Pitkin County eyes energy project loan fund
July 21, 2009
PITKIN COUNTY – Pitkin County property owners could one day have access to money to pay for energy efficiency upgrades that they would repay through special assessments on their property taxes.
A proposed “clean energy financing district,” modeled after a successful program in Boulder County, would require voter approval, but would only affect taxpayers who take advantage of the program. County commissioners will be asked Tuesday if they support moving forward with the idea, with the intention of asking voters in November to authorize creation of the district.
Last year, state legislators approved the Colorado Clean Energy Finance Program Act, which gives local governments the ability to create local improvement districts to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and to issue bonds in order to provide the financing.
Boulder County was the first to create such a program – the result has been energy savings, reduced carbon emissions and job creation, according to Dylan Hoffman, Pitkin County’s energy program manager.
“A program of this type would have a positive impact on Pitkin County’s local economy,” Hoffman wrote in a memo to commissioners outlining the proposal.
Boulder County’s initial $40 million bond approval will stimulate investments that put contractors, plumbers, electricians, energy auditors and others to work, he noted. The county’s first application process generated $6.6 million worth of projects – nearly three times the amount of federal economic stimulus dollars pegged for Boulder County, Hoffman said.
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The program envisioned in Pitkin County would help homeowners and commercial property owners cover the upfront costs of energy upgrades and let them realize the savings associated with the improvements while they pay back the loan over a period of up to 20 years through a special assessment on their property tax bill, according to Hoffman.
A typical bank loan for such projects is for a shorter term, resulting in monthly payments that are higher than the energy savings resulting from the upgrades, he noted.
The debt repayment would transfer to a new owner if a property changes hands, unless some other arrangement between buyer and seller is made, he said in the memo.
The administrative costs of the program would be paid by those who choose to participate – Boulder, for example, charges a $75, nonrefundable fee to those who enter the loan process, Hoffman said.
Because Pitkin County is smaller than Boulder County, it may look to join with another community or other options rather than a solo sale of bonds to support the loan fund, he indicated.