Commercial energy plan sends the town a check

The Board of Selectmen recently approved a memorandum of understanding between the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), and the Town of Wilton with regard to the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy program (C-PACE).

This memorandum allows the town to accept funds from CEFIA to cover any costs associated with marketing the C-PACE plan to owners of commercial buildings in town. This is a significant step in the C-PACE process.

Bruce Hampson is the chairman of the Wilton Energy Commission. He said, “Part of our agreement with CEFIA is to market C-PACE to the business and commercial community, to show the benefits, and the means by which they can upgrade.”

CEFIA, Mr. Hampson said, has agreed to provide $7,000 to the town for its marketing plan. A first-time payment of $4,500 has been received.

In order to earn these funds from CEFIA, the town was required to design a suitable marketing campaign intended to raise building owner awareness of the program.

“We have created a marketing plan that will be an outreach to the major commercial owners in Wilton,” Mr. Hampson said. These properties will include “shopping centers, nursing homes, and any other big consumers of energy.”

Two hundred buildings are eligible to take part in this program, according to the Wilton Energy Commission.

The program allows property owners to access upfront funding for all energy improvement costs and to repay that investment through a benefit assessment charge on their property tax bill.

The marketing plan, Mr. Hampson said, will include a few different strategies aimed at increasing the awareness of this program.

“It will involve a mailing from the first selectman to target firms, some workshops, and maybe even a breakfast or luncheon with representatives of CEFIA to let them know what is available and how they can finance upgrades.”

That assessment is similar to other types of assessments, such as a sewer tax assessment, and the capital provided under the C-PACE program is secured by a lien on the owner’s property tax bill and paid over time. The repayment obligation transfers automatically to the next owner if the property is sold.

In addition, under typical leases, C-PACE payments as well as energy savings can be passed along to tenants.

Benefit assessments repaid through the property tax bill are intended as an operating expense, meaning owners may finance improvements while preserving capital and credit lines for core business investments.

Energy upgrades made under the program must lower energy consumption within the building or enable the building to produce clean energy. Typical undertakings would be installation of

• High-efficiency lighting;

• Heating, ventilation, air conditioning upgrades and controls;

• Building envelope improvements;

• Energy management systems;

• High-efficiency chillers, boilers, furnaces, and water heating systems;

• Renewable energy systems such as solar and fuel cells.

Energy savings are verified through a third-party technical review process.

The program also requires projects to be cash-flow positive. Financing is structured so energy savings more than offset the additional property tax assessment. Deeper energy upgrades and related capital improvements are possible because the assessment is up to 20 years.

As an example of how the program is being used, a shopping plaza at 542 Westport Avenue in Norwalk financed a $285,000 lighting upgrade through C-PACE. The project is expected to reduce electricity costs by $17,500 per year. According to C-PACE, the shopping center owners also plan to use financing from the program to install a 100-kilowatt solar project at the site.

—Jeannette Ross also contributed to this story.