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Westmoreland County launches clean energy program for property development

Westmoreland County commissioners have created a program that officials said will help private businesses and industrial building owners borrow money to pay for energy conservation programs.

The Countywide Property Assessed Clean Energy Program, launched by the state in 2018, allows the county to act as a middle man for private owners to borrow and repay loans taken out specifically to purchase energy efficient and clean energy equipment.

“We expect that it will breathe new life into older buildings as they’re retrofit to become efficient, desirable workplaces. That’s going to increase property values and help make Westmoreland an even better place to do business,” said Commissioner Sean Kertes.

The program is not available for residential properties.

It allows building owners of existing or new commercial, industrial and agricultural properties easier access to low-interest and long-term private loans for projects such as whole building insulation, installation of geothermal heating and cooling systems and energy efficient lighting, according to county planning director Jason Rigone.

Those upgrades are expected to result in energy cost savings for building owners, he said.

Rigone said the program will make those private loans easier to secure. Loan repayments will be collected by the county treasurer’s office which in turn will repay the private financial institutions.

The county’s involvement means energy project loans could be tied to the buildings rather than the entity that secures the funds.

“This is an opportunity to access new resources to make energy improvements,” Rigone said.

Westmoreland will be the 14th county to enact the program, joining Allegheny, Erie and Washington in Western Pennsylvania.

Commissioners appointed the PP&L Sustainable Energy Fund to administer the program. That agency will be paid through fees assessed to the private property owners.

“Not only does it help property owners finance upgrades, it benefits our communities by having existing properties, including those that are vacant or blighted, retrofit into modern workplaces. On top of that, it will stimulate economic activity through the renovation and construction work,” said Commissioner Doug Chew.

Commissioner Gina Cerilli Thrasher said the program will provide long-term benefits to the community.

“We’re helping property owners make investments that they otherwise might not have been able to finance,” Thrasher said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .