Vice President Joe Biden just revealed a plan to make Berkeley First available nationwide. Yesterday at his Middle Class Task Force meeting Biden proposed the way to make solar roofs easy for everyone to afford with virtually free solar panels. If you now pay your current electricity bill and own a home, that’s literally all it takes to go solar under municipal tax assessment financing.
That’s because his plan; detailed in Recovery Through Retrofit simply makes the very successful Berkeley First municipal tax assessment financing a Federal program, called PACE Program (Property Assessed Clean Energy), funded nationwide through the Recovery Act.
The plan from Biden’s very practical Middle Class Task Force on Environmental Quality addresses and solves two issues:
1. That homeowners who might move in a few years don’t retrofit with solar power. So this loan attaches to the home, not the borrower, and is passed along to the next buyers for 20 years till paid off.
2. That only a few rich cities can muster the bonds needed to offer the program. When I asked my Mayor why we were not joining with our neighbor Berkeley to offer Municipal Tax Assessment Financing, I was told “because we can’t get the bond financing”. Sonoma, San Francisco and these cities have followed in Berkeley’s footsteps.
Biden’s plan addresses that financial barrier by securing funding from the Recovery Act to provide cities with the wherewithall to make free solar power available to homeowners. The risk is low. Most homeowners pay the electricity bill. This simply replaces that bill with another for the same amount or less. The next buyer would pay the same set rate for the solar that stays the same, instead of electricity rates that continue to rise an average of 6% a year.
Berkeley First was a pioneering new way to make solar affordable. In a small pilot program – that sold out in the first nine minutes (!) 40 homeowners in Berkeley won the chance to put solar on their houses and pay it back over twenty years through a property tax assessment added to their homeowners property tax.
In practice, that meant their household expenses would really not change at all, but they would be paying down solar instead of paying electricity bills monthly. The $100 or $200 that they used to send to PG&E would just get added to the mortgage bill each month instead; to pay down their solar roof.
I saw first hand how Berkeley First truly enabled anyone to go solar, it was so affordable.
I did solar estimates in the East Bay during that time and worked with people who’d managed to snare a place in Berkeley First. There were no nasty bank loan applications with those installs. Literally, no money changed hands.
So I really believe this would be the way to get ‘shovel-ready’ green jobs projects out almost instantly and clean the nations carbon emissions very quickly. Cities are ready. Homeowners are ready. Joe Biden: let it roll!
Image: Flikr user Whitehouse.gov
Additional info: Property Assessed Clean Energy
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Susan Kraemer writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate and GreenProphet and has been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design she brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention: solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times. Follow Susan @dotcommodity on twitter.