Traditionally, the Southeastern U.S. has been behind the ball when it comes to clean energy. This perception inspired my guest post that appeared on Triple Pundit titled Renewable Energy and the Good 'Ol Boy. In that post I wrote:
"I’ve lived in and around Atlanta – the capital of the New South – my whole life, yet whenever I’m around certain Southern friends or co-workers and the topic turns to renewable energy, I immediately feel like an outsider. I keep treacherous visions of solar PV on the Georgia Dome and wind turbines whirring off the coast of Savannah to myself. Speaking out on my thoughts would earn me the dubious label of “hippie-tree-hugger,” the scarlet letter of Good ol’ boy code."
But it seems like my home state of Georgia is finally making some headway in advancing clean energy in the Southeast with the state passing House Bill 1388, which sets up the framework allowing PACE financing by local communities. In my earlier blog post describing PACE financing I took a great description of this great clean energy financing method from Renewable Funding:
A local government creates an improvement district; a bond, secured by real property within the district, is issued; and the bond proceeds are used to fund renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Property owners then repay the debt service on the bond in fixed payments as part of their property tax bill.
There are two major characteristics, however, that make PACE unique. First, property owner participation is 100% voluntary. Only those property owners who choose to participate in the PACE program pay additional costs. Second, the bond proceeds are used to pay for prequalified clean energy improvements on participating properties. Improvements that a property owner may often choose from include renewable energy technology like solar panels, energy efficiency projects like a high efficiency furnace, and in some states water conservation measures.
The money received under PACE is payed back on a homeowner's property tax bill. This is a nice feature, because if a homeowner who installs a solar PV array decides to move 5 years later, the new homeowner takes over payments, but also receives the lower energy bills the system generates! Once the system is payed back, new homeowners owe nothing, and the system is just an asset raising the home's value.
The Georgia legislature didn't pass the PACE financing bill on a wild hair because they wanted to copy California, they had help from groups like the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA), which has a pretty honorable mission:
SEEA’s mission is to promote and achieve energy efficiency through networking, program activities, and education. The results of increased energy efficiency will be a cleaner environment, a more prosperous economy, and a higher quality of life in the Southeastern United States
Below is the release that SEEA emailed out announcing the passing of GA House Bill 1388:
On Friday, May 21, Governor Sonny Perdue signed House Bill 1388, which includes provisions for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). SEEA, in collaboration with its private and public partners, was the leading organization spearheading the effort behind this bill. The bill allows property owners to finance water conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects on private property through voluntary property assessments. This approach eliminates the chief barrier to successful water and energy conservation projects: the large upfront cost. Under PACE programs, counties or cities have the ability to form a "special tax district" or "assessment district" to finance energy improvements. Under Georgia's new bill, local development authorities will be the ones running the new PACE program.
Now it is just up to local communities to work with financing partners so they can start doling out some money so people can have an easier time funding clean energy projects and installing energy efficient devices in their home. If a state in the conservative Southeast can do this, why can't your state? It's a win-win for you, your local government, your local economy, and the environment.