Legislature Adopts Law to Help Commercial Properties Cut Energy Use, Greenhouse Gasses, Boost Green Jobs

Real Estate In-Depth | June 2019

Rockland County Legislator Lon Hofstein

NEW CITY—The Rockland County Legislature announced earlier this month it had adopted a new law creating a loan program that allows businesses to finance projects that reduce energy use, along with greenhouse gases and emissions, while also boosting a clean-energy economy.

Legislators voted 16-0 to adopt the law, whose main sponsor was Legislator Lon Hofstein. It has been sent to the County Executive, who has until June 26 to sign it, veto it or take no action, allowing it to automatically become law.

“Property owners are more focused today on energy and water conservation,” Legislator Hofstein said. “This program will enable them to acquire equipment that is more energy efficient. Upgrading old equipment will assist in reducing energy consumption, while renewables replace fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse emissions.”

The new law is called the Energize NY Open C-PACE Financing Program. It is a statewide program, but local municipalities must opt into the program through the adoption of a law.

Rockland County Executive Day is expected to sign the bill into law. He recently told the Rockland County Business Journal, ““I am pleased to support the sustainable energy loan program, through the Energy Improvement Corporation, that will assist organizations in their energy efficiency and renewable energy goals at no cost to local taxpayers. The program aligns Rockland County with the region in recognizing the potential environmental benefits and positive economic impact.”

The Environmental Improvement Corporation, a statewide non-profit organization, is the actual administrator of the program on behalf of the municipalities, including Rockland County. The EIC specifically works to assist municipalities and commercial property owners with improving buildings by lowering energy costs, generating renewable energy and supporting the growth of a clean-energy economy.

Projects can include the installation of solar panels, windows, LED lighting, insulation, HVAC systems, refrigeration and other appliances, hot water heaters and ground or air source heat pumps.

Under the Open C-PACE program, a property owner opts to pay for energy improvements by allowing the municipality where the property is located to add a special assessment to the property for that purpose. The assessment, known as a benefit assessment lien, is repayable in equal annual installments.

Up to 100% of funding is available for the project and if ownership of the property changes, the lien automatically transfers to the new owner who continues payments on the loan.

“Business owners continuously face the dilemma of whether or not to take on the financial burden of upgrading and purchasing new equipment,” Legislator Hofstein said. “Added concern is that the property owner will be libel for the financed equipment subsequent to selling the property. Under the PACE program, the balance remaining on the equipment financing will be transferred to the new owner.”

Businesses must apply to the program, which determines whether the projects sought by the property owner qualify. Private financing is available through EIC-approved capital providers.

The EIC will record the lien, bill the property owner, and administer collection of the payment, so there is no cost to the county for the program, Hofstein said.