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Cleveland, 16 suburbs form Ohio's first renewable energy district

1:11 AM, Jun 15, 2010   |    comments
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The collaboration will establish a Renewable Energy Special Improvement District. The goal of the RE-SID is to enable property owners to cut their utility bills.

Last week, the Fund for Our Economic Future awarded $100,000 to jump start the regional collaboration.

The 16 suburbs are Bedford, Bedford Heights, Berea, Brook Park, Brooklyn, Cleveland Heights, Euclid, Fairview Park, Garfield Heights, Lakewood, Parma, Parma Heights, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, University Heights and Warrensville Heights.

Organizers say it is the first multi-jurisdictional SID in Ohio, perhaps the country.

A Renewable Energy Special Improvement District is an mechanism which allows property owners in participating communities to finance the cost of installing and operating energy efficiency systems -- including solar, geothermal, wind and other technologies -- and allow the cost to be repaid over 20 years through a special voluntary tax on their property bill.

There will be no cost to property owners who do not participate in the program.

"It's an opportunity for our businesses to save money, and become more energy efficient," said Nathan Kelly, President of the First Suburbs Development Council and the City of Lakewood's Director of Planning and Development.

It is a self-financing program where the energy cost savings will be greater than costs of the energy improvements.

Without the RE-SID, energy efficiency projects have significant up-front costs; it takes a property owner several years to recoup their investment in energy efficiency.

The Renewable Energy Special Improvement District changes that.

"The Renewable Energy Special Improvement District strengthens our local economy two ways," Kelly said.

"First, it helps retain and attract businesses by reducing the cost of doing business in Northeast Ohio. Second, the RE-SID boosts a growing segment of small businesses that manufacture, install and operate these new, growing technologies."

"What's more is that it couldn't happen without this kind of multi-municipality coordination and collaboration."

Property owners who participate in the Renewable Energy Special Improvement District benefit from lower financing costs compared to traditional loans.

The collaboration allows property owners to benefit from the borrowing power of the Port of Cleveland and combines that opportunity with other incentives available through federal stimulus dollars intended to secure the debt of the new Advanced Energy Special Improvement District.

In October 2009, Ohio House Bill 1 became effective, enacting changes to Ohio law allowing municipalities to create such SIDs for "special energy improvement projects" in their communities.

State legislation was adopted June 4 (Senate Bill 232) to include wind, geothermal, energy efficiency, biomass and gasification to be able to be financed through the RE-SID.

Other states have these so-called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs.

Members of the sixteen member cities of FSDC and the City of Cleveland are introducing legislation to establish the framework of the RE-SID in their respective cities.

Once legislation is enacted and the SID is established, property owners contract with their cities to benefit from the special financing opportunities.

The First Suburbs Development Council is a council of economic development representatives from the 16 suburbs that border Cleveland.

Businesses participating in the pilot program of the Solar SID are also eligible for additional federal investment tax credits and state grants up to $150,000.

Property owners who are interested in participating will work with the economic development professionals of participating cities to participate in an initial pilot program.

WKYC-TV

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