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Williamson County Approves New Energy Efficiency Program

by: Brad Stutzman / Austin American-Statesman

Property owners within Williamson County who want to make energy-efficient improvements now have another tool at their disposal through the Property Assessed Clean Energy program.

Commissioners on Tuesday approved county participation in the program, which incoming county Tax Assessor-Collector Larry Gaddes said will not include the county having a direct role in the process.

Gaddes explained the county would act as a liaison between property owners seeking a loan and the entity issuing the loan. The program includes no cost to the county.

During past Commissioners Court meetings and a March 22 public hearing, PACE advocates said property owners have a need for loans toward water- or electrical-efficiency upgrades. Property owners would want to stretch those loans out, so that over time their energy savings will match what they’ve spent on the improvement loans.

Lenders would be more likely to approve these longer-term loans because they will be allowed to have assessments against the property, in case of default.

“In the event that the property owner becomes delinquent, our property tax collection firm will provide collection for that delinquency, just as if they were delinquent on their property taxes,” Gaddes explained. “The lien stays with the property, so the new owner purchasing the property (if it is sold) would have to clear up that lien.”

Speaking at the March 8 Commissioners Court meeting, a representative from Simon Property Group predicted energy upgrades would save up to 1 million gallons of water per year at Lakeline Mall. Simon also owns Round Rock Premium Outlets.

Ed Sayers, from Simon Property Group, had told commissioners he could see his company borrowing $1.5 to $2 million for energy improvements at Lakeline Mall.

“I’m excited,” Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long of Cedar Park said at the April 5 meeting. “I’ve heard other businesses, besides those that were here, want to know more about it.”

In a March 29 press release, the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce expressed support for county government’s participation in PACE.

“Energy efficiency upgrades typically require substantial upfront costs for business owners,” the release states. “With the enactment of PACE, businesses in the county can voluntarily participate in the PACE financing program to help meet their energy conservation goals and achieve savings from day one.”