Commercial, industrial, nonprofit and multi-family property owners looking to make their buildings more energy efficient will now be able to get help from Fairfax County.
The Board of Supervisors approved a new program on March 19 to assist these property owners to borrow money from private lenders for these improvements.
The county will bear no costs for the program. Under state law, however, the county was required to pass an ordinance to establish the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy program—C-PACE for short. The program will be administered by a private company that the county will select through a competitive bid.
Eligible property owners will be able to take out private loans for energy efficiency, renewable energy, water-saving, stormwater and climate resiliency or other projects as determined by the program’s administrator. Fairfax County’s C-PACE program will be the first in the state to make stormwater and climate change resiliency projects eligible for loans.
While the county neither lends the money nor guarantees its repayment, it will place a lien on properties that take out C-PACE loans. The loans are repaid directly to the lender. This enables private lenders who assume the financial risks to offer loans that are more attractive than traditional commercial bank loans.
Eligible improvements include heating and ventilation, lighting, insulation, low-flow water fixtures, reflective or green roofing and renewable energy such as solar or wind. These projects could be undertaken on existing buildings or when constructing new ones.
The program will offer financial and environmental benefits to both property owners and the county, officials say.
C-PACE loans help property owners because they aren’t required to make any down payments or put cash up front. The loans are also secured with a lien on the property — not against the business. C-PACE loans are amortized over a project’s useful life, often a much longer period than the five years typically allowed by commercial loans. Finally, hard and soft costs could be financed through the program.
For the county, C-PACE will enhance the overall property tax values and support employment and economic growth. Most importantly, it advances the county’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions, encouraging investment in energy efficiency.
The county has already cut its own greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent per capita. However, the county government and public schools only account for 3 percent of the total greenhouse gas emissions in Fairfax County. The remaining 97 percent are generated by homes, businesses and state and federal governments. Therefore, it is critical to encourage homeowners and businesses to reduce these harmful emissions that produce poor air quality and climate change.
After the county selects a C-PACE program administrator, detailed information about eligible properties and projects will be available. For more information, contact the Fairfax County environmental and energy coordinator at 703-324-1788, TTY 711.