County commissioners approved at Monday's Board of County Commissioners meeting a resolution allowing for execution of a participation agreement with the Colorado Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy program.

C-PACE was formed under the Colorado New Energy Improvement District and allows building owners and property developers to finance installation of clean energy and water conservation solutions.

"C-PACE is for commercial buildings," said Economic Development Coordinator Danelle Berg. "Whatever they do to the building must reduce utilities costs, whether that's electric, or gas or water. It can also be a housing unit of five units or more. ... This can be things like energy-efficient windows, rooftop solar or a solar garden, it can be water conservation, it can be natural gas savings, all of those types of things."

C-PACE sources funds from outside financiers, who fund up to 100 percent of the cost of clean energy and water conservation projects, Berg said at Monday's meeting.

The program currently has 29 financiers, most of whom are community banks and credit unions, according to C-PACE Director Tracy Phillips.

"The model that we have here in Colorado is fairly new to the PACE world,  in which it's open to any private capital provider," said Phillips. "So any financial institution can provide financing in Colorado. What that's meant is that we now have 29 capital providers in the program."

Historically, finance entities such as community banks have not funded other PACE program projects across the country, Phillips explained. They would primarily fund large building projects in densely populated city regions.

But with C-PACE's ability to source funds from any capital provider, banks and credit unions are capable of funding projects of smaller scope in rural communities such as Otero County.

Twenty-three counties, including Otero, have opted into C-PACE since its first project began in 2013. Recently, the program has exploded with activity.

"Last year the program saw about a 450 percent increase in terms of project volume," said Phillips. "This year I anticipate, just looking at what we have in the pipeline now, it'll probably be even four times larger than it was last year."

According to C-PACE's website, the clean energy program financed $16,970,854.97 in the first quarter of 2018. Compare that to the first quarter of 2019, where C-PACE financed $34,449,502.61.

C-PACE started out on the western slope, Phillips said. Montrose, Delta County and Ouray were some of the first to have projects successfully funded through the program. Phillips is excited that the program is finally expanding eastward.

"It's tremendous. I'm looking forward to working with Danelle, sort of figuring out how to get the word out, how to market C-PACE," said Phillips. "We've already got a few projects that look like they're potential candidates in Otero County, so hopefully we'll hit the ground running."

"I'm very, very happy that the Otero County commissioners are looking at C-PACE," said Steve Cordova of Total Concept/Tri-County Housing, Inc. "Again, as Danelle had mentioned, this is the furthest, most east county participating or looking to participate in the program. The other one is, I believe, Morgan County, and we're still just a little further east than them."

Cordova is excited for C-PACE, but he's already looking forward to future PACE programs on the residential side. He urged commissioners to consider implementing R-PACE in addition to C-PACE.

"R-PACE is also part of the larger PACE program," he said. "I believe that we would really, really benefit as a community, as a county, in R-PACE as well. This is residential rather than commercial, but we need this for everybody."

Commissioner Keith Goodwin told Cordova that he would need more information on R-PACE before he could commit further. The commissioners approved Resolution 2019-06 allowing the signature of the C-PACE participation agreement, and commissioners also signed the agreement itself.

Cordova asked when the agreement would take effect, as he would like to get started implementing it as soon as he can. The agreement will be sent to the New Energy Improvement District, Berg said. She wasn't sure what the timeline or process was like from there but said she would inform Cordova and the commissioners when she learned more.