Forum: With new energy bill, we can put Connecticut to work

Posted By: Joe DeFusco CHCC News,

Political leaders of every stripe are searching for ways to attract more good-paying jobs to Connecticut communities, especially jobs that can’t be outsourced, shipped overseas, or automated. That’s why one new job-creation solution is gathering support from both Republicans and Democrats in Hartford.

Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, programs give homeowners a new, innovative way to finance energy efficiency and clean energy improvements, like new HVAC systems, roofing or windows. It’s a type of financing that is attached to a property and which homeowners pay back over time through an additional line item on their property tax bills.

The interest on PACE payments has tax benefits for many homeowners, and many also see immediate savings on utility bills thanks to their efficiency upgrades. Local towns and cities must vote to bring PACE programs to their communities, and participation is voluntary, giving each municipality in the state its own say.

Another benefit of this proposal to make PACE available to homeowners is that the state and over 100 municipalities already have a proven track record with this type of public-private partnership. Commercial property owners in most Connecticut counties already use PACE financing in partnership with the Connecticut Green Bank. It is unlocking energy efficiency and clean energy upgrades for businesses across the state — and creating jobs in the process.

As PACE has made it possible for more offices, shops and warehouses to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy improvements, it has provided a boost to the architects, electricians and distributors who sell, construct and install the new equipment. And as more work flows to these contracting businesses, those companies can hire and train more people, supporting Connecticut families and boosting the economy overall.

Connecticut could put this economic engine into overdrive by opening up this innovative public-private partnership model to the state’s homeowners. In Connecticut, in a single year at its peak, residential PACE could support $130 million in economic stimulus and 700 local jobs, installing clean energy and energy efficiency improvements in 4,700 homes. Those home improvements would also put $100 million back in the pockets of Connecticut homeowners through savings on their energy bills.

Beyond these economic benefits, the residential PACE legislation under consideration, SB 973, would also come with some critical safeguards for consumers. It would require that any contractor performing work on a PACE-financed project be licensed by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, a feature that ensures a level of service and training that Connecticut residents deserve. It also prevents unlicensed builders and contractors from undermining a licensing system that’s working well for Connecticut home improvement companies — most of which are small businesses.

These types of protections, along with the fact that towns and cities must vote to make residential PACE available at all, make these programs more responsive to local needs than other financing options like credit cards or home equity loans. It’s also why PACE is bringing together legislators from both sides of the aisle, as well as the business community, labor unions, environmental groups and trade associations like ours. (And trust me, we don’t agree on much!)

Expanding PACE to make it available to Connecticut homeowners would create good-paying, sustainable jobs and boost Connecticut small businesses. At the same time, residential PACE would empower Connecticut households to make overdue repairs, reduce their emissions and lower their utility bills — all at no cost to public budgets.

Connecticut proved that it can lead New England in policy innovation when the Connecticut Green Bank began the state’s commercial PACE program. We’re highly encouraged that legislators in Hartford are once again finding pragmatic, bipartisan solutions to boost our economy and create living wage jobs. They should waste no time moving this win-win-win residential PACE legislation to Governor Malloy’s desk. Connecticut’s contractors, tradesmen, solar installers and other home improvement professionals are ready get to work.


Joseph DeFusco is president of the Connecticut Heating and Cooling Contractors Association.


Originally published in the New Haven Register: