New state programs aim to slash costs for office energy, environment upgrades

Daniel J. Munoz//August 25, 2021

New state programs aim to slash costs for office energy, environment upgrades

Daniel J. Munoz//August 25, 2021

A duo of bills Gov. Phil Murphy signed on Aug. 24 aim for the state to help with costs for businesses to upgrade their plumbing and ventilation systems, and transition their brick and mortar establishments to clean energy.

The first measure – Senate Bill 3995 – sets aside $180 million of federal aid from the American Rescue Plan for schools and small businesses to use to upgrade their ventilation and water systems. Twenty-five percent of the funds will go toward women and minority-owned businesses, and the rest toward schools. Applications will go live on Oct. 1 and grants would need to be approved by Dec. 1.

Joseph Fiordaliso, president, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

“In too many cases outdated energy infrastructure is not only expensive, it can also create an unhealthy indoor environment, particularly during the COVID pandemic,” reads a statement from Joe Fiordaliso, head of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, which is overseeing the program.

‘The most popular energy efficiency program you haven’t heard of’

Under a second measure Murphy approved, New Jersey will be the 27th state offering a program to field the costs for commercial property owners to install water, clean energy and storm resiliency projects.

This form of financing is called the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or C-PACE. Assembly Bill 2374, which Murphy signed on Aug. 24, establishes such a program and puts it under the auspices of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

C-PACE financing allows property owners to get financing for projects such as water conservation, more efficient heating and cooling systems, microgrids, hurricane and flood-resistant construction, electric vehicle charging and energy storage. The Energy Efficiency Alliance of New Jersey trade association estimates that C-PACE’s have financed $1.5 billion in these types of upgrades across the country.

“C-PACE is the most popular energy efficiency program you haven’t heard of,” reads a statement from Doug O’Malley, who heads the advocacy group Environment New Jersey. “It will make a huge impact to turbocharge green financing for energy efficiency investments.”

The property owner would pay back the costs over 30 years through an added surcharge on their annual property tax bill, and much lower interest rates.

Tim Sullivan, CEO, New Jersey Economic Development Authority

Tim Sullivan, who heads the NJEDA, said the program is written in a way to help businesses, nonprofits and multifamily residential developers and property owners “overcome the financial hurdles” with many of these upgrades, and “reduce the financial burden of making these critical investments by alleviating upfront costs and lowering debt service payments.”

Under the law, the program is geared toward commercial, industrial, agricultural and multi-tenant residential units. Nonprofits like hospitals, schools, universities and religious buildings are also eligible.

“Establishing a C-PACE program in New Jersey is a decision that will lead to more businesses and landlords embracing renewable energy, climate resiliency technology, and other clean energy measures that improve our communities while saving money for New Jerseyans,” Murphy said.