Sonoma County Launches Benchmark Energy Financing Program

From on April 01, 2009 in Green Remodeling

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Homeowners in Sonoma County, California may be able to save some money as they wrestle through our current downer of an economy. That made possible by the recent enactment of Sonoma County’s Energy Independence Program (SCEIP), which offers low interest loans to homeowners for energy improvements to their homes.

The response has been excitement, to say the least. The program was enacted on a Wednesday, and by the end of the week nearly $500,000 dollars had already been asked for by 181 applicants. SCEIP is the first of its kind in California and is a direct result of Assembly Bill (AB) 811, which the California legislature passed to allow government funding of energy improvement projects on private property. Sonoma’s is the first countywide program.

Sonoma County and the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) have together offered the $100 million in funding.

How It Works:

SCEIP is really a very simple program, with glaring similarities to the City of Berkeley’s solar financing program. The program will cover up front costs for energy improvements for qualifying homeowners in Sonoma County. That loan will be paid back via a property tax increase over a 5-, 10-, or 20-year period depending on the size of the loan.

Any residential, commercial, or industrial property owner in Sonoma County is eligible for a loan.

Eligible Projects:

These include high efficiency windows, tankless water heaters, upgrades in wall or roof insulation, rainwater harvesting for irrigation systems, low-flow toilets, heating/cooling upgrades and solar electric or solar hot water systems.

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The Terms:

The minimum loan amount is $2,500. Loans up to $5,000 must be repaid in 5 or 10 year terms. Energy projects over $5,000 may be repaid in 10 or 20 years and projects from $60,000 to $500,000 will require approval from the program administrator. Projects even higher than half a million dollars will require approval from the Board of Supervisors.

How to Apply:

Interested homeowners begin with an online energy efficiency evaluation, available at sonomacountyenergy.org. That evaluation will help assess the cost of improvements versus the savings on energy and energy costs. Commercial applicants for SCEIP must have an energy audit performed as part of the loan process.

Applications for the program may be obtained at the SCEIP storefront (404 Aviation Blvd. in Santa Rosa) or online. In that application homeowners must describe the energy or water saving improvements they wish to make. If approved, the homeowner and county will sign an assessment contract, at which time the county will cover the initial cost of the project and the homeowner will see an immediate increase in property taxes. Improvements must be permanent, and the assessment lien on the property remains with the property (not the individual) should the home change hands.

What Does NOT qualify:

Repairs or new construction in addition to the energy improvements do not qualify under the program. Furthermore, if repairs are necessary in order to implement the energy improvements, that cost must be covered by the homeowner. Hence the importance of the energy evaluation, described above, to assess cost versus savings.

Sources:

Sonoma County Energy

The Press Democrat