Thursday, July 29, 2010

Helpful Links Page Overhaul

The OC Renewables Helpful Links page went through a major overhaul today. This page strives to be the one-stop center for green and renewables in Orange County. If you would like to see your organization on here, contact us for more details.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Federal Lenders Threaten National PACE Loans. But is their logic sound?

It was a topic of discussion at last week's OC Renewables meeting that lenders Freddie Mac & Fannie Mae could jeopardize national Property Assessed Clean Energy loan programs (PACE loans). PACE loans allow private property owners to pay for energy efficiency upgrades (such as solar installation) through their monthly property tax bills, thus avoiding the steep up-front expense and keeping the fees associated with the house rather than the individual making the upgrades. PACE programs have been successful in towns across the country. But Freddie & Fannie may put an end to PACE:
"...[T]he two government-chartered agencies that buy and resell most home mortgages are threatening to derail the effort by warning that they might not accept loans for homes that take advantage of the special financing." -- NY Times: "Loan Giants Threaten Energy-Efficiency Programs"
The logic is that if the property owner takes advantage of a PACE program, but later defaults on their mortgage and the house remains unsold and must be federally "bailed out", taxpayers could be left holding the bill. (For more on the local credit crisis, check out our neighbors at Irvine Housing Blog.)

But Grist reports that property owners who have taken advantage of PACE programs are actually
11% LESS likely to default on their homes than the national average.

Grist also reports that successful PACE participants are taking action. The Long Island town of Babylon is
suing Fannie and Freddie over this threat to PACE loans, because their Long Island Green Homes program has enabled 300 homeowners to invest more than $3M in energy-efficiency retrofits.

What can we do?

Says Grist:
Long Island Rep. Steve Israel (D) and other members of Congress are considering introducing legislation to resolve the dispute, but there's no guarantee a bill would pass through Congress's busy schedule any time soon (or ever).

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

OC Renewables Meeting: July 8th, 6:30pm

We'll be having a BBQ and hearing from Phil Hodgets, City of Westminster.

Irvine Ranch Water District's "Duck Club."
5 Riparian View, Irvine CA. (Look for the OC Renewables Signs!!)

Please join us!

State & Municipal Loans Make Solar Affordable for Californians

The LA Times published an article this week about Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). This is a program in which homeowners don't have to pay the price up front for solar panels. Rather, a small fee is added to their property taxes, which residents pay off over many years. The assessment (and energy savings!) stay with the house even if the owners move.

Says Gary Gerber, President of the California Solar Energy Industries Association:
"Let's say you replace your $100 utility bill with a $100-a-month payment to your property taxes — it's pretty close to a wash," said Gerber... "And if it isn't a wash this year, then two or three years from now it will be, because energy costs are going up.

California is one of 19 states that have passed PACE legislation. On Earth Day 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger signed SB 77, authored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica). According to the Governor's website, SB 77 enables commercial and residential property owners to make energy upgrades using bonds and/or loans that can be repaid through their property tax bill. Up to $30 million will be available for California's PACE Reserve Program.

The LA Times article tells the story of one happy PACE participant, Ed Smith of Santa Rosa:

[Smith] figures his property taxes rose $100 a month while his electric bill has dropped as much as $300 a month over the last four months.

"It's been totally fantastic," Smith said. "We'd been wanting to do something green. I've been recommending it to my neighbors. It would be a great thing for schools to do since they have flat roofs that catch a lot of sun. Plus school districts need to save money."

Tune in to future OC Renewables posts & meetings -- we are working to bring local experts in to tell us how to take advantage of these new incentives.

Full article:
PACE loan program makes solar energy more affordable for homeowners -