Florida Supreme Court Ruling: Municipalities To Issue Bonds Funding Green Energy
A Florida Supreme Court ruling the first week of October is a fine affirmation for commercial property owners in Florida looking to green their properties. More aptly, it is a win for all, as it is a considerable victory for the environment in the Sunshine State. Good for business — excellent. Good for energy efficiency — beautiful. And terrific for the environment of Florida — superb.
From Tallahassee, PRNewswire shares that the “Florida Supreme Court … will allow Florida municipalities to issue bonds to fund ‘property assessed clean energy’ (PACE) programs.” This means up-front financing for commercial property owners who intend to use green energy or improve efficiency in their buildings.
Elizabeth “Ellie” Neiberger is one of the attorneys representing the winning clean energy interests, along with Leon County Attorney Herbert W.A. Thiele, Susan H. Churuti, and JoLinda L. Herring of Bryant Miller Olive PA; Jon C. Moyle, Jr. and Karen Putnal of Moyle Law Firm; and Assistant State Attorney Georgia Anne Cappleman.
Neiberger continues, “The ruling gives local municipalities bonding authority that can make clean energy projects more financially viable for commercial properties around the state.”
The progress changes what was limited to commercial properties, aiding expansion of PACE programs by allowing local municipalities the bonding authority to pay for them.
The news release points out that the PACE program is one of choice. If commercial property owners wish to take part, they enter financing agreements with a local municipality. They form an agreement to repay the improvement costs over the long term as part of their property tax bills. Meanwhile, the property owner does not assume any personal liability.
“The programs have gained traction around the country over the past four years and are proving to be popular in a number of other states, such as California, Connecticut, and Ohio,” said David Gabrielson. Gabrielson is Executive Director of PACE Now, a nonprofit that serves as an advocate and information provider for PACE financing.
“The decision on Oct. 1 was the outcome of an appeal of a bond validation judgment in the Leon County Energy Improvement District’s favor,” a press release stated. “The District has been seeking the authority to issue $200 million in bonds to fund a PACE program, and appeals of validation hearing judgments go directly to the Florida Supreme Court.”
“There will be significant demand for this financing, with the need to make older buildings more energy-efficient,” Dean Minardi, CFO of Bing Energy International, said. “Because the return on investment of green energy is longer-term, many traditional lenders don’t want to finance such projects. Having access to this fund is a game changer.”
Around the state, the Florida Supreme Court’s decision is a vitalizing step to furthering the state’s energy conservation goals, as outlined in Florida Statute. “By enabling Leon County with this type of bonding authority, we can now help developments and buildings become more energy-efficient,” Leon County Attorney Herb Thiele said. “This is good for business, good for government, and good for the environment.”
The case, for the record, was Reynolds v. Leon County Energy Improvement District et al., case number SC14-710 in the Supreme Court of Florida.
CleanTechnica director Zach Shahan pointed out when PACE first came to Florida that PACE financing is one of the best ways to increase solar power adoption to date. Continuing, Zach explained, “The new Florida Green Energy Works program that offers this commercial PACE financing is also open to other cities and counties in Florida, so I hope we’ll see more announcements about municipalities adopting it soon.”
It is a game changer, a critical new option in terms of energy, business, and policy. We are happy to have it in Florida.