Support For PACE Programs, Consumer Study Shows

California and 15 other states were just starting to roll out Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs to help homeowners finance energy-efficiency modifications and reduce power bills when concerns from a federal housing agency essentially stopped them in their tracks last year.

But a a new survey shows many homeowners support PACE-type programs, and would consider adding an assessment to their property taxes to make their houses more energy efficient.

About 42% of 1,000 people surveyed by Pike Research said they were "extremely" or "very" interested in using a PACE program. Of those, 63% said they would install a tankless water heater or solar panels. More than 50% said they would install a more efficient air conditioner or boost insulation.

Not surprisingly, the homeowners who supported PACE programs generally have power bills exceeding $200 per month. They also tended to adopt new technology early.

More than half of the homeowners who said they were "somewhat" or not interested in participating in a PACE program said they did not want any more financial liability. An additional 30% said they didn't understand the PACE concept.

PACE programs require little or no upfront costs and have repayment periods of 15 to 20 years. If the property is sold, the payments are transferred to the new owner. Such programs were gaining favor in 2010 when the Federal Housing Finance Agency, worried because the PACE assessment would be repaid before a mortgage loan in a default, expressed concerns about the program.

Those concerns froze many PACE programs because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are regulated by the FHFA, guarantee more than 50 percent of all home loans in the United States.

There is momentum to revive PACE programs. Some states and cities have filed lawsuits. Others have adopted PACE programs for commercial property only, or are tweaking the original PACE concept.

Officials at Pike Research, which analyzes clean-technology markets, said the findings "illustrate a clear market" for PACE programs. They suggested the programs could be a boon for makers of water heaters, air conditioners, solar companies and other manufacturers of green products.

Researchers also noted that more homeowners would likely be pick up the PACE when the economy shows signs of recovering. "As the global economy slowly recovers and the appeal of energy-efficiency improvements grow, availability of attractive financing will be a key component to the market's development," Pike researchers said.