County to Examine Energy Financing Options

The county Board of Supervisors launches an analysis that could lead to more rooftop solar and other alternative energy projects across the region.

The county Board of Supervisors today launched an analysis that could lead to more rooftop solar and other small-scale alternative energy projects across the region.

At the urging of Supervisor Dave Roberts and Vice-Chairwoman Dianne Jacob, the board unanimously voted to initiate a detailed look at financing options for homeowners and businesses interested in installing energy-saving systems.

"An analysis will help us to help the consumer,” said Dave Roberts. “I want to jump-start a clean industry to create jobs, offer funding options from a choice of vendors and promote competition to bring down price.”

“We’re fortunate to live in one of the sunniest regions in the nation, but the tools needed to help pay for solar panels and related technology are out of reach for many property owners,” said Jacob. “We’re hoping the analysis will help us lift the financial cloud hanging over solar, particularly for homeowners.”

County staff was directed to evaluate and compare public-private financing initiatives known as PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy programs, which are more widely available in other parts of California.

PACE allows lending companies to provide loans to property owners interested in installing alternative energy projects. The money is repaid through property tax assessments.

San Diego County started a commercial PACE program last year, but has so far held off on a residential program because of limitations imposed by federal housing authorities. But at least two other counties, Riverside and Sonoma, are moving ahead with residential initiatives. Both have proved highly popular with consumers.

San Diego County officials will analyze those initiatives and others and report back to the supervisors within four months.

Several companies have expressed strong interest in offering market-rate loans to homeowners if the county decides to start a residential PACE program.

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