PFM Managing Director Laura Franke Recognized by National Association of Counties for Innovative Clean Energy Financing Program

Laura Franke, a Managing Director for PFM’s financial advisory business, has been recognized by the National Association of Counties for her expertise in an innovative financing mechanism for clean energy projects. The organization awarded a 2017 Achievement Award to the PFM Managing Director for her work on the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program (C-PACE) for Montgomery County, Maryland.  

 

Franke established the implementation plan that has permitted the Maryland County to provide funding for C-PACE without having to use any of its own money.

 

C-PACE allows commercial building owners to finance energy efficiency and clean energy improvements through an assessment added onto their property tax bill. Property owners pay for the retrofits over time, typically 10-20 years, and the repayment obligation transfers automatically to the next owner if the property is sold. Capital provided under the C-PACE program is secured by a lien on the property, so low-interest capital can be raised from the private sector.

 

“We understand the municipal actor’s role and how they can access capital in the marketplace based on traditional municipal finance.  This understanding helps us develop financing structures that are appealing to unique PACE investors, as well as aligned with the state’s authorizing legislation,” Franke says. “Our goal is to create a financing structure that will facilitate private investment capital to flow into the local market. We do that by implementing an open market structure that allows property owners to participate through a standardized approval and underwriting process for a variety of different projects and property types.”

 

Clean energy projects and improvements might include solar installation, computerized energy management systems, upgraded energy efficient heating and air conditioning units, LED lighting, windows, doors or almost anything that reduces energy consumption.

 

“The county or regional jurisdiction puts a team into place that identifies projects, accepts applications and provides improvements’ funding either directly or through ‘open market’ investors. Payments on the obligation are paid back in installments with the property tax bill,” Franke said. 

 

The debt on the property tax bill typically allows the property owner to pass the monetary obligation to the tenant, which incentivizes property owners to make these improvements.

 

“If property owners get a traditional loan directly, then they can’t pass the cost of the loan obligation to the tenants. But if the repayment is part of their property tax bill, most tenant leases allow tax bill items to be passed through. This program links the benefits of lower energy costs and improved facilities that the tenants receive with payments made to repay the obligation. In effect tenants are footing the repayment, but they’re also paying less in energy costs each month,” Franke explained. “It also allows the property owners to keep their capital available for other building projects, so it’s a way for them to stretch their capital budget further than they might otherwise be able to.”

 

PFM’ s financial advisory business often works with state or regional agencies in C-PACE programs. This way, a standard program can be deployed across a wide region, which ultimately attracts more investors than a program that is solely for a county or city. Montgomery County, Maryland was an exception to this model and is widely recognized for their leadership while launching the first C-PACE program in the State.  

The C-PACE program is currently authorized in more than 30 states.

 

Laura Franke can be contacted at frankel@pfm.com.

 

About PFM

At PFM, over 600 employees - asset managers, financial advisors and consultants - partner with clients in every region of the country to transform their world. We combine superior financial advice, disciplined management and ingenuity to build, power, move and educate.

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