By: Laura Sanchez, EDF Climate Corps 2016 Fellow
Like many booming cities, Texas’ capital is experiencing overwhelming demand for affordable housing. Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler highlighted the affordable housing crisis shortly after taking office in January 2015, and urged the use of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) to help encourage affordability. PACE enables commercial, industrial, and multifamily property owners to improve the water or energy efficiency of their buildings – without having to worry about steep upfront costs. Investing in these types of upgrades can reduce a property’s operating costs, as well as tenants’ utility bills.
That’s why I spent this past summer with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), as an EDF Climate Corps Fellow with Texas PACE Authority, the PACE program administrator in the state. In June 2016, Mayor Adler created a committee of housing experts to determine how to leverage PACE for affordable housing. Alongside the committee, I worked to size up the opportunity, benefits, and challenges of using PACE to help pay for upgrades to affordable multifamily-housing properties.
After conversations with officials and program administrators from over 30 public for-profit and non-profit entities, we found there are significant opportunities – in Texas and nationwide – for the affordable multifamily-housing sector to leverage PACE. We are proud to present a new whitepaper that can serve as a guide to unlocking water, energy, and cost savings. Read More
By: Charlene Heydinger, Executive Director, Keeping PACE in Texas
As a bustling metropolis and the biggest city in Texas, Houston has a lot of buildings – and that equals a lot of opportunity to make these facilities more energy- and water-efficient.
Houston grabbed headlines last month when it became the first in Texas to adopt a citywide Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. PACE will help Houston building owners undertake much-needed water and energy efficiency improvements through private financing – all without having to worry about steep upfront costs. This move means substantial economic development potential, in addition to environmental benefits, for the nation's fourth largest city.
It’s also a sign this innovative clean energy finance tool is catching fire in Texas: Houston joins Austin’s Travis County, which embraced PACE in March, and a Dallas city ordinance is just on the horizon. Additionally, Cameron and Willacy Counties expect to bring PACE to the Rio Grande Valley in January. And to cap the year off, Texas’s first-ever PACE project – $1.25 million in retrofits for a major Austin mall – was just announced.
2015 marks a record year for the PACE finance approach across Texas, and interest is growing in several other counties. Even better, all are following the stakeholder-designed PACE in a Box model toolkit – meaning PACE is uniform, user-friendly, and market-based throughout the state. Read More
When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized America’s Clean Power Plan in early August, it marked the first time our country has put a limit on emissions from the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution: power plants. The standards represent a huge step forward for cleaner air and all of the benefits that come along with it.
Texas leaders immediately denounced the final plan, boldly proclaiming it would have catastrophic consequences, and vowed to fight the Clean Power Plan.
But if state decision makers stop to look at the facts, they will see that the Clean Power Plan is well within our reach. In fact, Texas can get to 88 percent of the way toward compliance simply through current trends alone, as shown in our new report out today, Well Within Reach: How Texas Can Comply with and Benefit from the Clean Power Plan. And, not only is compliance achievable, the plan actually provides Texas the opportunity to use it to grow the state’s economy. Read More
By: Charlene Heydinger, Executive Director, Keeping PACE in Texas
Today marked a milestone for Texas’ clean energy economy. Travis County voted to adopt the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, making it the first county in Texas to do so. This means Austin and the surrounding area will soon reap the economic and environmental benefits from giving energy-intensive, thirsty Texas a reprieve with water efficiency and clean energy.
What is PACE?
PACE, enacted during the 2013 Texas Legislature with support from both sides of the aisle, has the potential to unlock a considerable amount of private funding for clean energy projects in the state. Specifically, it is an innovative financing program – completely free of government mandates and public funding – that enables commercial, industrial, multi-family, and agricultural property owners to obtain low-cost, long-term loans for water conservation, energy-efficiency, and renewable energy projects. Participants will then repay these loans for clean energy projects through their property tax bill. Read More
As the Texas legislative session begins ramping up, I am reminded of smart policies from sessions past that holistically benefit Texas, had bipartisan support, and brought unlikely allies together. As we head into the session, it’s important to remember that no matter which side of the aisle you are on, clean energy solutions make sense for Texas – economically and environmentally.
This week, Environmental Defense Fund and R Street Institute, with support from Google, hosted a breakfast roundtable at the Texas Capitol to highlight one of those bills. The panel highlighted the potential for Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) and other commonsense, market-driven financing policies to be game-changers for accelerating the deployment and adoption of clean energy resources and water conservation practices across the state of Texas.
PACE, an innovative financing tool that allows people to repay loans for clean energy projects (like rooftop solar and energy efficiency upgrades) through their property tax bill, has the potential to unlock a considerable amount of private funding for clean energy projects in the state. This agreement simultaneously offers building owners cheaper financing options, and lenders secure repayment terms. With benefits for all, it’s no wonder the PACE bill passed last legislative session with support from both sides of the aisle, environmental groups, and industry alike. Read More
Last week, I wrote about the continued success of Texas’ wind energy industry, but the growth in solar is also impressive. Nationally, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all new electric generation in the first quarter of 2014. Plus, residential solar installations surpassed commercial projects for the first time in history earlier this year. This is significant, proving that more homeowners are making the switch and investing in a cleaner energy supply.
According to the Center for American Progress, “more than 60 percent of solar installations are occurring in zip codes with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000." This is an important revelation as the price of solar comes down quickly, projected to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels by 2020, more homes can and will add solar panels. In fact, experts expect more than half of all American homebuilders to offer rooftop solar as an option in new single-family homes by 2016. That’s a significant uptick from just 12 percent in 2013.
These findings make clear that people are taking their energy use into their own hands, highlighting the power of people in the new energy landscape, where customer-centric demand-side resources – rooftop solar, energy efficiency, demand response (which compensates electricity customers for conserving energy), electric vehicles, and energy storage- will play a key role. I discussed this trend in a radio interview with Voice of Russia a few weeks ago in a segment entitled Whole Home Automation: Promising for Consumers and Climate. Read More