Hays County discusses PACE program

More loan options to finance energy efficient commercial structural improvements could be in the works for Hays County.

Hays County Commissioners discussed authorizing more administrators, or dealers, for their Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program April 10.

The PACE program, established in January 2017, is a commercial loan system that allows for local businesses to finance energy efficient and environmentally friendly improvements to buildings that businesses may not have otherwise been able to afford.

The program allows business owners to get low-cost, long-term loans for energy efficient and renewable energy measures such as water conservation, upgrades to lighting and cooling systems, adding solar panels and other energy efficient technologies.

Currently, the Texas PACE Authority is the only administrator of the program in the county, but the county is now considering opening up the program to more administrators, one of which could be Lone Star PACE.

Several advocates wanting multiple administrators spoke during a public hearing at the commissioner meeting and said that more administrators would promote healthy competition, provide property owners with more options for lenders and rates, and allow for additional outreach to get more businesses interested in the program.

The outlet malls in San Marcos is currently the only property in the county that is participating in the PACE program.

“By having two administrators in the county, property owners would have more choices to choose from when negotiating interest rates and terms for their PACE improvement financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Lee McCormick with Lone Star PACE said.

However, some opponents to the issue said that multiple administrators would cause too much confusion among business and land owners and create inconsistencies of rules among administrators within the program.

Additionally, several opponents suggested it would create “a race to the bottom” in regards to providing loans to property owners.

Charlene Heydinger, president of Texas PACE Authority, says the “PACE in a box” model, which has one administrator, is the best model to protect the county and future lenders.

“We don’t compete in the marketplace. We are not benefitting from the economic activity that we hope to create so we don’t have a conflict of interest and we don’t create a conflict of interest for others who bring the programs to us,” Heydinger said.

Hays County Commissioner Pct. 3 Lon Shell said the court is still looking at the advantages and disadvantages of opening up the program to multiple administrators.

There are currently 17 Texas PACE regions using the “PACE in a box” model with Hays County being the 12th to establish the program.

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