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Norwalk plaza’s new energy efficiency lauded by govenor

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Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia, Gov. Dannel Malloy and an entourage of government officials and members of the press head out behind Bed, Bath & Beyond Monday to get a look at energy improvements.

NORWALK, Conn. – A milestone in Connecticut energy policy was celebrated Monday morning by the arrival of the state’s top brass and a bevy of local leaders.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and others converged at the shopping plaza at 542 Westport Ave. – home to Bed, Bath & Beyond, Bowtie Cinemas and other businesses – to mark the state’s first energy efficiency project financed through the Commercial & Industrial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program. C-PACE is described in a press release as “a new and innovative tool that allows property owners to finance efficiency upgrades with little or no upfront costs and re-pay the loan over time on their property tax bill.”

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Daniel Esty was among those taking a tour of the parking lot to see the improvements made possible by C-PACE. “It’s an exciting day for those of us who care about the governor’s agenda and who are excited about moving forward with a model that I think will take the nation by storm,” he said.

A new quasi-public agency, the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, was created to supersede the former Connecticut Clean Energy Fund as part of Public Act 11-80, passed by Connecticut’s General Assembly on July 1, 2011, the release said.

“CEFIA’s mission is to help ensure Connecticut’s energy security and community prosperity by realizing its environmental and economic opportunities through clean energy finance and investments,” the release said. “As the nation’s first full-scale clean energy finance authority, CEFIA will leverage public and private funds to drive investment and scale-up clean energy deployment in Connecticut.”

The $285,000 lighting upgrade at the plaza is expected to reduce electricity costs there by $17,500 per year, the release said. CEFIA President and CEO Brian Garcia told Malloy and other officials that the bill for exterior lighting at the plaza is 90 percent lower, and there are 40 more projects in the pipeline across the state.

Malloy said that was important. “We’re too expensive in this state,” he said. “It’s hurting us on a competitive basis, whether it’s in manufacturing or office complexes or retail complexes. We need to use every tool in a new enlarged tool box to make sure we’re doing just that.”

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Gov. Dannel Malloy talks about the need for energy efficiency Monday in front of the Westport Avenue Bowtie cinema. Next to him are plaza owner Margaret Sarno and state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk).

C-PACE will allow the owners to make the payments on their property tax bill over time. The owners also plan to use C-PACE and other financing support available under Malloy’s energy plan to install a 100 kilowatt solar project at the site, the press release said.

Malloy called the legislation “ground breaking.”

“I think most people didn’t think we would get it, to tell you the truth,” he said, giving a nod to state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) for his efforts as chairman of the energy and technology committee.

Mayor Richard Moccia said the legislation had gotten support of municipal leadership.

“We think green. “We think green for the environment, but when it comes to the business owners and the residents, they like to think green about saving some money,” he said. “Like the governor pointed out, our utility costs are high. It does discourage businesses from coming in sometimes.”

The press release described C-PACE this way:

 C-PACE is administered by CEFIA as part of the state’s Energize Connecticut initiative, which helps ratepayers lower costs and use clean energy.

 C-PACE allows building owners to access capital to finance qualifying energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements by placing a voluntary assessment on their property tax bill.  Property owners pay for the improvements over time through this additional charge without having to use their own capital.  The repayment obligation transfers automatically to the next owner if the property is sold.

 The program requires that energy upgrades eligible for financing must lower the energy consumption of the building or enable the building to produce clean energy. Typical C-PACE measures include high efficiency lighting, heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades, high efficiency chillers, boilers, furnaces, and water heating systems, and renewable energy systems such as solar and fuel cells.

 C-PACE financing was made possible by the Connecticut State Legislature in PA 12-2, which passed authorizing legislation.

Margaret and Michael Sarno of Weston, owners of the plaza since it was built in the 1970s, were present for the press conference, as were their two adult children, Cheryl and Steven Sarno.

“We are into truing to do things environmentally correctly, to help everyone, really,” Margaret Sarno. “The whole family is.”

Cheryl Sarno said she was grateful for the opportunity to upgrade the plaza a bit through C-PACE.

“We’ll see if it works, you have the potential to expand it, it’s something that potentially other businesses will say, ‘Wow, they tried it, maybe this is something we could incorporate into our facility.’” she said. “That would be a fantastic thing, seeing something like solar spreading, offsetting your electric (bill).”

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From left, Mayor Richard Moccia, Councilman David Watts, Councilman Warren Peña and Gov. Dannel Malloy learn about energy upgrades at 542 Westport Ave. from Robert Hartt, managing member of Hartt Realty Advisors LLC, Monday morning.

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