Loans for energy-efficient upgrades might be a bigger burden than a high energy bill

David Brancaccio and Jonaki Mehta Jan 7, 2019
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Solar panels are installed on a roof. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Loans for energy-efficient upgrades might be a bigger burden than a high energy bill

David Brancaccio and Jonaki Mehta Jan 7, 2019
Solar panels are installed on a roof. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
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A contractor comes knocking on your front door and tells you that you could have lower energy bills and be more environmentally conscious if you qualify for a program called PACE. It’s a loan from the government to get those solar panels you’ve been wanting or better insulation for your house. And you don’t have to start paying it back for months because it’s tied to your property taxes, which you only pay once or twice a year.

Critics suggest that it may be too good to be true.

In 2008, a government financing program called Property Assessment Clean Energy was introduced for states to implement if they chose to. With climate change becoming a more prominent global issue, PACE was just the kind of loan that that could advance federal and state goals to be more energy efficient. Many of these loans are sold to elderly homeowners who don’t have the means to repay them.

In large part, “the problems that we see stem from the fact that these loans are sold door-to-door by contractors who are going to do the work,” said Lisa Sitkin of the National Housing Law Project. She spoke to host David Brancaccio about the work she and her fellow policy and lawmakers are doing to make the consequences of taking out such a loan more transparent.

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

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