By Roy L Hales
People are taking note of Figtree PACE. During the past year, the San Diego based financial company has doubled in size. They are now operating in 50 Californian cities and counties. That is about to increase. Figtree has partnered with a large New York-based financial institution for up to $60 million in committed capital to fund commercial PACE energy upgrades. That money enabled Figtree to offer potential customers OnDemandPACE™, a brand-new program designed to reduce the cost of financing and allow programs to be structured in as little as 15 days.
“Figtree is the first private program to bring committed capital financing to commercial PACE projects,” said Mahesh Shah, CEO, Figtree Financing. “This capital will support proven demand for energy upgrades, ultimately driving Figtree’s offering to a national product and platform that gives property owners access to the capital they both want and need.”
Getting financing for 50 to 250 kW solar systems ($100,000 to $500,000), can be very difficult. Most financial institutions have strict credit underwriting guidelines and businesses with less than $30 million might not qualify. Even if they do, the amortization is usually only 7 to 10 years and the payments can be higher than energy savings.
When moving into larger projects (>$500,000) where PACE is competing with other financing alternatives it can still be the best option for the property owner because PACE is the only long term purchase financing option available.
PACE offers 100% financing, at a low fixed rate with no money down, that is paid back through annual property taxes over a twenty year period. Customers using PACE to install solar panels usually experience an immediate positive cash flow, especially if they take advantage of the 30% Federal ITC, local rebates, and system depreciation.
The goal of PACE projects is to improve properties and reduce costs for owners. Figtree works with large national banks, community banks and insurance companies, showing them the added value that the prospective renovations would bring. According to PACENow.org, more than 80 financial institutions have granted consent for commercial PACE financing and this number continues to grow.
A two story industrial building in Chico, CA, obtained a $22,732 reduction in their annual energy bill through Figtree. The ownerwas looking for ways to conserve energy and reduce the overhead on a medical supply company. A local solar installer, Alternative Energy Systems, directed him to Figtree PACE. The property owner’s lender saw the value of these renovations and was amenable to letting Figtee be placed as the senior lien on the property. So the property owner took out a 20 year loan, with Figtree PACE and now there is a solar array with 77.74 kW DC on his roof.
A manufacturing and metal working company, in Fresno CA, replaced some dated equipment and reduced their annual energy bill by an estimated 15%. Again, a local contractor referred the owner to Figtree and Pacific’s lender recognized the value of the improvements to the property.
“I chose Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing because it enabled us to make improvements to our facilities with no money down,” the owner said. “Overall, we were able to get new equipment with little impact to our operating income.”
Another Fresno customer owns three premier office buildings. Some of the towns best known legal firms, financial institutions, insurance brokers and a real estate firm are his tenants. He needed upgrades for the lighting and roof, as well as improving the buildings overall performance. Fryer Roofing suggested he install a single ply PVC roofing membrane to help lower cooling costs. Another contractor upgraded the electrical. Though the total bill was $418,830, it is still difficult to finance through normal means. Figtree PACE gave them a 20 year loan and as a result those three buildings obtained an estimated 22% energy savings from the lighting upgrade and 15% energy savings from the cool roofing.
PACE is invaluable for many renovations that fall into the “small to medium” (-$500,000) category and a good option for larger property owners who wants the system to pay for itself.
“Pace offers a valuable option for companies that need credit, but find it difficult to meet the normal criteria,” said Jackie Pitera of Borrego Solar. “Figtree offers 100% financing based on property taxes, rather than income, for up to 20% of the property’s value and at low interest. That is a very attractive package.”
Borrego Solar is one of America’s premier solar companies, with offices in four states and projects that are usually worth more than $500,000. Yet it is often difficult for some of their customers to obtain leases or Power Purchase Agreements.
“There are jobs that would not get done if it were not for Figtree PACE,” said Mark Johnson of Baker Electric. “Solar is always a good investment, but some property owners hesitate when it comes to using traditional financing because they would be cash flow negative for a few years. That does not happen with Figtree PACE’s twenty-year financing. You experience a reduction in energy costs from year one.”
“It is also good for property owners who are not sure where they will be in five years, because Figtree’s lien is attached to the property and transfers to the new owner if there is a sale,” he added.
Baker Electric is one of California’s leading solar companies and currently working with Figtree on several projects.
“We have high expectations of Figtree PACE,” Johnson said.
With their new OnDemandPACE program, Figtree has even more flexibility to provide a lower total cost of financing and eliminate delays and bottlenecks so that property owners get their money quickly.
Figtree’s OnDemandPACE financing is available for commercial, industrial, office, retail, agriculture, and multifamily properties of five or more units.
Through the Registered Contractor program, Figtree offers training, and customer engagement support services to help contractors sell PACE financing more effectively; and helps property owners with project analysis and obtaining mortgage lender consent.