Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) in Florida

Summer is just around the corner and now is the time to look at the projects that need to be accomplished at your home and business. When making decisions on which projects you complete and how you are going to pay for them, don’t forget to look into clean energy financing as one of your options.

In the tri-county area of South Florida, we have the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program available to us. Through property-based financing, PACE Florida alleviates the financial hurdles facing owners wanting to make sustainable upgrades to their property. Below are the top 3 reasons why the PACE program might be for you.

Zero Cost Upfront: The upfront costs of sustainability projects like energy efficiency, renewable energy, or wind mitigation can be daunting and limiting. PACE was created to remove that upfront cost barrier and allow anyone to make positive changes to their businesses and homes. The private lender pays the initial cost of the projects, which is then repaid over a 5-25 year period as a line item on your property taxes. In order to qualify with Ygrene, one of the PACE program lenders, you need:

  • 10% equity in your home,
  • To be current on your mortgage payments,
  • Not currently be in bankruptcy, and
  • To have not been late on your property taxes in the last three years.

Hundreds of Projects: Selecting projects to tackle through PACE financing can be a difficult decision because there are so many possible improvements to choose from. Examples of qualifying projects are high efficiency air conditioners, kitchen appliances, and LED lighting as well as new roofing, hurricane impact windows, insulation, solar panels, and water efficient fixtures and landscaping.

More Savings: The most tangible benefits that come from completing a sustainability project through PACE are how easy they are to complete, they raise your property’s value, lower utility bills, and reduce your insurance costs. In some cases, the savings you receive from updating your home or business will more than make up the amount of the loan attached to your property taxes. Every month that you have new, more energy efficient equipment is more money to be used how you see fit. In addition, because these upgrades mitigate risk to your home or business, you can see reductions in your insurance.

There are many ways to fund green and energy efficient projects. Having the PACE program available to use in South Florida is one of the best ways to make investments into your property and your pocket book.  For more information visit one of the local PACE program lenders or the Florida PACE informational site.

US Federal Government Passes Milestone on Efficiency

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced in February that the US federal government recorded the lowest total delivered-to-site energy use in 2013 since they started keeping track in 1975. With more than 350,000 buildings and 600,000 road vehicles, the federal government is our nation’s largest energy consumer at 0.96 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) totalling $24 billion. Because the government is the largest, there is room for improvement and an opportunity for saving. Sustainability goals set by the Energy Independence Act of 2007 and an executive order by President Obama in 2009 contributed heavily to the government’s decline in petroleum fuel consumption, energy intensity and consumption, and potable water consumption.

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) also provides agencies with information, tools, and the assistance they need to plan, track, and meet their energy-related requirements and goals. The aforementioned sustainability goals included reducing the consumption per square foot of federal buildings by 30% from 2003 levels by 2015. With the help of FEMP, and the continued focus on energy efficiency by the administration, the federal government has decreased the energy intensity of its buildings by more than 45% from the baseline year of 1975.

Dedicating part of Hill York’s business to energy efficiency means that we are keeping up with trends in the industry and savings our clients energy and money. I know that, similar to the Federal Government, Hill York will build on our successes and achieve even greater levels of comfort for our clients.

Cities Set New ENERGY STAR Benchmarking Requirements

As I referenced in a post earlier this week, business driven markets and government policy go hand in hand with Energy Solutions. With the consistent trend toward long-lasting infrastructure improvements and smarter buildings in most industries across the country, it’s no wonder why we see government policy working to accelerate the savings of both money and energy.

Government regulation can be on a macro (federal) level between countries and a micro (city) level, like the movements we are seeing today. Cities across the nation are adopting policies requiring building owners to benchmark and publicly report on their energy use through ENERGY STAR’s Portfolio Manager.

Adding to the list of 17 in the past months, Portland, Atlanta, and Berkeley join cities like New York, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Denver, and Philadelphia as municipalities that are making it easy for Energy Solutions to be implemented. It’s only a matter of time before Florida cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville enact policies that require ENERGY STAR Benchmarking. When they do, Hill York will be there as an ENERGY STAR Partner with over 6 years experience and a Portfolio of over 100 buildings benchmarked already.

Leveraging the Market and Government Policy

The private sector has been driving energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction as a part of a sustainability movement for the past 10 years. Companies and industries such as Microsoft and Coca Cola, and many more, now release sustainability reports so that consumers can see everything that they are doing to help reduce the impact made by their product or service. Apart from the private sector, governments are now pushing the sustainability movement even further with new goals to reach and a plan on how to get there.

In November of 2014, the Obama administration announced a joint sustainability venture with China to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26% below 2005 levels in the United States by 2025 and to peak carbon emissions by 2030 in China. In late March, the United States submitted its plan to achieve such reduction in greenhouse gases that included reducing building sector emissions and four other actions. One way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was the utilization of the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool to benchmark buildings and drive efficiency through building upgrades and efficient appliances. Other possible ways to achieve this is offering federal rebates for efficiency upgrades or grants on both the state and federal level.

What does this mean for Hill York, a company at the forefront of efficiency in Florida? It means that while we have been operating on a market driven wave of efficiency, we can leverage new sustainability goals by the US to bring Energy Solutions throughout the state. Hill York is already using Portfolio Manager and has benchmarked many facilities that have grown into large-scale efficiency projects. We also recently secured two Energy Solutions jobs by leveraging state grant money to improve energy efficiency; a perfect example of keeping up with all the tools at our disposal. Read, download, and print the press release here. Our business is driven by both the “invisible hand” of the market as well as government policy, and staying on top of both has put Hill York at the front of the industry.

Seeking Refunds for Misapplied Utility Rates

An issue first unearthed by the Cutrale debacle of Leesburg, Florida, is dredged up once again for over a dozen companies served by Duke Energy Florida.  The utility is admitting that some business customers are paying higher rates than they should, but Duke is refusing to compensate those companies for what they overpaid. Tampa Bay Times Article Here.

A number of factors go into creating these situations, but they all stem from a business not having knowledge and personnel needed to choose the correct rate. Investor Owned Utilities (IOU’s) like Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power & Light, and Tampa Electric offer a slew of different rates for the electricity they provide based on a number of factors like, how much you use, when you use it, how you use it, and many more. In an effort to try and simplify the convoluted choices, the different types of business rates can be placed in a 40×15 matrix as seen to the left.

For buildings like the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg in the Times article above, who had been placed into the wrong rate structure, the matrix did little to help their billing department know something was wrong. As a result, they paid over $20,000 more than they should have and they are not alone. This is such a big problem that former employees of the IOU’s are leaving and starting businesses that review customers’ utility bills, save them money by getting on the right rate, and split the savings.

There are many companies that exist to monitor utility bills so that businesses can focus on their own industry and not worry about their energy bills. In fact, Hill York’s Energy Solutions group has energy service agreements that benchmark energy use, analyze utility bills, and monitor equipment while identify deficiencies that might cost you money. These services range in price depending on the customer, but like the aforementioned shared savings agreement, you could pay nothing upfront.

This case study describes the efficiency offerings we have while also singling out two instances where Hill York discovered discrepancies in utility bills with a value of over $80,000 and $18,000.

Study Ranks Cities’ Energy Efficiency Policies

Energy efficiency in large cities is the most effective way save resources, protect the health of the community, and catalyze the local economy. This week, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released their 2015 City Energy Efficiency Scorecard that takes the 51 largest US metropolitan statistical area (MSA) populations and grades them in the five categories below.

•Local government operations
•Community-wide initiatives
•Buildings policies
•Energy and water utilities
•Transportation policies

The intricate scoring system placed Boston in the top spot with 82 out of the possible 100 points. Following after Boston was New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, Austin, and Denver to round out the top 10. The four Florida cities on the list, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, all scored in the bottom 50% with Orlando scoring the best at 33.5 points.

Compiling this information in one place with yearly reporting is the ideal way to drive change. The old saying that “you can’t manage what you don’t measure first” holds true. This is the second year this report has been released and cities averaged an increase in their scores by 2 points. Energy efficiency is an important tool for both business and home to save money, save energy, and protect the environment. Florida cities have their work cut out for them and this is an exciting time to be a driving force in the energy efficiency industry.

Where Does Your Electricity Come From?

Historically, there has been a perception that electric bills were set in stone and that you would just pay the bill without giving it a second thought. This disconnect and inability to manage the largest controllable operating expense of a company stems from a lack of education on where and how our energy is produced.

Florida’s electric generation is unique in that the state’s population is 6.2% of the US, they consume 5.97% of the electricity, and emit 4.23% of the total carbon dioxide emissions. So as a population, the people of Florida consume and pollute less per capita than most states when it comes to electricity generation. In the chart below with information from the Energy Information Administration, you’ll see that 81.6% of Floridians’ electricity comes from fossil fuels (Natural gas and coal). This is common throughout the United States, although it should be noted that Florida is second largest consumer of natural gas for electricity production in the country, which burns cleaner than coal.

The process of burning those fossil fuels, transforming them to electricity, and transporting that electricity to the consumer involves a great deal of waste. In fact, for every 10 units of fossil fuels burned, only 1 unit of electricity will make it to the consumer. This fact illustrates the importance of energy efficiency because for every 1 unit that is saved by the consumer, 10 units of fossil fuels will be left unburned. Evoking Energy Solutions to conserve energy at the end user saves money for the consumer who is spending less, it saves money for the utility who does not have to build new power plants, and it saves the environment by polluting less; the ever elusive win/win/win.