California Solar Rebates and Incentives

Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing

Program Type Municipal loan program
Technologies Locally determined, but the state recommends photovoltaics, geothermal heat pumps, fuel cells, and high-efficiency HVAC systems, insulation, and windows
Amount Usually a minimum of $5,000
Required Documentation Varies. Usually an application, energy audit, invoices of work
 
Official Web Site San Francisco GreenFinanceSF:  https://greenfinancesf.org/systems/energy
Berkeley FIRST: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=26580
City of Palm Desert Energy Independence Program: http://www.cityofpalmdesert.org/Index.aspx?page=484
City of Yucaipa Energy Independence Program: http://www.yucaipa.org/cityPrograms/EIP/eip.php
Sonoma County Energy Independence Program: http://www.sonomacountyenergy.org/
Placer County mPower Placer: http://www.mpowerplacer.org/learn.html

 

While Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing programs across the country are determined on a state and local basis, most programs were halted when the Federal Housing Financing Agency (FHFA) said such programs could invalidate Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae leases. However, some local programs still exist and more are being introduced. Under California’s PACE rules cities can set up PACE programs and loan homeowners and businesses money at low interest rates to make efficiency improvements, including installing photovoltaics and other forms of solar power to their properties. To be eligible, a property owner must have a clean property title and they must be current on property taxes and mortgages. Property owners who receive a PACE-based loan pay it back through their property taxes, typically over a period of 20 years, in the form of a lien assessed against the property and paid annually as part of the property owner’s annual taxes. 

Interest is calculated at a fixed rate at the time of the loan, and borrowers are allowed to deduct the interest on their income taxes in the same way homeowners can deduct the interest on a home-equity line of credit. If the property is sold during the PACE loan, the PACE assessment is generally transferred to the buyer.

The purpose of the PACE program is to defray the cost of making energy improvements to properties, and to encourage property owners to do so. The California Energy Commission oversees the program, but it’s up to municipalities to implement it—not all cities in California participate.

San Francisco is one of the participants, and property owners there can seek a loan by applying to be a part of a “tax district” that allows the city to recover the cost of the loan through a special line item on local property taxes. Under that program projects funded by financing must make the property 20 percent more energy-efficient, and the city wants property owners to start with the basics—insulation, windows, and so forth. Solar water-heating, photovoltaics, and almost any other renewable-energy-generating equipment is eligible for financing, but for such projects the city requires an energy audit first, and may first require more basic efficiency improvements to the property to accompany the equipment. Such improvements can, of course, be covered by the loan.

The city of Palm Desert, the city of Yuciapa, Sonoma County, Placer County, and the city of Berkeley also offer city-issued loans for energy-efficiency improvements. In most cases, the interest rate is low (7 to 10 percent) and no down-payment is required. For property owners who want to upgrade their property’s efficiency and install solar but lack the up front capital PACE programs, where available, are an excellent option.

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