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An innovative financing tool for clean energy and efficiency upgrades has been introduced in the Montana Senate.

Bipartisan effort seeks to create jobs, save money, and conserve energy through private, voluntary funding program

A bill that would create a financing opportunity for owners of commercial buildings to encourage the conversion for energy efficiency, water conservation and renewable energy upgrades has been introduced by 14 legislators including 3 Republicans. The primary sponsor of SB 245 is Sen. Mary McNally (D-Billings). It is entitled The Commercial Property-Assessed Clean Energy Act of Montana.

The financing tool would allow property owners to secure 100% up-front financing for the improvements. Like a Special Improvement District for sidewalks or sewers, the financing is repaid as an assessment on the property’s regular tax bill over a term of up to 20 years. Unlike typical assessments, C-PACE is completely voluntary. Only individual property owners receiving the upgrades are assessed for the cost, not everyone in the district.

The annual energy savings for C-PACE projects are designed to exceed the annual assessment payment, so property owners save money from the start. An energy audit is conducted to assess a building’s needs, and properties only qualify for the program if it’s determined they will save more in annual utility savings than they would owe on their annual assessment.

“C-PACE is common-sense legislation that will promote economic development across Montana while saving property owners money as they conserve energy,” said Ed Gulick, Northern Plains Resource Council member and associate principal at High Plains Architects in Billings. Northern Plains helped organize support for C-PACE. 

C-PACE would be administered through the Montana Facility Finance Authority. 

Other local sponsors are Sen. Margie MacDonald, Rep. Kathy Kelker, and Rep. Emma Kerr-Carpenter.