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Berkeley First: San Francisco Next!

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has announced that San Francisco will adopt municipal financing that helps building owners add renewable power without the risk or the hassle of loans.

The program is based on the Berkeley First program which allows homeowners to pay for solar installations through a 20-year assessment on their property taxes.

Newsom says “We’re going to adopt Berkeley’s program … but take it to a whole ’nother level.”

He’s not kidding: Berkeley’s was $1.5 Million (and sold out in the first nine minutes)

San Francisco’s program will be $30 million!

Unlike the Berkeley plan which funded only solar electricity; Newsom’s program will fund any renewable energy source including co-generation, geothermal ground heat exchanges, wind power and even just efficiency measures like boiler upgrades and tank-less heaters: I hope that it will include solar hot water systems too!

Municipal tax assessment financing eliminates the loan application process. Berkeley’s pilot program allowed homeowners to simply place an additional tax assessment on their mortgage which would then be used to pay off the cost of the solar roof over 25 years.

In this way, the loan is attached to the property rather than the individual. Thus, the owner can make the retrofits and later sell the property without worrying about the cost of the retrofits being watered down in the overall sales price of the house or building.

If invested in a 100% energy replacement, this means essentially just swapping one utility bill (to PG&E) for another (the assessment added on their mortgage payments).

This would make zero carbon energy essentially free.

But using this funding to just merely energy use say 10% like many efficiency retrofits; they would be adding an additional expense as they pay that property tax assessment, because their remaining 90% (utility bill) would continue to rise at California’s rate of 6.7% a year.

Francisco DeVries – the inventor of Berkeley First will help San Francisco start the program. He has now founded a company; Renewable Funding LLC to help cities learn how to structure municipal financing. Although technically any city in California can institute this kind of program under AB 811, in practice the logistics are daunting.

Like DeVries; Newsom himself is no stranger to legislative ideas that really grow a green economy:

Last year San Francisco offered a $6,000 solar rebate. Solar installations grew by 300% .

Via The San Francisco Examiner

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