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Horrigan intends to sign law to establish energy loan program

MAYVILLE –The framework to an energy loan program will be established in Chautauqua County.

In moving the county to a Clean Energy Community designation, County Executive Vince Horrigan said during a Monday public hearing that he intends to sign a law to allow state financing for energy efficiency upgrades. The County Legislature gave its approval last month.

Commercial properties and multi-family homes would be eligible for 100 percent financing through Energize NY Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), which works in conjunction with NYSERDA.

The law allowing financing for upgrades is one of four high impact actions the county must undertake to achieve a Clean Energy Community designation from the state. Some other actions listed by NYSERDA include annual reporting of energy use in local government buildings, achieving 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and installing electric vehicle charging stations.

Through the clean energy designation, the county is eligible to apply for grants to fund their own clean energy projects. Clean Energy Communities coordinators will also be made available to help local officials develop and prioritize clean energy goals.

As for the financing program, Horrigan said it’s another tool for businesses that want to be part of clean energy.

“It will be interesting to see how many come forward to take advantage of this,” he said.

Bob Reuther, owner of White Oak Power, was the only resident to attend the public hearing. As a contractor who works on energy upgrades, he said he’s in favor of the program.

“I hope Chautauqua County officials see this as the beginning of the process to energy efficiency and investing in sustainability,” he said. “I hope this passage isn’t the end to the process.”

Several municipalities in Chautauqua County are designated as Clean Energy Communities. They include the towns of Busti, Ellicott and Kiantone and villages of Lakewood, Falconer and Westfield. The town of Conewango in Cattaraugus County is also a Clean Energy Community.

As for financing energy upgrades, the Energy Improvement Corporation, a regional development group that’s focused on energy efficiency, would act on behalf of the county to help qualified property owners finance projects. Financing provided to qualified owners would be paid back through a special charge on their real property tax bills.

Funds provided to a qualified property owner would not exceed the lesser of 10 percent of the property’s appraised value. Those who apply for financing are vetted to ensure they have paid their property taxes, are in good credit and haven’t gone bankrupt in the past seven years.

Legislator Mark Odell, R-Brocton, brought the energy law forward after meeting with the county Energy Subcommittee and attending the Clean Energy Community Convention in Utica last year. He said the designation is something the county can embrace not just from a stewardship side, but also from a financial standpoint.

“This is a good first step,” Odell said. “Just the way the program works really ensures success with NYSERDA coming in and examining all the possible upgrades to the pre- and post-inspections that go on.”

Some action items being examined by the county include the installation of vehicle charging stations, benchmarking county buildings and engaging in a solar campaign.

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