Sacramento Solar News – Across Sacramento and all of California solar companies have been reving their engines over a sucessful home solar financing program that makes sence. PACE [wikipedia] is an acronym for Property Assessed Clean Energy. In areas with PACE legislation in place municipality governments offer a specific bond to investors and then turn around and loan the money to consumers and businesses to put towards an energy retrofit like installed solar panels.
The loans are repaid over the assigned term (typically 15 or 20 years) via an annual assessment on their property tax bill. PACE bonds can be issued by municipal financing districts or finance companies and the proceeds can be used to retrofit both commercial and residential properties. One of the most notable characteristics of PACE programs is that the loan is attached to the property rather than an individual. That means the loan stays with the home when it is sold and the new buyer gets the benefit of lower electrical bill from solar while the community benefits from local solar jobs.
Sounds like a win / win for everyone yes? Not quite… Enter Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac… you know, two of the large institutions that were “to big to fail”. It seems they are also big enough to dictate who gets what. Very dangerous for a democratic system that was suppose to be for the people by the people.
It makes us insane to think that the American taxpayer bails out Fanny and Freddie and the thanks we get is they block local jobs and clean renewable solar energy.
You can help with a simple step. Click here to go to Vote Solar, then follow the link. Your voice can make a difference. Take action to keep clean renewable solar energy affordable. Help wean us off of foreign oil and put money back into our local communities. Read More Solar –
Home loan halts solar loans in California
By Rick Daysog
Millions of dollars in green financing for California homeowners is being held up by a dispute between local government agencies and federal housing officials.
A new state program allowing homeowners to pay for solar panel installations and other energy efficiency improvements through their property taxes was put on hold in Placer County and San Francisco in May after federally backed mortgage lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began raising questions about such solar loans.
The launches of similar programs in Sacramento County, Los Angeles and San Diego could be delayed if the regulatory roadblocks remain. “It’s extremely frustrating; this pretty much came out of the blue,” said Jenine Windeshausen, treasurer and tax collector for Placer County.
The holdups have prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Attorney General Jerry Brown and California’s congressional delegation to write letters to Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other federal authorities asking that the agencies reconsider.
The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said it is working with California officials to resolve the issues.
“FHFA is very cognizant of the concerns and interests of programs in California and we are working diligently to address the concerns we have heard,” said Alfred Pollard, FHFA’s general counsel.
Hailed as one of the top 10 breakthrough ideas for 2010 by the Harvard Business Review, Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE solar financing, programs provide homeowners with low-interest loans to install solar panels and other energy projects.
The locally run programs, made possible in California by the passage of Assembly Bill 811 in 2008, let borrowers pay back the solar loans over time through their property taxes.
Placer and Sonoma counties, Berkeley, San Francisco and Palm Desert were among the first to embrace the idea, which aims to reduce customers’ energy bills, protect the environment and promote green solar jobs.
Sacramento and Yolo counties are part of a group of 14 counties that plan to launch their own PACE solar programs later this year.
Problems arose in May when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued warning letters that the arrangements may violate their rules because they give counties a priority position when it comes to getting paid back.
If a homeowner defaults on a loan, that would mean counties would be repaid before Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal agencies have argued.
Some lenders, as a result, are requiring homeowners to repay the full amount of solar financing when they sell or refinance their home, adding significant costs in an already down real estate market.
Windeshausen, Placer County’s treasurer, said the county stopped processing financing applications from homeowners nearly two months ago when the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae letters came in.
About 33 applications seeking nearly $800,000 in solar energy loans were left hanging, she said.
Started in March, the program, dubbed mPower Placer, has had about $2 million a month in new applications, Windeshausen said.
San Francisco also was forced to put its solar PACE program, dubbed Green Finance SF, on hiatus after operating for just one month.
Johanna Partin, director of climate protection initiatives for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, said the city has received more than 20 applications and interest in the program had been growing.
“It’s terribly unfortunate since the one bright spot in the economy had been the clean tech sector,” Partin said.
Cliff Staton, vice president of marketing for Oakland-based Renewable Funding LLC., said green solar finance programs set to launch this year in Sacramento County, Los Angeles and San Diego face delays if the dispute with federal housing authorities lingers.
Staton, whose company serves as the third-party administrator for PACE programs in San Francisco, Berkeley and parts of Los Angeles, added that the holdups are beginning to cost renewable solar energy jobs.
Recurve Inc., a San Francisco-based green energy remodeling company, said it recently furloughed a handful of its workers for several days when San Francisco suspended its solar PACE program.
Matt Golden, Recurve’s president, said the 70-employee company ramped up its staffing by 80 percent over the past year only to see the PACE-related work dry up overnight.
“It made our entire construction schedule look like Swiss cheese,” Golden said.
Roseville based Solar Power Inc., which manufactures and sells solar panels, said delays to Placer County’s programs have cost the company about $2 million in revenue.
The company handles about 40 percent of the solar loan applications in Placer County, said CEO Steve Kircher.
“It’s just incredible that there’s so much emphasis by the federal government and the state to get renewable solar energy and energy independence, and then this happens,” Kircher said.