AMP working toward loan program for energy efficiency projects
The folks out at Alameda Municipal Power are gearing up to offer a low-interest loan program to help home and business owners pay for what can be fairly costly energy efficiency projects. The program could be up and running sometime next year.
Sherri Hong, AMP’s assistant general manager for customer resources, said the utility is waiting for a regional program to be developed, and that details for our local program, including administrative costs, still need to be worked out. She said the utility should have more information in early 2010.
Berkeley was the first California city to float the idea of such a program, in 2007 (their program got underway in November 2008). The city partnered with a private firm to obtain bonds to finance the improvements, which can include solar panels and other energy efficiency measures. Home and business owners who take the loans pay them back through an assessment on their property tax bills.
Their program inspired AB 811, a state law that allows all of California’s municipalities to offer the programs. (Berkeley is a charter city that has the power to collect the taxes outright, as is Alameda; general law cities lack that power.) The law allows municipalities to draw money from their general funds, issue bonds or partner with a utility to set up financing for the programs.
The programs are not without risks, per this staff report from the utility. Staff costs are another potential issue, it says.
The City of Palm Desert set up a program in 2008 using $7 million from their general fund to provide the loans; much of the $5 million that has already been used has gone toward replacing older air conditioning systems.
Sonoma County also started a program, this past March, pulling $45 million from its investment pool to buy bonds. The county hired six staffers to run the program, and it also has an oversight committee made up of senior staffers.