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March 24, 2010 > 'Retrofit Bay Area' adopted

'Retrofit Bay Area' adopted

By Steve Wyant

Milpitas residents will soon have a new financial tool to help pay for energy-and money-saving improvements to their homes. Thanks to the March 16 adoption of a resolution by Milpitas City Council to participate in the Santa Clara County Residential Retrofit Program (SCCRRP), Milpitas joins 104 other local governments in California who are participating.

There are two key programs that make the process work. The first is legislation passed in 2008 (AB 811) that authorizes local governments to make loans to property owners for energy-efficiency and renewable-energy improvements. According to a November 3, 2009 report for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, the loans are re-paid over a twenty-year period, using the property tax bill as the payment mechanism. Property owners can finance the upfront costs of solar panels, dual-pane windows, added insulation, weatherization, heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades and energy-efficient appliances. The model for the loan program originated in Berkeley.

The second key program is a grant provided by the California Energy Commission, which awarded $10.75M to fund the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) "Retrofit Bay Area" Program. According to a Milpitas staff report, "Retrofit Bay Area" establishes the infrastructure for a market-driven, residential, retrofit program that will stimulate the economy and create jobs while transforming energy markets in California. The goal of the program is to retrofit 17,000 homes (single family and multifamily) with an average of 20 percent energy reduction, while creating 1,739 home energy retrofit jobs.

The City staff report states "The grant includes funding for regional and local program development, implementation, evaluation, measurement, verification, administration and reporting." Santa Clara County received $1.9M to manage the local aspects of the program through SCCRRP, which will consist of a suite of environmental programs and information, including the financing options. Information will be marketed to County non-profits, businesses, housing agencies, utilities and consulting firms where grants will be allocated to provide energy audits to the residential community. The energy audits are expected to stimulate interest in comprehensive home retrofits.

For a property owner to use the program to retrofit their home, the energy audit needs to be ordered from one of the grant-supported organizations or PG&E. Whether the loan program proves to be more economical than a traditional home equity loan or home re-finance is unclear at the moment. Interest rates for the program are currently unknown.

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