Municipal Bonds for Solar Power

SUBHEAD: Kauai could use municipal bonding authority to finance solar power on private property. imagte above: An integrated solar voltaic roof is installed on new residence. From By Brad Parsons on 6 November 2009 - [Author's note: This is in follow-up to the insightful Garden Island letters "We are all Keynesian puppets" (Nov. 5) by Ron Holte and "Solar is the answer" (Oct. 29) by Kawika Moke among the many letters on solar that Mr. Moke has written.]
Mr. Holte astutely wrote, "...we must take actions at the local level to provide jobs...We cannot rely on the Federal or State governments to solve the problem...We need to take better advantage of our resources: land, water, sun, wind, ocean, by private enterprise...The county can issue Build America bonds established by the stimulus act to raise seed monies..." Mr. Holte and Mr. Moke are spot on a solution. Mr. Holte is exactly right that solutions will have to come locally, and the areas he identifies are where economic localization can take place to capture localized economic multipliers and to fill the void of structural changes that are taking place in the national and global economy. I would like to add one more piece to this puzzle. It is using Municipal bonding authority to finance solar on residential and possibly commercial property. Specifically, the idea would be to use the county's bonding authority to finance photovoltaic solar and possibly solar water heaters on private property. The county would pay the upfront costs of solar installation and property owners would repay those costs over 20 years through an additional modest line item assessment on property tax bills. If a property owner moves, the solar system would stay with the property and the new owners would assume the remaining years of the assessment. Oh, you might say, "Too simple...can't can." Ah, but it is working, in Berkeley since last summer with the Berkeley FIRST (Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology) Program and in the past year many other states and municipalities have copied Berkeley's idea. Typically the savings on electricity bills are equal to or greater than the slight increase in property tax assessment spread over 20 years. A key point is that the idea caps electricity costs to the property owner with the solar installation costs spread over 20 years, but the electricity itself would basically be free from the sun. As volatile utility rates based on liquid petroleum go higher in the future, a major concern on Kaua'i and Hawaii, the savings to the property owner would become greater. Those savings will create localized economic multipliers. Additionally, in the immediate term the concept would create well paying jobs for electricians and in solar sales jobs as local property owners take advantage of the program over a number of years. Yes, we can...Together we can... For the reader interested in further sources on how to implement this emerging local idea see: 1.) Berkeley FIRST Solar Financing - City of Berkeley, CA and 2.) Berkeley Financing Program Brings Renewable Energy Home 3.) Municipal Financing of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Improvements on Private Property 4.) Santa Cruz Solar Financing Initiative 5.) Recovery and Reinvestment Act Boosts Municipal Solar Finance 6.) Berkeley going solar - city pays up front, recoups over 20 years 7.) Bright future as Berkeley starts solar program 8.) The Roof Is On Fire
see also: Ea O Ka Aina: Renewable Redundancy 8/8/09

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