planet-smart blog

Bank leaders work to make energy upgrades easy

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New Resource Bank

Energy and water efficiency and renewable power upgrades could soon be much more affordable and appealing to California property owners, thanks in part to hard work by New Resource Bank board director Bob Epstein and vice chairman Peter Liu on legislation promoting Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs statewide.

In a nutshell, PACE gives property owners loans for energy and water improvements that they pay back over 20 years through their property taxes. SB 77 (Pavley) would help make PACE programs across the state more efficient and authorize a $50 million credit reserve fund to help lower costs to property owners.

“We’ve been traveling to Sacramento to explain the advantages of this bill to the agencies that would be involved in its implementation and to help lawmakers craft the legislation,” says Liu, noting that Epstein has a history of success in this arena. “Bob is the co-founder of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) and has quite a bit of policy experience and vision for these sorts of things. He led the E2 team that helped to pass California’s major climate change bills—the Clean Cars Bill and the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32).”

Some municipalities—including Berkeley (the pioneer), San Francisco, Sonoma County, San Diego and Palm Desert—already have PACE programs under way. But Liu and Epstein want to make access to financing easier for homeowners across the state. When financing is relatively painless, Liu says, people are more likely to make investments that have a long-term payoff.

If the governor signs SB 77 (the Legislature has passed it), New Resource will work with municipalities on PACE program financing.

“We are working to provide capital facilities to help cities implement PACE programs,” says Liu. “When we help lower costs for homeowners who want to make these important upgrades, that translates to more local jobs, which is good for the state’s economy.

“This has been very much embraced as a jobs bill,” he adds. “We are in a difficult economy and energy efficiency retrofits are one of the best ways to produce jobs locally.”

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