When you hear the words “energy efficiency” it may conjure an image of turning off lights earlier than desired, not watering your lawn, or otherwise abstaining from usage of power to run your home or business.
While these measures are useful for reducing our energy usage, they are not the end-all-be-all. Instead, when we think of energy efficiency, we think of smarter, cleaner ways to better run our homes and businesses; measures that allow us to continue running on full steam, just in more efficient ways.
North Carolina Building Efficiency
The North Carolina Building Performance Association (NCBPA) defines energy efficiency as: “lower energy usage that saves money and reduces a home or building’s impact on the environment” (NCBPA). Building efficiently is one of the key ways in which North Carolinians cut our energy costs and make our state more competitive for industry and business. Our state has done well by improving the way we build and maintain our structures:
“Energy cost savings for North Carolina resulting from the state updating its commercial and residential building energy codes in accordance with federal law are significant, estimated to be on the order of nearly $490 million annually by 2030.” – Energycodes.gov
Barriers to Building Efficiently
There are numerous low-cost and no-cost energy efficiency measures that can be taken at home or in a commercial space; however, a great deal of building efficiency upgrades and practices are either more financially difficult to implement or are not well-advertised. North Carolinians could increase the rate at which people and organizations embrace energy efficiency by:
- Learning and spreading awareness about efficiency measures;
- Creating pathways to financing.
Improving Building Energy Efficiency
Whether at home or at work, there are a large number of ways to increase energy efficiency. Here are the basics:
- Work on the building’s “shell” (e.g., insulation, roofing, walls, windows, foundation)
- Use LED lights
- Upgrade to Energy Star appliances
- Install programmable thermostats, preferably connected to Wi-Fi
- Utilize renewable energy sources, such as solar
And, for structural upgrades that go beyond the basics above, it is worth reviewing High Performing Buildings and Net Zero Energy Buildings for inspiration. Net zero buildings, according to the Department of Energy, produce sufficient “renewable energy to meet its own annual energy consumption requirements.”
For home and business owners in NC, it is also highly recommended that you request an energy audit from an organization like the Building Performance Institute or join an organization like NCBPA to learn more about how you can improve building performance and energy efficiency. These sources, and many others that we will discuss in a forthcoming article, will give you the information you need to successfully cut down your energy costs and improve your quality of life indoors.
Financing Options for More Energy-Efficient Building
Financial issues can hamper attempts at innovating your building or home. It would be beyond the scope of this article to review all of the financial options available, but herein we will focus on a single important financial initiative that will positively impact North Carolina, if approved. Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing, or “PACE” financing, would prompt a wave of building performance improvements in many more North Carolina homes and commercial spaces.
What is PACE financing?
PACE is an upfront loan to cover building performance upgrades for:
- solar panels
- geothermal heat pumps
- water conservation
- heating and cooling systems
- lighting improvements
- and many other efficiency measures
It can be used to finance improvements to numerous property types:
How does PACE work?
PACE provides a 100% loan to cover the upfront costs of numerous improvements to new and existing residential homes and commercial buildings. Loan terms can vary, but long financing terms can be up to 20 years, and for home owners, loans are granted based on home equity, not credit scores — making the loans more accessible for more people. Importantly, PACE is a local government loan (Department of Energy).
Low interest financing is repaid through property tax assessments that stay with the property for the duration of the loan. It is the same way that we finance things like sewers and sidewalks across America.
Again, PACE stays with property for the duration of the loan; this means that even if the property is sold, PACE financing stays with the property. If you sell your home, for example, the new homeowner will continue paying for the loan, not you.
“PACE financing saves property owners money, creates jobs, promotes economic development and protects the environment, making it a valuable policy tool for state and local governments. Cities and counties also benefit by collecting increased property tax assessments due to the increased property value of the home or building that received the project improvements.” – North Carolina Building Performance Association.
See, for example, how a Senior Retirement Community in Kentucky invested with PACE to make a big difference.
Is PACE available in North Carolina?
NCBPA, along with a coalition of stakeholders, is leading efforts to fully bring PACE financing to our state by 2017. There have been a few legal holdups and awareness of the program is just starting to gain momentum. NCBPA and its partners are currently seeking developers, contractors, policy makers, utilities, nonprofits and others to get more involved. To learn more about PACE, we recommend visiting both NCBPA and PACE Nation.
Here is a brief video courtesy of PACE Nation to further illustrate how PACE works: