In Virginia, local government holdouts slow rollout of clean energy financing tool
NORFOLK, Va. — Solar consultant Arthur Fichter IV has no doubt that coastal Virginia’s commercial sector would save millions on utility bills and be richer with arrays if the region had access to long-term financing for clean energy and energy efficiency projects.
He became aware of such a tool for buildings — PACE, or property assessed clean energy — during two recent training sessions in Norfolk and nearby Virginia Beach, both part of an area known as Hampton Roads.
“I was scratching my head along with everybody in the audience, wondering, ‘Why isn’t this happening here?’” said Fichter, an employee of Virginia Beach-based Solar Services, founded in 1986.
In his 12 years with the company, he figures he has lost thousands of potential commercial customers skittish about solar’s upfront costs. PACE coordinates financing with private lenders and costs are paid off over the long term as an assessment on a property’s tax bill.
Virginia is one of 36 states, plus the District of Columbia, to pass PACE-enabling legislation.
The catch is that local governments in Virginia are tasked with crafting an ordinance to establish PACE in their jurisdictions. And that has led to delays.
Fichter backs an effort to push communities in his backyard to follow northern Virginia’s lead by passing a PACE measure.
On a broad scale, PACE’s aim is to slice utility bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making investments in renewables and upgrades to lighting, water heaters, boilers, furnaces and HVAC systems affordable for the commercial and industrial sector as well as farms, nonprofits and multifamily residences.