review.
According to the C-PACE statute, if building owners default on assessment payments, the assessment is subject to the same procedures and penalties as is provided for in the case of property taxes, potentially including a tax lien sale.
“I think it’s a good program,” said Davis, whose background is in the construction industry. “… There is apparently an appetite, a great appetite locally (for the program), so I’m excited to see the result of this as we move forward.”
Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, told commissioners people want to do commercial projects but the economic stress of the last year has drawn down a lot of reserves for many.
“So having this tool to be able to spread out their payments for energy-efficiency projects, energy-generation projects is something that will make this much more possible for them, so we think it will actually help speed up economic recovery in some cases,” she said.
Robin Brown, executive director of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership, told commissioners C-PACE will be another tool for keeping Mesa County competitive when it comes to economic development, while local builder Darin Carei said it sends the message for business to come to Mesa County as the county competes with other counties.
Under a sunset provision, Mesa County’s initial C-PACE agreement expires at the end of 2025 but the county will review it before then to decide whether to extend it.