Congregation Beth Israel Sets the PACE!

February 24, 2016

Jewish temple receives Texas’ first PACE loan
to improve energy efficiency, realize savings

AUSTIN – What’s a temple to do?

Austin’s Congregation Beth Israel was spending $15,000 annually for repairs on a couple of dated boilers and chillers in its educational wing. Skyrocketing energy bills made temple officials realize how much they also needed more insulation for the wall of windows in its auditorium. Price for upgrades: $450,000.

On Wednesday, Travis County commissioners Gerald Daugherty and Brigid Shea along with county Tax Assessor-Collector Bruce Elfant announced in a news conference that Congregation Beth Israel will receive what they need as Texas’ first PACE recipient.

PACE, which stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy, is an innovative financing program – completely free of government mandates and public funding – that enables non-profit, commercial, industrial, multi-family, and agricultural property owners to obtain up to 100 percent of the project financing from low-cost, long-term loans for water conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy projects. Repayments of the loans pass through the county tax office to the lenders.

Austin’s Petros PACE Finance, LLC, gave Congregation Beth Israel 100 percent of the financing it needed. Petros is one of the first specialty finance firms in the nation dedicated to the commercial PACE market, previously providing financing for PACE projects in Michigan.

“Closing the first PACE project in our home state is especially significant for us,” said Mansoor Ghori, CEO of Petros PACE Finance, LLC. “We enjoyed working with the team at Congregation Beth Israel and are proud they were the first of many here in Travis County.”

The Way Companies developed the temple project and will replace two air-cooled chilled water machines and two heating water boilers, apply window films and extend the building automation and control system to the new equipment. The improvement will reduce the temple’s operating and utility costs in its educational wing.

In 2013, the Texas Legislature passed the program, which allows local governments to approve its use. The Travis County Commissioners Court became the first government entity in the state to embrace the program in March 2015.

“It is a credit to the Texas Legislature and the Travis County Commissioners Court that our county is the first in Texas to offer an affordable way for business property owners to reduce their environmental impact and upgrade their properties,” Elfant said. “It is economically beneficial for business and good for the environment, and today it is exciting to publicly announce that Congregation Beth Israel is the first in Texas to take advantage of this program.”

Instead of shelling out $15,000 a year or more to fix a substandard heating and cooling system, Congregation Beth Israel expects its new upgrades to save $35,000 annually in energy costs.

Rabbi Steven Folberg, the temple’s spiritual leader, recalled a well-known Jewish quote from the Babylonian Talmud that says: You’re not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to abstain from it.

“While no single individual, organization or community can complete the task of Tikkun Olam, mending and transforming the world, we all must take responsibility and play our part,” Folberg said during the news conference. “Reducing our congregation’s carbon footprint and living with lightened impact on God’s earth through the vision and ingenuity of the PACE program not only makes economic sense, but also represents a sacred act of both responsibility and hope in the future.”

Charlene Heydinger, executive director of Keeping PACE in Texas, a non-profit business association that led the PACE legislative effort and created the Texas PACE program model, called “PACE in Box,” said many people focus on the program’s value for multi-million-dollar projects for big business.

“It certainly helps large-scale commercial and industrial property owners with delayed maintenance issues, but it also applies to non-profits, from houses of worship and historical buildings to large, private hospitals and universities that may need to retrofit their facilities for energy and water efficiency,” she said.

Travis County commissioners Gerald Daugherty and Brigid Shea noted it isn’t every day you see a program that unites the business community and environmentalists. Daugherty, a business owner who advocates for more roads to reduce congestion, and Shea, a well-known environmental activist, were the unlikely duo that promoted passage of the PACE program to their fellow commissioners.

“I’m proud to have sponsored a program that promotes economic development and protects the needs of the environmental community, which are both so important to Travis County,” said Daugherty.

“Travis County’s leadership on PACE is proving how to be better stewards of our water, energy and economy,” added Shea.

Loans acquired through PACE also have a unique characteristic: Should an owner sell the property, the PACE loan is assumed by the buyer. Under conventional lending methods, the property owner is usually required to pay off the loan upon sale of the property.

It begins with the Texas PACE Authority, a non-profit organization that helps guide would-be borrowers through the process. Currently, more than $20 million in loans are in the Travis County PACE pipeline, which includes $1.25 million in retrofits that Simon Properties is securing for energy upgrades to Barton Creek Mall.
But on Wednesday it was all about Congregation Beth Israel being etched in state history as the very first PACE project in Texas.

It was a particularly proud moment for Elfant.

“As the only Jewish tax assessor-collector it gives me great pleasure to announce the first loan under this innovative financing program is going to the synagogue where I’ve been known to show up in the pew every now and then,” he said with a smile.
To learn more about the PACE program, a list of interested lenders and contractors and whether your business may qualify, go to

Also, check out this article on Texas’ first PACE Lender, Petros PACE Finance:

Watch the ceremony here: