NewEnergyNews: BERZERKELEY TO FINANCE SOLAR

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    Friday, October 26, 2007

    BERZERKELEY TO FINANCE SOLAR

    This is a really substantial idea and NewEnergyNews expects it to spread to many other municipalities, increasing home solar energy installations dramatically.

    Everyone agrees solar is the homeowner's path to clean energy but everyone also agrees the cost, especially the upfront cost, is the obstacle. This could be the breakthrough. And, perhaps most exciting, this would open the door to all kinds of opportunities involving plug-in hybrid vehicles and V2G technology


    Berkeley could pay upfront for solar; Proposal to be presented to Council Nov. 6 would have homeowners repay costs through property tax
    Doug Oakley, October 24, 2007 (Contra Costa Times)

    WHO
    Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, Bates Chief of Staff Cisco DeVries, Dan Kammen, director, UC Berkeley Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory

    No one doubts the sun shines bright on the Berkeley hills.

    WHAT
    Mayor Bates will introduce the Sustainable Energy Financing District measure for consideration by the Berkeley City Council. The measure would have the city pay upfront costs for home solar installations with the homeowners repaying the cost, with interest, by add-ons to property taxes.

    WHEN
    The measure will be introduced November 6. If approved, it should be operational by mid or late 2008.

    WHERE
    Berzerkley, CA. The City Council must first approve the financial aspect of the plan and then the legal aspects.

    WHY
    - The biggest obstacle to solar system installation for most homeowners is the large upfront cost. This plan eliminates that problem.
    - The city would get its operating capital from bank and financial institution loans but interest rates it charges would be lower than regular bank loan financing of home solar installations because individual systems amount to small, expensive matters for the banks while the city arrangements would be large amounts.
    - The city hopes to keep the property tax add-on to about the same as the cost of the utility bill. If the homes are sold, the property tax add-ons would carry over to the new owner.
    - Interest rates, one-time fees, minimum project costs and the types of other energy-efficiency upgrades allowed under the program also are still being worked out.

    And there are a lot of other small cities around the state and around the country that could use the same strategy. (click to enlarge)

    QUOTES
    - DeVries: "You are borrowing money from the city, and the city is getting repaid through property taxes; that's how you would experience it as a homeowner…Our goal is to make putting solar on your house as cost-effective as paying your utility bill."
    - DeVries: "In many cases with solar, there is a positive rate of return if you look at it in the long term (because the money you save on electricity bills eventually will pay for the cost of the system)… The problem is most people don't operate that way financially."
    - Kammen: “[The plan is] incredibly clever…There's no question that the big issue for solar is the big upfront cost…This will allow you to spread it out over your property taxes…This is a loan that is much more accessible…And I think the mayor's assessment is right, that if the upfront cost goes away, we're going to see a huge wave of solar energy and efficiency projects."

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