Old buildings, green retrofits, no tax dollars

An ambitious plan to retrofit and upgrade buildings with no tax dollars and no up-front costs to owners is gaining momentum, according to an article in the New York Times.

British entrepreneur and Virgin Records founder Richard Branson played a key role in putting together the business group that plans to retrofit buildings -- commercial buildings at first -- and charge owners over time. The idea is that the charges, which will be tacked on to property-tax bills, will be less than the energy savings, according to the article. 

The Ygrene Energy Fund of Santa Rosa, Calif., is at the helm of the business consortium. Others involved in the consortium are Lockheed Martin and Barclays. The initial activity of the project will take place in buildings in Miami and Sacramento. 

The new approach to financing the retrofits is called PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy.

The newspaper quoted James D. Marston of the Environmental Defense Fund. "It's a big deal," he said. "We're talking about tens of billions of dollars in investments, and energy savings that are 10 times that amount. If you do this correctly, you would be able to shut down a third of the coal plants in the country.”

PACE financing has been applied to residential housing, but the practice slowed considerably when it was deemed to add risk to mortgages, according to the article.

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