Riverside County Home Energy Renovation Program Yields Energy Bill Savings, Local Jobs, Carbon Emissions Reductions

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Energy experts have long been touting residential solar PV installations and home energy efficiency renovations among the most straightforward, cost-effective ways of cutting home energy costs, boosting energy conservation, reducing residential carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and stimulating local economies and job creation.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs are designed with realizing those aims foremost in mind. More specifically, they help make residential solar PV and energy efficiency improvements more affordable by enabling municipalities and other local government authorities to raise investment capital via bond issues. Those funds are then provided to qualified homeowners to carry out solar PV, other clean energy, and energy efficiency projects. To service and repay the bonds, PACE financing recipients agree to pay higher property taxes over the course of 20 years.

Thing is, residential PACE financing has been held up in something of a state of limbo since 2011, the result of federal mortgage finance providers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s refusal to finance or guarantee mortgages with PACE liens on them.

Progess is being made, nonetheless. Indicative of the potential high level of demand for PACE finance, Riverside County’s new HERO (Home Energy Renovation Opportunity) program has already approved more than $45.5 million in clean energy financing for 1,500 residential projects. They range from upgrading windows and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) systems to whole-home PV solar installations,” according to a Riverside Press-Enterprise report.
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Picking Up the PACE on Home Energy Improvements

PACE legislation has been passed in more than 28 US states since the PACE concept was conceived and first proposed in the Monterey Bay Regional Energy Plan of 2005, according to statistics compiled by non-profit PACENow. The nation’s first PACE program — the BerkeleyFIRST climate program — was launched in Berkeley, California in 2008. California legislators followed that up with the launch of the CaliforniaFIRST PACE financing program for commercial, industrial and multi-family projects.

Energy efficiency renovations yield savings for homeowners by reducing energy consumption and hence energy bills. Greater energy conservation also results in lower carbon and CO2 emissions reductions, a social benefit of global proportion. Similarly retrofitting homes with solar PV systems can save homeowners money and reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprints. It also makes them more energy self-reliant while at the same time taking electrical load off energy grids.

Looked at narrowly from the individual homeowner’s perspective, the benefits may seem small and inadequate. Viewed from the broader, aggregate perspective, the individual, local, and even global benefits stand out in their scope and scale. Heating, cooling, lighting, and otherwise providing energy for buildings accounts for 49% of total US energy consumption, and 75% of total electricity consumption.

PACE financing provides US homeowners with the ability to make substantial dents in those figures, and that yields significant carry-over benefits. Moreover, PACE project financing also benefits homeowners and communities by boosting local economies and creating jobs.

Riverside County’s HERO to the Rescue

Launched in December, 2011, Riverside County’s HERO PACE progam is a public-private partnership between Renovate America and the Western Riverside Council of Governments. Some 360 local contractors are participating in the program. For them, the 1,500 local residential clean energy projects HERO’s helping finance mean more work, more income, and more hiring, all while helping homeowners save on energy bills and improve the environment and living conditions by reducing carbon and GHG emissions.

As reported in the Riverside Press-Enetrprise, HERO financing is also contributing to California’s drive to meet mandated state reductions in GHG emissions, for which it’s garnering national media attention. Based on the success to date, HERO’s founding partners are looking to expand the program nationwide.

Photo Credit: Habitat for Humanity
Map courtesy PACENow

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