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Mike Stark Reports: How The Energy Industry Killed The PACE Program

Mike Stark has an investigative piece on how the coal and oil industry used one solar company to run interference for them on funding for residential solar energy. Fascinating, these tricky little devils: The PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy)

Mike Stark has an investigative piece on how the coal and oil industry used one solar company to run interference for them on funding for residential solar energy. Fascinating, these tricky little devils:

The PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program is simple and brilliant: Cities borrow money using their credit and then make that money available to homeowners who, in turn, use it to install solar systems and other green technologies. The money given to homeowners is paid back by special assessments on their property taxes.

By all accounts, the PACE program is remarkably successful: It’s been adopted by 23 states and the District of Columbia. It creates jobs, lowers utility bills for homeowners, cuts pollution and easily transfers to new homeowners when homes change hands.

It also holds promise for enabling the rapid scaling of home solar panel installation across America, which lags far behind Germany, the world’s solar leader, despite the fact that Germany has the sunshine equivalent of Alaska. PACE could make an enormous contribution to cleaning up America’s energy supply. And that created some enemies for the PACE program.

Utility companies saw a future hit to their bottom lines; so did the coal industry, which supplies 50 percent of fuel we now use in this country. Their reaction? Sic their lobbyists on any politician that’d take their dirty money and help them tank the PACE program.

The issue came to a head this year when the country’s biggest lenders decided to change their rules in the middle of the game. To the extreme surprise and dismay of the environmental and solar energy communities, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, ostensibly private corporations, but nonetheless two of the largest recipients of government (taxpayer) largesse, decided that homeowner participants in the PACE program were in default on their mortgages (as if Fannie and Freddie needed even more foreclosures on their hands). Moreover, so long as existing PACE liens persist, Fannie and Freddie will not allow homeowners to refinance their mortgages. The legal terrain is murky, but the nut of the argument is that because the PACE liens assume a higher priority than mortgage notes, Fannie and Freddie are unjustifiably put at risk and must take steps to protect themselves.

After Fannie and Freddie changed their rules, Congress and the White House got involved. Several rounds of negotiation followed. According to Cliff Staton, a Vice President at Renewable Funding, Fannie and Freddie were ultimately offered a full government guarantee against any loss whatsoever from PACE liens.

Fannie and Freddie declined; they broke off negotiations and walked away from the table.

Go read the rest. It's really important that voters understand just how thoroughly corrupted by corporate interests our government has become, and just how all-pervasive the tactics they use to attack anything that means real progress for anything other than their own bottom line.

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