Rockland County Approves Green Energy Financing Program

Industry Real Estate

By Tina Traster

Seeking ways to achieve greater energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate the effect of global climate change, the Rockland County Legislature last night unanimously passed legislation enabling commercial property owners to finance clean-energy projects.

Joining nearly every municipality in the Hudson Valley, legislators threw their support behind PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) financing, which enabled the Energize NY Open C-Pace Program to operate in the county.

The legislation is heading to County Executive Ed Day, who is expected to sign off on the bill within the next 21 days.

“I am pleased to support the sustainable energy loan program, through the Energy Improvement Corporation, that will assist organizations in their energy efficiency and renewable energy goals at no cost to local taxpayers,” said Day. “The program aligns Rockland County with the region in recognizing the potential environmental benefits and positive economic impact.”

Originally operating under a different structure, the program has been used to been used to upgrade affordable senior housing, a hotel, a church and a community center, to name a few. Banks typically offer up to seven-year loans based on property owners’ personal credit scores. In contrast, loans from PACE, which stretch up to 30 years and are financed through bonds, look at the applicant’s request to upgrade efficiency, reduce emissions, create jobs and benefit the community’s building stock. Interest rates today are around 6% to 8%. The program is especially attractive to property owners who want or need to update older, historic buildings.

Owners repay the debt through their property taxes.

“We are very pleased with the vote,” said Mark Thielking, Energize NY’s co-executive director. “The program is especially attractive to commercial property owners who want to update older buildings to lower energy costs and/or install the latest renewable energy technology.”

For property owners to participate in PACE, counties and municipalities must pass enabling legislation because municipalities secure repayments on loans through the placement of a benefit assessment lien. In its previous iteration, more than two dozen projects had been completed where enabling legislation had been passed in 54 municipalities including Orange, Dutchess, Ulster and Sullivan and Westchester.

Energize NY Open C-PACE facilitates the lending of private capital to commercial and non-profit building owners who want to make energy upgrades to buildings and/or lower operating expenses. Projects are qualified according to NYSERDA’s C-PACE guidelines Financing is available for up to 100% of the project cost, or it can be combined with additional funding. Thielking says the program offers customized loans up to 30 years, or through the expected life of the improvements. The loans automatically transfer to a new owner if a property is sold.

There are more than a dozen private financing EIC-approved capital providers.

(PACE) financing is a public benefit authorized by state and local law, with repayment secured through a benefit assessment lien on the improved property.  A benefit assessment lien is subordinate to municipal taxes and senior to other liens (consent from mortgage holder is required).

“Open C-PACE paves the way for higher levels of energy efficiency or renewable energy to be included as part of a building’s redevelopment or rehabilitation – and might be the pivotal element needed to move the project forward,” added Thielking.

“The passing of the local law to provide PACE financing will serve as an additional incentive to commercial property owners to invest energy efficient and renewable energy improvements on their property,” said County Legislator Lon Hofstein. “It was an honor to sponsor this legislation and I thank my colleagues in the legislature for their unanimous support.”

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