State to take role in PACE debate

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The California Energy Commission has joined the debate over the future of the Property Assessed Clean Energy program.

"PACE programs are strongly supported and encouraged by federal, state and local decision-makers," said Claudia Chandler, CEC chief deputy director, in a memo to members of the agency's commission.

The CEC is considering re-allocating its 401 funds, essentially the PACE portion of its stimulus money, and plans to release a statement later today with more information.

The CEC also plans to meet July 28 and Aug. 6 on whether to cancel a stimulus-funded financing program and amend State Energy Program guidelines. Officials say the moves are "prompted by recent developments that cast serious concerns over the viability of first-priority liens as near term municipal financing options for residential energy efficiency and renewable energy retrofit projects. First-priority liens are central to Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs and required in municipal financing programs."

Recent actions by mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Finance Agency have undermined the program. The FHFA says financing energy efficiency upgrades through PACE programs promote unsound underwriting guidelines and are are too risky because PACE liens would have priority over mortgage debt if the homeowner defaults.

However, PACE is not without its supporters. Last week, Mike Thompson, D-Ca, introduced HR 5766, or "Pace Assessment Protection Act of 2010," with 29 co-sponsors. The bill would allow homeowners to make energy-efficient upgrades to their houses and repay the cost through their property tax bills.

And California Attorney General Jerry Brown filed a lawsuit against Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac saying the mortgage giants are blocking a measure that would create badly needed jobs. Brown blasted Fannie and Freddie for taking huge government bailouts and putting more than $100 million in federal stimulus money in California at risk.

The CEC board meets at 10 a.m. July 28 at 1516 Ninth St., Hearing Room A, First Floor in its Sacramento offices. A copy of the meeting agenda can be found here.