January 11, 2010

California's Solar Financing

ENVIRONMENT - Its expensive to buy a $20,000 solar system for your home... even though you know its worth it in the long run because you end up saving money. The problem is the initial start up cash.

California however has come up with a solution known as "Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology" (or FIRST). Using the program municipalities issue bonds to the financial/private sector for investment and then grants 20-year, low-interest loans to homeowners who want to install a rooftop solar photovoltaic system. Depending on where you live a combination of solar/wind/geothermal is also available for loans.

The homeowner then pays off the loan via a small increase in their property taxes, thus if you sell your house later on the loan is transferred to the new owner. The savings from not having to pay an electric bill every month (or better yet, getting a cheque from the electric company for feeding back into the system) more than outweighs the increase in property taxes. Plus the interest rate on the loan is approx. 1% higher than the interest rate owed on the bonds, allowing the municipality to recoup the cost of administering the program.

Since the program first appeared in 2007 its spread all over the United States and is now endorsed by the White House and various other government agencies. It is being hailed by financial institutions and environmental groups as "brilliant" and commonly goes with the phrase "Why didn't we think of this sooner?"

Similar programs have since spread to Europe and Asia and its quickly becoming a global phenomenon.

So when will it be coming to Canada? Good question. Ask around in your local municipality because chances are likely it will be here soon (or faster if people start pushing for it).

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