US: PACE Group to introduce clean energy bill in house

15. July 2011 | Top News, Markets & Trends | By:  Charles W. Thurston

PACE Now has announced plans to introduce a bipartisan bill in the U.S. House of Representatives designed to stop mortgage lending regulators from introducing policies that breach clean energy laws.

Intersolar North America people on escalators

PACE executive director, David Gabrielson, held a webinar on the upcoming bill at Intersolar North America. Image: Solar Promotion International GmbH.

The U.S. non-governmental organization, which promotes tax-based financing for residential clean energy systems, including solar, announced its plans to introduce the bill on Wednesday, July 20, "to prevent Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other Federal residential and commercial mortgage lending regulators from adopting policies that contravene established state and local property assessed clean energy laws."

PACE, or property-assessed clean energy financing, refers to local government or community initiatives that provide long-term funding from private capital markets - usually through bonds - at a low cost to homeowners for solar systems and other renewable energy projects.

The financing is paid for by raising the individual homeowner's tax; the programs do not involve government subsidies or broad taxes.

The bill is co-sponsored by Congresswoman Nan Hayworth, of New York, and Congressman Mike Thompson, of California, and Daniel E. Lungren, also of California.

Although 24 states now have legislation in place to permit PACE, the practice was effectively blocked last year by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie and Freddie.

The agency opposed PACE, because local tax debt takes a repayment priority over bank mortgages in the event of foreclosure, thus presumably adding risk for mortgage lenders.

Three states - California, Florida and New York - sued the FHFA to force it to adopt PACE financing, but the now-combined suit is still tied up in court.

David Gabrielson, the executive director of PACE Now, held a webinar on the upcoming bill yesterday, the final day of the annual Intersolar North America show in San Francisco, to help attract additional sponsors for the bill.

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