LA Seeks Property Tax-Based Solar Financing

By Published On: April 3, 2009

The Los Angeles City Council is weighing a financing plan to allow homeowners to borrow money for solar panels from the city’s municipal utility and pay it back over 20 years through a special property tax assessment. Council members are modeling the measure after a property tax-based solar financing program Berkeley launched last year (Circuit, Sept. 22, 2008). “Many young homeowners are burdened with costs,” said Council member Greig Smith, who is sponsoring the plan. “Older and more established homeowners may want to reduce their escalating utility bills, but they have to weigh their longevity and fixed incomes.” Such constraints result in what Smith called “a smaller pool of homeowners that are willing to install solar power systems.” Property tax-based financing would overcome these hurdles, according to Smith. The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power is studying how it can put together such a financing package as part of a final comprehensive solar energy plan it is working to develop over the next three months, Bill Glauz, told the council’s Energy and Environment Committee. Glauz, the department’s solar energy program manager, spoke to the committee last week. Council president Eric Garcetti said he hopes the city would be able to use federal economic stimulus money to help enlarge the scope of the solar financing program. Council members also expressed interest in expanding the financing program to include energy efficiency retrofits, including solar hot water heating and double-paned windows. Union leaders told the committee they hope the financing program would create new jobs for their members. The committee is reviving the financing plan--introduced by Smith early in 2008 but then left on the table--after Los Angeles voters last month defeated Measure B, a 400 MW solar plan. It would have required the LADWP itself to install and operate solar panels on city properties. The measure was part of a larger 1,280 MW solar strategy the department is developing. Voters appeared to defeat Measure B over concerns about cost and the influence of LADWP union workers in writing and placing the measure on the ballot (Circuit, March 27, 2009).

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