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 gives building owners owners access private-sector financing to upgrade their building with energy efficiency, clean energy, and water efficiency improvements. With C-PACE, building owners receive up to 100 percent financing with attractive repayment terms consistent with the useful life of the improvements (up to 25 years). This typically enables them to undertake larger building modernization projects that addresses multiple deficiencies.

In well-designed C-PACE projects, the energy cost savings exceed the PACE payments, creating a cash-flow-positive project. By using C-PACE, building owners can reduce their operating costs, improve the value and competitiveness of their building, meet energy performance goals, and increase their cash flow. C-PACE is also available to developers with new construction projects if they design their building to exceed current energy codes.

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 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 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 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 for the upcoming schedule or email 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?

It depends on the complexity of the project. Single ECMs take just a few days. Complex projects that require audits and/or detailed engineering can take 6 to 8 weeks.

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

Timeframes are project-specific and depend on the number of parties involved. In a C-PACE project, the contractor, mortgage holder, and capital provider establish their own schedules with the building owner. Once a project has been approved for financing, it typically takes an average of 60 days to close.

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 tells all stakeholders whether a project will be cash-flow-positive. It 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
  • 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 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 Program Guide. The methodology used for the savings projections are determined during the project development stage. In most cases, an ASHRAE Level I will suffice. For single ECMs 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, we anticipate a learning curve. Therefore, the program administrator will provide tools and support services 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, email info@RI-CPACE.com.

Can roof repair or structural work be financed?

Yes. These costs are added to the costs of the solar installation and will reduce the SIR.

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

Yes. Since the energy savings are projected and future weather conditions are unknown, energy savings are projected using average conditions. These projections 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. Refer to the C-PACE Program Guidelines or email info@RI-CPACE.com

Can I include demand savings?

Yes, but these savings 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?

While the default electricity/fuel-cost escalation factors, which are based on industry best practice, should be used, the program administrator will consider higher factors if the contractor submits the rationale for, and the calculations used, to arrive at a different cost escalation factor.

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

Yes, although the default system performance degradation factor, which is based on industry best practice, should be used. To use a lower factor, the contractor must submit a rationale for, and the calculations used, to arrive at a different performance degradation factor.

Do I need 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.

Will a project with a SIR<1 receive financing?

Yes, but there are hurdles. First, the owner would have to agree to a proposal that is not cash-flow positive. Next, the mortgage holder will have to consent. This should be discussed early in the process to minimize the chance that a project will fail after it has been developed.

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 Program Guidelines or email info@RI-CPACE.com.

Can the program administrator help me prepare an application?

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

Will the program administrator attend meetings with the building owner?

Yes. The program administrator routinely attends meetings with building owners and their contractors to support the program 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 factors that can be adjusted, including 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. The program administrator can model different scenarios to find one that will appeal to the owner and the mortgage holder.

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

The program administrator relies on cut-sheet data, which is combined with other project data included in the solar feasibility study, to confirm a 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 gives building owners owners access private-sector financing to upgrade their building with energy efficiency, clean energy, and water efficiency improvements. With C-PACE, building owners receive up to 100 percent financing with attractive repayment terms consistent with the useful life of the improvements (up to 25 years). This typically enables them to undertake larger building modernization projects that addresses multiple deficiencies.

In well-designed C-PACE projects, the energy cost savings exceed the PACE payments, creating a cash-flow-positive project. By using C-PACE, building owners can reduce their operating costs, improve the value and competitiveness of their building, meet energy performance goals, and increase their cash flow. C-PACE is also available to developers with new construction projects if they design their building to exceed current energy codes.

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 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 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 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 for the upcoming schedule or email 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?

It depends on the complexity of the project. Single ECMs take just a few days. Complex projects that require audits and/or detailed engineering can take 6 to 8 weeks.

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

Timeframes are project-specific and depend on the number of parties involved. In a C-PACE project, the contractor, mortgage holder, and capital provider establish their own schedules with the building owner. Once a project has been approved for financing, it typically takes an average of 60 days to close.

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 tells all stakeholders whether a project will be cash-flow-positive. It 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
  • 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 proposed ECMs?

The methodology for the savings projections is determined during the project development stage. In most cases, an ASHRAE Level I or II Audit will suffice. For single ECMs, such as a boiler replacement, the required documentation can be less comprehensive; however, it should facilitate an SIR calculation. For more information, refer to the C-PACE Program Guide.

As is the case for all new programs, a learning curve is expected. Therefore, the program administrator will provide tools and support 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. Refer to Audit Requirements section of the C-PACE Program Guidelines.

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

The following list of typical, proven energy efficiency technologies is intended as a reference. The program administrator will review other proposed ECM(s) 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. Any improvements that result in utility cost savings and 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 scenario requires modeling. For more information, emai 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, email info@RI-CPACE.com.

Can a non-energy-saving measure be financed?

Yes, provided it is related to water conservation, environmental health & safety, or a specific ECM. For instance, a roof or structural repair that is needed to support a solar system is eligible. The costs for such work will be added to the costs of the solar installation. 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 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 and future weather conditions are unknown, energy savings are projected using average conditions. These projections 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).

Should 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?

While the default electricity/fuel-cost escalation factors, which are based on industry best practice, should be used, the program administrator will consider higher factors if the contractor submits the rationale for, and the calculations used, to arrive at a different cost escalation factor.

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

Yes, although the default system performance degradation factor, which is based on industry best practice, should be used. To use a lower factor, the contractor must submit a rationale for, and the calculations used, to arrive at a different performance degradation factor.

Will a project with a SIR<1 receive financing?

Yes, but there are hurdles. First, the owner would have to agree to a proposal that is not cash-flow positive. Next, the mortgage holder will have to consent. This should be discussed early in the process to minimize the chance that a project will fail after it has been developed.

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 me prepare an application?

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

Will the program administrator attend meetings with the building owner?

Yes. The program administrator routinely attends meetings with building owners and their contractors to support the program 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.

Back to Top