As California and the rest of the U.S. sink further into recession, one might wonder how anyone could possibly afford energy efficiency upgrades and solar installations. However, AB 811, passed last summer in the California state legislature, authorizes all cities and counties in California to designate areas where property owners can obtain low-interest government loans for the installation of solar panels and energy efficiency upgrades as long as they are permanently fixed to the property. The loans would be repaid as an item on the property owner’s property tax bill, thus the debt will stay with the property instead of the citizen. Clean energy investments funded through these programs will assist local governments in reaching the goals of Assembly Bill 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Furthermore, the AB 811 mechanism requires little or no investment of general funds and represents very low risk because the loan repayment is a senior lien on the property ahead of the mortgage itself. The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) is currently developing AB 811 programs in several select cities in southern California and is aiming to assist cities in various capacities, from the early stages of program design to ongoing program management and administration. Such programs also have the potential to create new jobs in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors.
How such programs will eventually pan out is yet to be seen. With property values in steep decline and local government coffers drying up, such lending programs could undoubtedly find better circumstances in which to make their debut. However, if California is going to address climate change and meet the requirements of AB 32, such programs may be just the tool the state needs to get on track for emissions reductions and they might even create some new jobs in the process.