Saturday, July 23, 2011

Legislation Could Revolutionize Rooftop Solar Financing

A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress this month would enable homeowners across the country to install rooftop solar and pay by installments on their local property tax assessment, also known as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE).  The PACE Assessment Protection Act of 2011 (H.R.2599) would cut red tape placed by Federal mortgage lenders (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) and free homeowners to take advantage of local PACE programs.  PACE does not involve government subsidies or broad taxes, and at least 27 States have adopted legislation supporting this tool, but are currently held back by the Federal mortgage lenders.

Rooftop solar installations have a positive impact on property values, according to a study by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory,  and paying for an installation over time through PACE makes such upgrades much more accessible to the public.  One pitfall in the legislation is that it may put rural communities or homeowners in lower economic brackets at a disadvantage.  The bill's language currently restricts property assessed financing to 10% of a home's value.   For homes in economically depressed areas, or in communities where property values are generally lower, this could be unnecessarily prohibitive.  The legislation already requires that PACE programs to ensure recipients are not in danger of default and are current on tax and property payments.

If this legislation is successful, there could be a tide of new rooftop solar installations, underscoring the obsolete nature of massive and expensive solar facilities on pristine desert habitat.  Those projects, which receive billions in Federal grants and loan guarantees, are no less environmentally destructive than a hydropower dam.

You can register your support for H.R. 2599 on the POPVOX site.

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