Interest in energy efficiency for buildings and adding renewable energy, like solar, has been growing in recent years in southwest Minnesota. Now, financing for these energy efficiency projects has become even more affordable through a financing tool called PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy).
Available to commercial and agri-businesses, the Rural Minnesota Energy Board’s PACE program provides project financing that is repaid as a special assessment on property taxes. PACE eliminates the burden of upfront costs by providing low-cost, long-term financing with interest rates now as low as 3%. PACE is designed so that the increase in property taxes is offset by the decrease in energy costs so that the business sees either no change or a cost savings in their bottom line.
Businesses like the Blue Line Travel Center in Worthington, a 24-hour one-stop rest center with gas/diesel, a full restaurant, drivers’ lounge, truck scale, deli, bakery, and private showers, saw a 62.5% reduction in energy costs ($44,596 in annual savings) from updating their outdoor lighting to energy efficient LEDs. Blue Line’s outdoor lighting project with PACE was so successful that they furthered their energy savings by making interior modifications to improve the customer and employee experience.
Culligan Water in Worthington also used PACE to fund a roof insulation project and improve lighting. “When you get an old building like this,” owner Nathan Holt explained, “so much of your money is leaking out of the roof or walls because of wasted energy, poor insulation, and old lighting.” Holt didn’t stop investing in energy efficiency at his business after completing the PACE-financed roof project. He has continued working in stages on lighting upgrades. “Business has been good and we’re saving energy. Little by little and as we can afford them, we’ve been able to utilize the money we’ve saved to reinvest in the business and other upgrades in our building” says Holt. The numerous energy efficiency projects have had a noticeable and positive impact on the Culligan building’s energy use and operating costs year round, with an annual savings of $1,655.
To date, the RMEB PACE program has helped 31 businesses finance clean energy projects across southern Minnesota. Potential building improvements that can be financed with PACE include, but are not limited to, LED lighting, improved heating/cooling, enhanced insulation, new windows, new refrigeration, and solar.
RMEB’s PACE program is available to businesses in the 18 Rural Minnesota Energy Board (RMEB) member counties, including Blue Earth, Brown, Cottonwood, Faribault, Freeborn, Jackson, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Renville, Rock, and Watonwan. PACE is administered by the Southwest Regional Development Commission.
The Rural Minnesota Energy Board (RMEB), formed in 2004, is a Joint Powers of 18 counties in southern Minnesota active in working together to resolve energy related issues, including renewable energy, transmission issues, and the barriers to local wind energy generation and development. RMEB is committed to cooperating in a joint venture to provide the greatest public service benefit possible for the 18 county area encompassed by the counties in policy, planning, management, and implementation of methods to deal with energy and transmission in rural Minnesota. Find out more at www.rmeb.org.