Been there, done that
Thursday, July 29, 2010
California’s first Property Assessed Clean Energy program, BerkeleyFIRST, launched to great fanfare in 2008. But the pilot only produced solar panels on 13 roofs – a let-down East Bay Express attributes to high interest rates. Many qualifying property owners simply weren’t willing to take out a $20,000-$40,000 loan at 7.75 percent interest, even if it could be paid back as a property tax assessment over 20 years.
But rather than discouraging local governments from trying out their own solar financing programs, Berkeley’s experiment inspired others to go bigger.
Sonoma County expanded the PACE concept to include energy efficiency projects like attic insulation and tankless water heaters. It also offered more options on repayment terms and leveraged its bigger scale for a 7 percent interest rate. Since March 2009, about 900 property owners have opted in.
The city of Palm Desert reported similar success, committing more than $7.5 million to clean energy upgrades since its August 2008 launch. San Francisco launched its own version, GreenFinanceSF, with $150 million in financing in April.
Placer County and the city of San Diego were likewise frozen at the gate after the Federal Housing Finance Administration squelched the PACE financing model in early July. Similar programs in 21 other states are also in limbo.
The same fate has befallen CaliforniaFIRST, the 14-county coalition that was working together for low-interest PACE financing. Monterey County was among the first group of CaliforniaFIRST communities set to roll out a PACE program this fall.