Displayed below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Click on the “>” icon associated with each question to view the answer.

Renewable Energy Contractors FAQs

What is C-PACE?

RI Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) is a financing program for commercial, industrial, agricultural, non-profit and multifamily (with 5 or more units) properties. C-PACE enables building owners to finance 100% of eligible energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, environmental health and environmental safety improvements with repayment terms consistent with the useful life of the improvements, generally of up to 25 years.

Repayment is facilitated through the municipal property tax assessment process. A voluntary assessment (similar to a sewer district assessment) is placed on the building owner’s property tax or other municipal bill. The assessment is repaid over the financing term (up to 25 years, project dependent) and the annual energy cost savings will, in most cases, exceed the annual assessment payment. As a result such projects are typically cash flow positive in the first year. Because the C-PACE assessment obligation runs with the property, the assessment automatically transfers to the next owner when the property is sold.

Who administers C-PACE?

After a competitive bidding process, the RIIB selected Sustainable Real Estate Solutions, Inc. (SRS) to be the RI C-PACE program administrator.

Which municipalities are participating in C-PACE?

Visit the Participating Municipalities page of this website for a current list of municipalities participating in the C-PACE program. The program administrator can accept applications only from owners with properties located in a municipality that has opted in to the C-PACE program. If you have questions about getting any municipality to join C-PACE email us at info@RI-CPACE.com

Does a contractor need any special licensing or certification?

All contractors should be in compliance with Rhode Island State and local license requirements. In addition, attendance at one of the recurring C-PACE contractor training workshops is required to become a C-PACE registered contractor. There is no charge for attending these sessions. Visit the Events page of this website for a calendar of scheduled workshops.

How do I get started?

C-PACE provides regularly scheduled free training workshops for contractors. Visit the Events page of this website for the upcoming schedule or email us at info@RI-CPACE.com

 

How does the process work?

C-PACE involves multiple steps that include:

  • Contractor training
  • Building selection and prequalification
  • Preliminary project scoping
  • Proposal preparation and review with the owner
  • Project scenario development and optimization
  • Project technical review
  • Financing
  • Construction
  • Commissioning

For more information see the Process Flow Diagrams in the C-PACE Program Guidelines.

How long does it take to prepare a project for submission to C-PACE?

This depends on the complexity of the project.  For single ECM’s it can be a matter of days. For more complex projects that require audits and/or detailed engineering it can be 6 to 8 weeks.

How long does it take to get a project financed after an application is submitted?

Timeframes will be project-specific, and will depend on the number of parties involved with the project, e.g., the contractor, mortgage holder, capital provider, who will establish their own schedules with the building owner to complete their specific project underwriting tasks.  In general, after a project has been approved for financing it takes an average of sixty (60) days to close financing.

Is the construction contract between the Contractor and the Owner?

Yes.

When does a Contractor get compensated?

After a project has been reviewed by the program administrator, approved by the building owner and the mortgage holder (if any), participating capital providers will be offered the opportunity to finance the project. The capital provider selected by the owner will review all the project documentation (provided by the program administrator and the owner), prepare a financing agreement and schedule a closing.  Funds to initiate construction will be disbursed as provided in the financing agreement funds disbursement schedule.

 

What is the Savings-to-Investment Ratio (SIR)?

The SIR is calculated by dividing the projected energy cost savings over the finance term by the total installed cost of the project, including the cost of equipment, installation, and financing.

While the C-PACE Statute does not require any SIR criteria, the program strongly encourages projects with an SIR>1 for the following reasons:

  • Mortgage holders will be more likely to provide consent for projects that show positive cash flow;
  • Capital providers will look favorably on projects that show positive cash flow over their lifetimes;
  • In general, the higher the SIR, the greater the demonstrated environmental benefits of the project, helping to promote the goals for the C-PACE program set forth in the C-PACE Statute.
How are the energy savings calculated for solar-only projects?

A Solar PV Feasibility Study must be prepared for any solar PV project, whether it be solar-only or a multi-ECM project, that includes a solar PV installation. For Multi-ECM projects the contractor providing the non-solar ECMs should refer to the Audit Requirements section of the C-PACE Program Guidelines. The methodology for the projection of savings will be determined during the project development stage. In most cases, an ASHRAE Level I will suffice. For single ECM’s such as a boiler replacement, the required documentation can be less comprehensive; however, it should facilitate an SIR calculation.

As is the case for all new and innovative programs, a learning curve period is expected for firms that haven’t routinely conducted energy audits. To assist such firms, the program administrator will share lessons learned, and provide tools and support services based on experience in other programs to streamline the project submission, review and approval process.  Regardless of the feasibility study and/or audit level, energy use data collection should comply with the ASTM E2797-15 Building Energy Performance Assessment (BEPA) Standard.

 

How many years of utility data do I need to establish the energy use baseline?

Three years of utility data is preferred with a minimum of one year, during which time no major renovations should have taken place.  For more information please email us at: info@RI-CPACE.com

Can roof repair or structural work be financed?

Yes. The costs for such work will be added to the costs of the solar installation. These additional costs will reduce the SIR.

Do the projected energy savings need to be normalized for weather conditions?

Yes. Since the energy savings are projected into the future and future weather conditions are not known, energy savings are projected using average conditions. This projection will create baselines for the status quo (which assumes ECMs have not been installed) and for the projected case (which assumes the recommended ECMs have been installed).

For roof-mounted systems, what is required to confirm a roof will handle the additional load?

All roof-mounted systems require an assessment and sign-off by a roofing contractor and a structural engineer. For more information refer to Renewable Energy Feasibility Study section in the C-PACE Program Guidelines or email us at: info@RI-CPACE.com

Can demand savings be included?

Yes, but they must be directly related to the projected solar energy production.

Can electricity/fuel-cost escalation factors be used that are higher than the published default factors?

The default electricity/fuel-cost escalation factors, based on industry best-practice, should be used. Higher factors will be considered if the contractor submits the rationale for, and the calculations used, to arrive at a different cost escalation factor.  This information will be reviewed with the contractor prior to a final determination.

Can performance degradation factors be used that are lower than the published default factors?

The default system performance degradation factor, based on industry best-practice, should be used. To use a lower factor, the contractor should submit a rationale for, and the calculations used, to arrive at a different performance degradation factor.  This information will be reviewed with the contractor prior to a final determination.

Do I need to have a Letter of Agreement from the utility to take credit for a utility incentive?

Yes.

Who determines the value MACRS?

The value of the MACRS needs to be provided by the prospective owner or his/her accountant.

Can the solar investment tax credit (ITC) include the roof upgrade?

No.

Can a project get financed if the SIR less than 1.0?

Yes, but there are hurdles. First, the owner would have to agree to a proposal that is not cash flow positive. Secondly, the mortgage holder (who has to consent to the PACE assessment) may object. These are issues which should be discussed with the owner and the mortgage holder early in the process to minimize the chances of project failure after resources have been allocated to develop a project.

How do I deal with the inverter warranty over the finance term?

The cost of the inverter (extended) warranty should be included in the cost of the project.

Can I use a different Solar PV electricity production model than PVWatts?

Yes. For more information, refer to the Renewable Energy Feasibility Study section in the C-PACE Program Guidelines or email us at: info@RI-CPACE.com

Can the program administrator help prepare an application?

Yes, the program administrator can and will assist in the preparation of an application, where needed.

Will the program administrator join us in meeting with the building owner?

The program administrator routinely joins contractors in meetings with building owners to present the benefits of C-PACE financing and respond to C-PACE related questions.

Can I use the ITC and MACRS even if I have a utility incentive?

Yes.

What do you consider a reasonable de-rate factor for the Solar PV model?

0.5%.  A proposed de-rate factor that is less than .05% must be supported by data from the system’s manufacturer. In consultation with the solar contractor, any such proposal will be reviewed and either approved, modified or rejected by the program administrator.

What should the commissioning plan include?

The system commissioning plan is intended to confirm the proposed ECMs have been installed according to manufacturers’ guidelines and that the system will perform as expected.  Contractors are required to prepare a Commissioning Report and submit it to the owner and the program administrator. It should include as-built drawings, O&M manuals for each ECM and a narrative that is appropriate for the size and complexity of the project.

Can C-PACE finance a battery energy storage system with the Solar PV system?

Yes.

What can be done to increase an SIR that is less than 1.0?

There are many pieces to the puzzle including both cost, anticipated energy production, the potential use of tax credits, MACRS depreciation and utility incentives. In addition an owner can directly invest in a project to reduce the financed amount and thereby increase the SIR. Each project is unique and the program administrator can model different scenarios to find the optimized scenario that will be most appealing to both the owner and the mortgage holder.

Why does the C-PACE program require the submission of solar system components cut-sheets?

Cut sheets provide a wealth of data from the manufacturer of the solar system equipment.  Cut sheet data, when combined with other project data, included in the Solar Feasibility Study, is used by the program administrator to confirm the project’s eligibility.

Energy Efficiency Contractors FAQs

What is C-PACE?

RI Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) is a financing program for commercial, industrial, agricultural, non-profit and multifamily (with 5 or more units) properties. C-PACE enables building owners to finance 100% of eligible energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, environmental health and environmental safety improvements with repayment terms consistent with the useful life of the improvements, generally of up to 25 years.

Repayment is facilitated through the municipal property tax assessment process. A voluntary assessment (similar to a sewer district assessment) is placed on the building owner’s property tax or other municipal bill. The assessment is repaid over the financing term (up to 25 years, project dependent) and the annual energy cost savings will, in most cases, exceed the annual assessment payment. As a result such projects are typically cash flow positive in the first year. Because the C-PACE assessment obligation runs with the property, the assessment automatically transfers to the next owner when the property is sold.

Who administers C-PACE?

After a competitive bidding process, the RIIB selected Sustainable Real Estate Solutions, Inc. (SRS) to be the RI C-PACE program administrator.

Which municipalities are participating in C-PACE?

Visit the Participating Municipalities page of this website for a current list of municipalities participating in the C-PACE program. The program administrator can accept applications only from owners with properties located in a municipality that has opted in to the C-PACE program. If you have questions about getting any municipality to join C-PACE email us at info@RI-CPACE.com

Does a contractor need any special licensing or certification?

All contractors should be in compliance with Rhode Island State and local license requirements. In addition, attendance at one of the recurring C-PACE contractor training workshops is required to become a C-PACE registered contractor. There is no charge for attending these sessions. Visit the Events page of this website for a calendar of scheduled workshops.

How do I get started?

C-PACE provides regularly scheduled free training workshops for contractors. Visit the Events page of this website for the upcoming schedule or email us at info@RI-CPACE.com

 

How does the process work?

C-PACE involves multiple steps that include:

  • Contractor training
  • Building selection and prequalification
  • Preliminary project scoping
  • Proposal preparation and review with the owner
  • Project scenario development and optimization
  • Project technical review
  • Financing
  • Construction
  • Commissioning

For more information see the Process Flow Diagrams in the C-PACE Program Guidelines.

How long does it take to prepare a project for submission to C-PACE?

This depends on the complexity of the project.  For single ECM’s it can be a matter of days. For more complex projects that require audits and/or detailed engineering it can be 6 to 8 weeks.

How long does it take to get a project financed after an application is submitted?

Timeframes will be project-specific, and will depend on the number of parties involved with the project, e.g., the contractor, mortgage holder, capital provider, who will establish their own schedules with the building owner to complete their specific project underwriting tasks.  In general, after a project has been approved for financing it takes an average of sixty (60) days to close financing.

Is the construction contract between the Contractor and the Owner?

Yes.

When does a Contractor get compensated?

After a project has been reviewed by the program administrator, approved by the building owner and the mortgage holder (if any), participating capital providers will be offered the opportunity to finance the project. The capital provider selected by the owner will review all the project documentation (provided by the program administrator and the owner), prepare a financing agreement and schedule a closing.  Funds to initiate construction will be disbursed as provided in the financing agreement funds disbursement schedule.

 

What is the Savings-to-Investment Ratio (SIR)?

The SIR is calculated by dividing the projected energy cost savings over the finance term by the total installed cost of the project, including the cost of equipment, installation, and financing.

While the C-PACE Statute does not require any SIR criteria, the program strongly encourages projects with an SIR>1 for the following reasons:

  • Mortgage holders will be more likely to provide consent for projects that show positive cash flow;
  • Capital providers will look favorably on projects that show positive cash flow over their lifetimes;
  • In general, the higher the SIR, the greater the demonstrated environmental benefits of the project, helping to promote the goals for the C-PACE program set forth in the C-PACE Statute.
For proposed ECMs, how are the energy savings calculated?

Please refer to Audit Requirements section of the C-PACE Program Guidelines.  The exact methodology for the projection of savings will be determined during the project development stage. In most cases, an ASHRAE Level I or II Audit will suffice. For single ECM’s such as a boiler replacement, the required documentation can be less comprehensive; however, it should facilitate an SIR calculation

As is the case for all new and innovative programs, a learning curve period is expected for firms who haven’t routinely conducted energy audits. To assist such firms, the program administrator will share lessons learned, provide tools and support services based on experience in other programs to streamline the project submission, review and approval process.  Regardless of the audit level, energy use data collection should comply with the ASTM E2797-15 Building Energy Performance Assessment (BEPA) Standard.

What ECM’s are eligible for C-PACE financing?

The following list of typical, long-standing, proven energy efficiency technologies is intended as a reference list for C-PACE applicants. If a specific ECM is not included on this list, The program administrator will review other proposed ECM(s) and accept or reject them on a case-by-case basis.

Energy efficiency

  • Automated building controls (BMS, EMS)
  • Boilers, chillers and furnaces
  • Building envelope (insulation, glazing, windows, etc.)
  • High efficiency lighting
  • Hot water heating systems
  • HVAC upgrades
  • Roof replacement
  • Variable speed drives on motors, pumps and fans.

Renewable energy

  • Combined heat and power (CHP) systems
  • Fuel cells
  • Geothermal systems
  • Hydroelectric systems
  • Small wind systems
  • Solar PV
  • Solar thermal.
  • Renewable energy.

Water conservation

  • Irrigation systems
  • Low-flow fixtures (faucets, toilets, etc.).

Environmental health & safety

  • Asbestos & lead abatement

Other eligible expenses

  • Commissioning costs
  • Construction costs related to an eligible improvement
  • Energy audit costs
  • Engineering and design expenses
  • Measurement & verification costs
  • Permit fees
  • Renewable energy feasibility study costs.

This list is not comprehensive and any improvements that result in utility cost savings, that meet other program criteria, will be considered under C-PACE.  See the C-PACE Program Guide, Section 3.B. Eligible Projects, for more information.

How do I estimate the baseline energy use for a building that is partially vacant?

This is project specific and will require modeling. For more information please email us at: info@RI-CPACE.com

How many years of utility data do I need to establish the energy use baseline?

Three years of utility data is preferred with a minimum of one year, during which time no major renovations should have taken place.  For more information please email us at: info@RI-CPACE.com

Can a non-energy-saving measure be financed?

Yes, provided it is a water conservation, environmental health & safety measure, or related to a specific ECM. For instance, a roof or structural repair needed to support a solar system would be eligible. The costs for such work will be added to the costs of the solar installation and these additional costs will reduce the SIR.

What building simulation model should I use to determine the energy savings in a multi-ECM project?

The most common building simulation models used to determine energy savings include DOE’s eQuest and EnergyPro, although other models such as Trane’s Trace 700 and Carrier’s HAP model are also acceptable.

Do the projected energy savings need to be normalized for weather conditions?

Yes. Since the energy savings are projected into the future and future weather conditions are not known, energy savings are projected using average conditions. This projection will create baselines for the status quo (which assumes ECMs have not been installed) and for the projected case (which assumes the recommended ECMs have been installed).

Shouldn’t the energy savings be evaluated over the estimated system lifetime rather than just over the finance term?

Energy savings are calculated over the expected useful life of the specific ECM. In projects that incorporate multiple ECMs, the weighted useful life of the multiple ECMs is calculated and used to determine the maximum allowable finance term.

Can electricity/fuel-cost escalation factors be used that are higher than the published default factors?

The default electricity/fuel-cost escalation factors, based on industry best-practice, should be used. Higher factors will be considered if the contractor submits the rationale for, and the calculations used, to arrive at a different cost escalation factor.  This information will be reviewed with the contractor prior to a final determination.

Can performance degradation factors be used that are lower than the published default factors?

The default system performance degradation factor, based on industry best-practice, should be used. To use a lower factor, the contractor should submit a rationale for, and the calculations used, to arrive at a different performance degradation factor.  This information will be reviewed with the contractor prior to a final determination.

Can a project get financed if the SIR less than 1.0?

Yes, but there are hurdles. First, the owner would have to agree to a proposal that is not cash flow positive. Secondly, the mortgage holder (who has to consent to the PACE assessment) may object. These are issues which should be discussed with the owner and the mortgage holder early in the process to minimize the chances of project failure after resources have been allocated to develop a project.

What can be done to raise a preliminary SIR that is less than 1.0?

There are many pieces to the puzzle especially in projects with multiple ECMs.  Some ECMs with a low SIR might be eliminated and/or owners can agree to directly invest in the project. Each project is unique and the program administrator can model different scenarios to find the optimized scenario that will be most appealing to both the owner and the mortgage holder.

Why does the C-PACE program require the submission of ECM cut-sheets?

Cut sheets provide a wealth of data from the manufacturer of the ECM.  This data, when combined with other project data, is used by the program administrator to confirm project eligibility.

Can the program administrator help prepare an application?

Yes, the program administrator can and will assist in the preparation of an application, where needed.

Will the program administrator join us in meeting with the building owner?

The program administrator routinely joins contractors in meetings with building owners to present the benefits of C-PACE financing and respond to C-PACE related questions.

What should the commissioning plan include?

The system commissioning plan is intended to confirm the proposed ECMs have been installed according to manufacturers’ guidelines and that the system will perform as expected.  Contractors are required to prepare a Commissioning Report and submit it to the owner and the program administrator. It should include as-built drawings, O&M manuals for each ECM and a narrative that is appropriate for the size and complexity of the project.