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Solar and Energy Efficiency Finance Programs

CaliforniaFIRST & Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE)

Since the passage of Assembly Bill 811 (AB 811) in July 2008—enabling local governments to create property tax finance districts to issue loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy systems—government officials, energy industry stakeholders and property owners have been eager to take advantage of the energy financing options enabled by it.

In response to the surge of interest about this financing option, the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) hosted a workshop on June 2, 2009, that introduced local elected officials and staff members to a statewide AB 811 financing option called CaliforniaFIRST.

AB 811 removes key financial barriers to the installation of on-site renewable energy and energy efficiency measures by allowing cities to provide low-cost, 20-year loans to eligible property owners seeking to install these technologies. The customer then pays more on the annual property tax bill to repay the loan. The loans are permanently fixed to real property, so that residents need not worry about their system’s break-even point and can pass the loan payments on to subsequent buyers of the property.

CaliforniaFIRST is a partnership between Renewable Funding, the financing organization that currently administers the BerkeleyFIRST program, and California Communities, a joint powers authority that will act on behalf of cities not interested in or able to administer stand-alone financing programs. CCSE will partner with the CaliforniaFIRST program team to assist participants through the application process and provide technical and general customer support.

Download a fact sheet about CaliforniaFIRST. (PDF file)

Some communities in California have developed or are developing their own programs related to AB 811. The Association of Bay Area Governments and PG&E are jointly developing a San Francisco Bay Area regional solar and efficiency financing district. As currently conceptualized, the program would offer customers a one-stop shop to help them take advantage of the AB 811 property-based financing, as seamlessly and efficiently as possible. More details will be provided as the program design is developed.

Renting Solar Systems and Power Purchase Agreements

Another method to finance PV systems has been for the homeowner to rent the system.

energysage has a webpage on Solar Leases & PPAs: "Solar financing options for a low-maintenance solar energy system.

Mother Jones Magazine has an excellent article in its Energy Matters column from February 20, 2010, titled: "If You Can't Afford to Buy a PV System, Consider Renting One".

Traditional Lending

Homeowners can also use traditional methods of financing a solar energy system with second mortgages home improvement loans.

Pay-back periods can be calculated using various online calculators.