White House to boost low-income solar movement

The Hartford Business Journal, July 21, 2016

President Obama has taken a liking to financing programs to provide solar panels to low and moderate-income homeowners – a movement that’s been spreading across Connecticut.Obama’s so-called Clean Energy Savings for All Americans program, announced this week, aims to increase by tenfold the amount of solar panels on those homes across the country, to one gigawatt.The new program relies in part on financing models similar to the Connecticut Green Bank’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program, but for residences.

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C-PACE allows commercial property owners to pay back the costs of installing energy-efficient upgrades over time through their property tax bills.Growth of residential versions of those programs, known as R-PACE, has been stymied by the federal overseer of mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In 2010, the Federal Housing Administration barred the two lenders from purchasing mortgages with PACE liens on them, saying they presented risks to the secondary mortgage markets.Connecticut lawmakers authorized an R-PACE program in 2011.The president’s new program clarifies FHA policies to state that PACE assessments do not take first lien position ahead of the mortgage, and also that the assessment will transfer from one owner to the next in the event of a sale or foreclosure.Gov.

Dannel Malloy, who last year lobbied the federal government to clarify PACE rules, released a statement this week hailing the announcement.”I look forward to working with our federal counterparts to utilize these opportunities and increase the use of solar electricity generation to keep Connecticut at the forefront of these issues,” Malloy said.Other elements of the multi-pronged Clean Energy Savings for All include:

  • A community solar challenge with competitive grants of up to $100,000;
  • Allowing recipients of low-income energy assistance to use up to 25 percent of the funds for to deploy renewable energy;
  • The Department of Energy will convene a summit of local and regional banks in an attempt to expand access to community solar financing;
  • DOE will launch a solar training network;
  • $287 million worth of commitments from more than 120 private, public and philanthropic partners to support solar deployment. Among those 120 entities is Norwalk-based U.S. Solar Corp.;
  • 25 members of the administration’s National Community Solar Partnership have committed to deploying nearly 145 megawatts of community solar, for including low and moderate-income households. Among the 25 is a solar crowdfunding group of college students called RE-volv that includes UConn and eight other colleges.
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About Susy Hurlbert

Eastern Connecticut Association of REALTORS Chief Executive Officer
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