Anchorage Skyline.
A view of the Anchorage skyline.
Photo by Frank Flavin. Courtesy of Visit Anchorage.

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) State Energy Program (SEP) issued an award to the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) in order to help local governments establish Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) programs. C-PACE programs are an innovative, long-term financing method that makes clean-energy investments for commercial buildings more affordable and easier to obtain.

The upfront capital costs of installing renewable energy and energy efficiency measures can be a major barrier for commercial building owners interested in realizing the long-term cost savings and other benefits of these technologies. To solve this problem, many states have enacted legislation enabling C-PACE programs, in which building owners borrow money for energy efficiency, renewable energy, or other projects and make repayments via an assessment on their property tax bill.

In 2016, the AEA helped usher C-PACE financing authorization through the state legislative process. In 2017, Alaska successfully passed legislation (AS 29.55.100) authorizing local governments to create C-PACE programs. On Nov. 4, 2020, in a unanimous vote of 10–0, the Municipality of Anchorage established the first active C-PACE program in Alaska by passing Ordinance No. AO 2020-115.

With the support of the competitive award of $300,000 in SEP funds, AEA aims to set up at least three active C-PACE programs and assist in the deployment of a state-wide C-PACE program administrator. This new program will be instrumental in Alaska's effort to make its building sector carbon neutral, a key priority of DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

Currently, AEA and its project partners are engaging local governments and stakeholders across Alaska in C-PACE implementation strategies. Their initiatives include designing uniform program parameters, drafting, and moving C-PACE programs through the local ordinance process, and building the framework for the role of the statewide C-PACE Program Administrator.

The passage of Alaska's first C-PACE ordinance is pivotal for economic recovery. Shaina Kilcoyne, energy and sustainability manager for the Municipality of Anchorage, states:

"Anchorage is eager to spur clean energy projects through the newly enabled C-PACE. At a time when jobs and economic development are key to recovering from the pandemic, this tool will make it easier to finance projects, put people to work, save money for our businesses, and bring us closer to our carbon reduction goals set in the Anchorage Climate Action Plan."

For its part, AEA looks forward to the full and successful implementation of its C-PACE efforts across Alaska, and DOE stands ready to help through the terms of the SEP award.

DOE's State Energy Program provides funding and technical assistance to states, territories, and the District of Columbia to enhance energy security, advance state-led energy initiatives, and maximize the benefits of decreasing energy waste. The State Energy Program emphasizes the state's role as the decision maker and administrator for program activities within the state that are tailored to their unique resources, delivery capacity, and energy goals.