Rocco Fabiano, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Nearly a decade ago, Sonoma County became the first county in the nation to offer an innovative financing option to encourage homeowners to invest in projects that reduced energy consumption and provided for a cleaner environment. Known as PACE, for property-assessed clean energy, the program made it easier to pay for renewable and energy-efficient upgrades by allowing homeowners to finance these projects through their property taxes. This program was designed to provide a vehicle for promoting important public policy initiatives, without using tax dollars or tax credits.
The Sonoma County program, known as SCEIP, was launched after California passed the most comprehensive legislation in the country to address climate change, with the goal of improving the environment while maintaining a robust economy. The fact that these pioneering programs were birthed in California was no accident.
The Golden State has long been a leader in addressing climate change, one of the most pressing challenges of our time. Residential PACE programs have now been approved in more than 50 California counties and have spread to Florida and Missouri. In California, the program has been expanded to support other public policy initiatives, including water conversation and seismic retrofits.
But now this program is in jeopardy of collapsing under the weight of new regulations. Losing PACE would have the unfortunate effect of eliminating strong economic and environmental benefits for our region.
Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/8528392-181/close-to-home-new-rules
Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Choices, choices. Sonoma County homeowners seeking to add a solar energy system, replace that old furnace or install artificial turf soon will have an array of options to fund the improvements.The county is witnessing a proliferation of government-sponsored programs that offer to finance various energy- and water-efficiency projects. But figuring out which option is best can be difficult.
Many homeowners already know about the 6-year-old Sonoma County Energy Independence Program, or SCEIP, which is available in each of the county’s nine cities and the unincorporated area. For little money down, the county-sponsored effort provides financing for various projects, with costs added to the homeowners’ property tax bills. Approved contractors complete the work, and owners pay back the borrowed funds over periods of 10 or 20 years with an annual interest rate of 7 percent.
Now three more separate programs are joining SCEIP to compete for residential projects, and a fourth offers financing solely for commercial work. Fees vary and interest rates range from just under 7 percent for a five-year loan to more than 8 percent for a 20-year loan.
However, none of the new residential programs currently are available throughout the county, as SCEIP is. For example, two new programs are taking applications today in Sebastopol and one is available in Windsor and Petaluma. None are yet available in Santa Rosa, though that may change this summer. Program officials said they hope to eventually operate countywide, but that depends on getting approval from each city council.
Sound complicated? Homeowners thinking about improvement projects first may benefit by contacting the Sonoma County Energy Independence Office, the government office that is gearing up to provide consumer information on the emerging marketplace.
“We’ll steer them to whatever resources we know of,” said Jane Elias, a community program coordinator for the county’s energy efficiency efforts.
Read more at: Homeowners face dizzying new choices to fund energy, | The Press Democrat
Brett Wilkison, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A legal fight to protect a program that allows Sonoma County residents to pay for energy-saving retrofits to their homes through property taxes was dealt a significant and possibly final setback last week.
via Court deals blow to county energy retrofit program | PressDemocrat.com.
by Maria Gallucci, INSIDECLIMATE NEWS
A judge forces the federal agency that squashed the PACE home energy program to draft rules and start over.
In 2010, FHFA, overseer of the nation’s largest mortgage buyers and sellers, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, issued a statement saying that PACE posed “significant risks” to mortgage companies and urged all local governments to suspend their programs. At Rod Stevenson’s sprawling country home in Santa Rosa, Calif., in Sonoma County, once-leaky walls and windows are now sealed tight for energy efficiency, and his roof and yard are glittering with two dozen solar panels.”We expect to save about $10,000 a year,” on electricity and heating bills, Stevenson says, a nearly 70 percent drop from last year.Stevenson, 62, runs a successful, century-old family business that sells construction supplies and materials to control soil erosion in Northern California. But retirement was hanging over him and his wife. “I really wanted to get to the point where we could get our [utility] bill down to virtually nothing,” Stevenson recalls.
via Home Energy Program in Sonoma a Beacon for Broken National Effort | InsideClimate News.