By Kristina Houck
Solana Beach property owners have a new way to finance energy-efficient improvements for their homes.
Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, loans allow homeowners to make renewable energy upgrades to their properties with low-cost, tax deductible financing paid through their property tax bill.
The Solana Beach City Council in October opted to participate in the Home Energy Retrofit Opportunity, or HERO, program. The program launched in the coastal community, as well as the San Diego communities of Carlsbad, Lemon Grove, Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista, on Feb. 10.
Renovate America, the San Diego-based financial firm funding the program, launched HERO in 18 California communities in 2011. Today, the company works with more than 100 cities throughout the state to administer and manage the program.
“We want to create an avenue that gives all homeowners access to products that are available on the market that can save people money, as well as lower the energy that’s used and the water that’s used,” said JP McNeill, founder and CEO of Renovate America. “It’s a good thing. It makes people feel good and it makes us feel good.”
There are more than 150,000 energy and water efficient products that are eligible for HERO financing. Upgrades may include energy-efficient appliances, cooling and heating systems, water heaters, windows, photovoltaic systems and many other products.
Improvements are financed with bonds issued through a Joint Powers Authority. Solana Beach is an associate member of the Riverside HERO program through Western Riverside Council of Governments.
“Never before have you been able to finance your solar system through your property taxes,” said David Savarese, director of project development at Sullivan Solar Power, a registered HERO contractor. “HERO allows homeowners to go solar for zero money out of pocket.”
HERO first launched its residential program in December 2011 in Riverside County.
Norco resident Curtis Showalter used HERO to finance his solar power system, which was installed by Sullivan Solar Power in July.
“It was a simple process,” Showalter said. “You didn’t have to jump through hoops.”
The installation of the 42-panel system on his home means Showalter no longer has a monthly energy bill.
“It’s a full 100 percent generation system. I don’t have any electrical use from Edison at all at this point in time,” said Showalter, a husband and father of two. “And it’s a fixed rate for 20 years. So for the next 20 years, I will pay the same rate I’m paying now. Even though Edison’s prices are going up, my rates stay the same.”
The HERO program is voluntary for property owners. Solana Beach is not obligated to repay the bonds or pay any delinquent assessments levied on participating properties.
“Ideally, we want the program to be made available to every resident in the state of California,” McNeill said. “But we’ve got to get every city and county to opt into the program. Ultimately, our objective is to lower energy usage and water usage, save people money, create jobs and lower our carbon emissions.”
For more information about the HERO program, visit www.heroprogram.com.