It was supposed to be a simple ribbon cutting ceremony but the comments shared by the dignitaries conveyed a much broader message!
A group of visiting dignitaries had gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony to showcase the energy efficiency upgrade of a Greenville, Michigan apartment complex. Each would cite a distinct benefit resulting from the energy efficiency transformation of this affordable housing facility.
The energy and water conservation upgrades to the complex included the installation of high efficiency boilers, low flow toilets, LED lighting in common areas, high efficiency refrigerators in individual units, and the installation of solar panels on the roof of each building.
According to the building’s owner, the greatest benefit of the upgrade is the projected net zero cost of the common area lighting. The amount of energy the solar panels create will more than offset the costs associated with lighting internal hallways, the building’s exterior and the parking lot. These public area energy costs are paid by the tenants. Any year-to-year increases are passed on in the form of higher rental rates. These costs increases will now be eliminated and the savings will be passed along to the tenants!
Additionally the property manager noted tenants will also see lower per unit energy expenses due to the high efficiency central boiler system, as well as the savings associated with the high efficiency unit appliances and fixtures. The reduction in energy use creates more discretionary income for the tenants that will ultimately benefit the community.
“In a survey just released at the United States Conference of Mayors they cited solar, LED and energy efficient buildings as the “most promising” tools for eliminating wasted energy…” PR Newswire
Property Assessed Clean Energy financing (see PACE video) was used to fund a significant portion of the project. A representative from the company that provided the funds discussed the economic benefit his company witnesses along with PACE projects. He noted the benefit of this project to the community through the jobs it created for area contractors, as well as sales for the suppliers of the solar, LED and other energy efficient technologies. Other key benefits of PACE energy efficiency and sustainability upgrades is increased building market values, and these projects contribute to the “greening” of the community by reducing its carbon footprint.
But one of the more compelling comments was made by James J. Turner, the State Director for Rural Development in Michigan. The director’s office is responsible for administering the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) which provided a grant for the project. Mr. Turner noted:
“all the energy we are saving here not only represents savings to the facility but also savings for Michigan. On an annual basis Michigan exports in the neighborhood of $22 billion to supply our energy needs. Every one of those dollars that are spent outside of Michigan are dollars that can’t be invested here or applied to our contractors who are creating jobs here in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Every thing we can do to save energy and use more renewable energy is an investment in Michigan.”
An important observation worth noting is that without one key person, who had the initial interest in PACE, the whole ribbon cutting event would not have been possible. His name is Matt Cook and he’s the Energy Optimization Manager at Parker Arntz, a Greenville based plumbing and heating contractor.
Matt had learned about PACE financing and realized it could be a substantial tool for comprehensive energy renovations he frequently gets involved in. He also knew that before he could offer PACE to his clients he would have to get county officials to approve PACE as an option for properties within their jurisdiction.
After educating the owner of the apartment building, Matt set out to educate the county commissioners and watched as they successfully brought PACE to a passing vote in early 2015. Matt noted that without PACE, the solar upgrades would not have been considered due to the up-front expense. With PACE financing 100% of the upfront cost the solar project then became a possibility, and the energy savings would then be used to repay the financing.
Matt noted that he has many more projects that are now getting ready to utilize PACE for energy upgrades! This is just another indication of the economic development potential that goes along with effectively funding energy efficiency upgrades.
“The upgrades will be financed through the Property Assessed Clean Energy program, an initiative that allows businesses to upgrade the energy efficiency of their property through a special loan attached to their property tax assessment.”
The PACE financed project in Greenville can claim many firsts. It was the first multi-family PACE project in Michigan: it was the first PACE project to launch in Montcalm county and it was the first project nationwide to utilize both PACE financing as well as a USDA Rural Economic Development Program grant. There will be many more firsts for projects throughout Michigan as county representatives begin to understand the economic development benefits of PACE financed projects and vote to be added to the ever growing list of PACE districts!