Opinion: Five Years Later, St. Louis is setting the pace for urban sustainability

By Lewis Reed

As the President of the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen, it is my and my colleagues’ responsibility to make decisions that positively impact the economy, residents and development of our city. I’ll be the first to admit that in policy, it isn’t always easy to see the tangible results of your efforts. However, five years ago we introduced an initiative that has delivered distinct economic, environmental, and social benefits to our City – the “Set the PACE St. Louis” program.


In 2013, we launched Set the PACE St. Louis, an innovative program which uses Property Assessed Clean Energy financing – also known as “PACE” – which provides 100 percent private funding to local commercial and residential property owners to make energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to their buildings.

The results are tangible and impactful. Since 2013, the program has delivered more than $28 million to fund 100 energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the City, created more than 428 good-paying local jobs, and cut 34,000 metric tons of climate pollution in the form of CO2 emissions.

The success of Set the PACE St. Louis is really a testament to the power of public-private partnerships. Set the PACE is co-administered by Ygrene Energy Fund and Rockwood Asset Management, which strategically designed the program to promote choice, allow businesses and home owners to upgrade their properties, and generate local jobs. St. Louis City residents have fully embraced PACE and have made the program a national leader — since its launch, Set the PACE St. Louis has on a per capita basis provided more commercial PACE funding than any other individual PACE jurisdiction in the United States.

More broadly, Set the PACE is helping St. Louis meet its bold sustainability and economic goals by reducing the amount of energy we use, generating significant cost savings, and creating new career opportunities in burgeoning clean-energy sector.

The energy retrofits financed by PACE for local businesses and homeowners reduce the amount of electricity our buildings use day-to-day, which helps lower power plant emissions that can harm our health, pollute our air, and warm our climate. To date, the program has helped local property owners lower their energy bills and consumption, representing $57 million in utility bill savings and $71 million in economic stimulus.

Furthermore, program administrator Ygrene has advanced our City’s priority of inclusion by training minority and women contractors and conducting pre-apprenticeship workshops with the MOKAN Contractors Assistance Center to develop lasting careers in the rising clean energy economy here in St. Louis. With more than 2.2 million Americans working in the energy efficiency sector, PACE is providing local, good-paying, clean energy jobs that can’t be outsourced.

In September 2017, the City of St. Louis Board of Aldermen unanimously passed a resolution agreeing to commit to the transition of 100 percent clean energy in the form of wind and solar and energy efficiency measures within the electricity sector by 2035 and we have been recognized for being the largest City in the Midwest to adopt a 100% clean energy goal. Set the PACE St. Louis helps us get there. That is why on the fifth anniversary of Set the PACE St. Louis, along with primary sponsor Alderwoman Heather Navarro, and a statewide and national network of energy efficiency groups and partners, I’m proud to declare October 5, 2018 as “Energy Efficiency Day” in the City of St. Louis. For us, this day recognizes the first five successful years of Set the PACE St. Louis, the essential resources and opportunities this public-private partnership has provided to our city and its residents, and the vital role the program has played in helping us distinguish ourselves as a national leader in urban energy efficiency and sustainability. Those results are hard to ignore, but easy to acknowledge.

Lewis Reed is the President of the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen, the legislative body of the City of St. Louis that creates, passes, and amends local laws.

For more info: Visit Set the PACE St. Louis at www.setthepacestlouis.com. Since 2010, real estate professionals and home and building performance contractors in addition to statewide groups such as Renew Missouri, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, and Missouri Energy Initiative have been instrumental in helping to support PACE. Four active Missouri PACE programs are the “Best in Midwest” and have funded more than $71 million in energy efficiency property improvements creating 1200+ good-paying jobs in the clean-energy sector without increases in public spending. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has helped to establish October 5th as “Energy Efficiency Day.” On October 5, 2018, the 3rd Annual Energy Efficiency Day, more than 320 groups have joined in its celebration.