Pete Klein, vice president of finance for the St. Paul Port Authority

Program helps fund energy improvements

Staff Writer
Ken Francis
Some property owners in Sherburne County will now be able to get funding to invest in energy-saving improvements to their properties.
Tuesday, the Sherburne County Board voted unanimously to enter into a joint powers agreement with the St. Paul Port Authority to administer the PACE program in the county.
PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy, is a program that allows property owners to borrow money to finance energy retrofits (efficency and renewable energy measures) and repay the loan through an annual special tax on their property bill.
Pete Klein, vice-president of finance for the St. Paul Port Authority, said the program eliminates the up-front cost barrier that often prevents property owners from investing in renewable energy. 
He said PACE has funding guaranteed under a $10 million bond. Property owners who want to make qualified improvements, acquisitions or construction can borrow money at a lower interest rate and pay it back in the form of special assessments on their properties.
“In your community there’s a lot of farming interests that want to put in solar installations,” he told members of the board. “We think that this program would be a very successful financing tool to fund those projects.”
The program is already active in other areas of the state. The cities of Eagan, Eden Prairie and Minneapolis have signed joint powers agreements. Sherburne County is the first county to sign an agreement.
“The reason we came to Sherburne County is there were a half dozen potential projects by one owner,” said Klein.  “That individual was looking at putting solar on six different buildings in three different communities.”
The program is strictly voluntary. Property owners would propose a project, request the loan and assessment. There is no public money or county money involved.
“Every project that would go forward in the county would have to come to you to place that special assessment on the properties,” said Klein.
Sherburne County Assessor Dan Weber said the program has support from most of the cities in the county.


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