The Editor's Back Fence

Hancock Bill Extends Berkeley Solar Finance Scheme to State: Was it a Success or a Failure?

Thursday October 06, 2011 - 02:51:00 PM

Today the Planet received a press release from the office of Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland), touting a bill she sponsored that would let homeowners borrow against the value of their property to finance installing solar energy systems, backed by government bonds, with payback billed with property taxes. This plan is similar to one originally floated in Berkeley by her husband Mayor Tom Bates's then assistant, Cisco DeVries.

The release describes the Berkeley experiment as being "highly successful" but for another point of view, see Berkeley's Solar Plan Goes Dark, The city has decided to abandon its once-touted home-solar financing program. an article by Judith Scherr in the East Bay Express.

You be the judge. Here's the release: 




Sacramento – Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) welcomed the Governor’s decision today to sign SB 555, a bill she authored that creates a new program for the voluntary financing of energy efficiency and water conservation systems on residential and commercial property. 

SB 555 enables general law cities, counties, special districts and regional planning agencies to establish a voluntary “community facility district” (CFD) to help property owners invest in energy efficiency, alternative energy and water conservation improvements on their property. The new program is completely voluntary. Only property owners who “opt-in” to the financing scheme will participate. 

“For many years now, Californians have been looking for ways to reduce emissions and water consumption while decreasing their own utility bills. This new law will do just that,” Senator Hancock stated. “While the cost savings to property owners in the new law are important, we will all benefit from reduced emissions, reduced energy and water use, energy independence and job creation. All this comes at no cost to taxpayer.” 

Under SB 555, property owners who voluntarily agree to participate will realize immediate savings on their utility bills while paying off the high up-front costs over time on their property tax bills. Funding for the program will come from a bond issued the new CFD and repayment will be guaranteed by future property taxes, even if the house if sold. 

The bill is modeled after the City of Berkeley’s highly successful “Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology program (FIRST). The $1.5 million pilot program, undertaken in 2008, sold out in less than 9 minutes. [Emphasis added] Fifteen other states have already passed legislation enabling local governments to replicate the Berkeley FIRST program. The signing of SB 555 into law makes California the 16th state to take action.