New Lake County program will help businesses go green

Lake County is set to launch a new program regarded as an innovative way for businesses to finance a variety of energy efficiency and related projects.

The Lake County Board recently established the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy program, or C-PACE, to finance the acquisition, construction, installation or modification of energy projects.

In the Chicago area, Lake County joins McHenry, Kane, DuPage, Cook and Kankakee counties offering the program. Lake County plans to market the program and provide details, including how eligible property owners can apply, in January.

The nonprofit Illinois Energy Conservation Authority, which will administer the program.

State law enacted in 2017 authorizes local governments in Illinois to develop and administer C-PACE programs, which can include providing an avenue for building owners to save energy and money, creating clean energy jobs, upgrading or repurposing existing buildings, boosting the local economy, and providing an alternative incentive to tax abatement or other strategies to attract new business.

Program supporters say it helps commercial property owners install energy-saving devices to save money immediately.

The term of the financing may extend through the useful life of the improvement, which could be up to 30 years. That means cost savings as a result of the projects could exceed the amount financed.

Eligible property owners can get 100% upfront financing from private capital providers for improvements such as HVAC, lighting and solar photovoltaic systems for existing buildings or new construction projects.

Lake County will act as a conduit for the funding by issuing non-general obligation bonds as the source of capital. A provider makes the money available to property owners to finance certain energy-related improvements.

The financed amount is secured by a special assessment lien on the property and repaid as a line item on the individual property tax bill. The assessment sticks with the property until the amount provided is paid off. Lake County will collect the money and pays it to the capital provider.

Residential properties aren't eligible.

The Lake County Board's energy and environment committee passed a resolution to establish a C-PACE program two years ago. After delays due to the pandemic, the Illinois Energy Conservation Authority was selected as the program administrator. The county board authorized the program Dec. 14.

"This is a great first step for businesses (that) want to do energy improvements," county board and energy and environment committee member John Wasik of Grayslake said.

How Lake County will encourage energy-efficient projects

C-PACE energy program expands to Winnebago County

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