GarCo open to state’s energy loan program |

GarCo open to state’s energy loan program

Garfield County has tentatively agreed to opt into a state program that provides loans for commercial property owners and businesses to make water and energy efficiency upgrades, or install renewable energy systems.

The Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or CoPACE, program was created by special legislation passed in 2013 and is administered by the Colorado Energy Office.

Individual counties can now opt into the program, which allows businesses to obtain long-term, low-interest loans for a variety of energy- and water-saving improvements. The loans are paid back by a voluntary special assessment on the owner’s property tax bill.

Paul Scharfenberger, director of finance and operations for the state Energy Office, explained to Garfield County commissioners earlier this week that the key to making the program successful statewide is to obtain county buy-in.

Qualified businesses and property owners can’t take advantage of the loan program until their local county opts in and agrees to have their county treasurer and assessor administer the assessments and tax collection.

“We see this as a valuable economic development benefit for the counties that participate,” Scharfenberger said.

County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky agreed.

“I know for a fact that there are companies in Garfield County that would move forward with some projects if this were made available,” Jankovsky said. “It does create jobs in that sector … and it’s one way to help small businesses do some improvements.”

The program is open to commercial property owners and owners of multi-family residential properties who manage at least five units.

It can be used for retrofits of existing buildings or certain types of new construction. Qualifying projects include energy efficient lighting, insulation upgrades, window glazing, solar installations, co-generation systems, water conservation measures, and heating/cooling/ventilation system upgrades.

Without the state-sponsored loan program, it can be difficult for property owners to obtain attractive loan terms for these types of projects, Scharfenberger said.

“This allows the private sector to use the public infrastructure to make it happen,” he said. “It’s still very much a private transaction … not a public handout.”

Commissioners agreed on a 2-1 vote at their Oct. 12 meeting to pursue an agreement with the state to enter the program.

Commission Chairman John Martin cast the dissenting vote, citing his oft-stated philosophical opposition to government involvement as a “middle man” in the private sector and what could end up being an “unfunded mandate” from the state.

Jankovsky agreed that it might be difficult in some cases for property owners to get permission from their mortgage holders to be able to take out the loans and carry that liability.

“If they default, then it does go to the first lien holder,” he said. “I still think it fills a need … and it’s something that’s not available to businesses right now.”

Scharfenberger said he anticipates a “soft launch” later this month, and the program will begin taking applications across the state in November. Locally, Carbondale-based Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) would help facilitate the program.

CoPACE is not open to residential property owners, although it could be expanded in the future, Scharfenberger said. CLEER has administered a small loan program for residential property owners in Garfield County to do energy upgrades, but the program is now tapped out.

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