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MT Program Makes Building Efficiency Upgrades Affordable

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C-PACE financing can be used to install renewable energy sources like solar panels on commercial buildings. (anatoliy_gleb/Adobe Stock)
C-PACE financing can be used to install renewable energy sources like solar panels on commercial buildings. (anatoliy_gleb/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
May 17, 2021

HELENA, Mont. -- Montana lawmakers passed a measure this year which will make it easier for commercial building owners to upgrade aging infrastructure.

Commercial Property Assessed Capital Enhancements (C-PACE) financing spreads out what can be expensive upfront costs for energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation improvements.

Ed Gulick, vice president of High Plains Architects and chair of the Clean Energy Task Force for the Northern Plains Resource Council, said energy efficiency in buildings has a high return on investment.

"It's a mechanism that allows us to harvest the wasted energy in a useful way to pay for efficiency," Gulick explained.

Gulick noted the savings on utilities are designed to be more than the annual costs paid for the improvements. He pointed out projects that could be financed include insulation, more efficient heating and cooling, and solar panels. C-PACE also provides a third-party evaluation, so building owners can figure out where to start.

He emphasized the financing mechanism has a unique structure. Because owners might sell a building after a few years, they might also be reluctant to take out loans to invest in upgrades.

Gulick added that's why upgrades are repaid as a small assessment on the property's annual tax bill.

"A loan is just attached to a person, where a tax assessment is attached to a property," Gulick stressed. "And so if somebody sells the property, the next building owner would continue to pay the remainder of that assessment, which is appropriate because they're going to benefit from those improvements."

Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the bill into law last week. Local governments can decide if they want to participate. Legislation in more than three dozen states has enabled C-PACE financing.

Disclosure: Northern Plains Resource Council contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, and Rural/Farming issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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