Clean energy financing bill advanced

Lawmakers advanced a bill from general file March 29 that would help property owners make energy-efficient upgrades.

LB1012, introduced by Omaha Sen. Heath Mello, would allow municipalities to create a clean energy assessment district. Property owners within such a district would be eligible for energy-efficient home improvements on residential and commercial properties, financed by the municipality.

Qualifying energy-efficiency improvement projects could include new insulation, windows and doors, heating and air conditioning modifications or replacements and energy-efficient fixtures.

Mello said 2,059 municipalities have implemented similar programs nationally.

“[LB1012] would encourage, accommodate and provide means to property owners to pursue energy-efficiency improvements,” he said, adding that high initial costs often are a barrier for low- and middle-income families.

Mello introduced an amendment, adopted 25-0, which replaced the bill, enabling any municipality to enter into an assessment contract with the owner of a qualifying property and third-party lenders, if applicable. The financing would be paid back over time through a special assessment on the property owner’s property tax statement, not to exceed 20 years.

To qualify for financing, a property owner must not be delinquent on any taxes, special assessments, water or sewer charges, have no involuntary liens on the property and be current on all mortgage debt. Financing and future assessments would follow the property and the obligation would be transferred upon sale of the property.

LB1012 would authorize a municipality to issue revenue bonds to finance qualifying projects, which could be paid back only through assessments levied on the property owners. Any single bond issued by a municipality that exceeds $5 million would require voter approval.

Senators advanced the bill to select file on a 27-0 vote.

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