Law Easing the Way for City Solar Loans Passes

By Published On: February 1, 2008

The development of city loans to help businesses and homeowners finance solar power and energy efficiency measures is gaining momentum. To help promote renewables and efficiency, the Assembly passed AB 811, which aims to ensure all cities and counties that chose to offer such a loan program have the authority to do so. The bill passed on a 55-12 vote January 29. “If we can place solar panels on more homes and businesses across the state, we will dramatically reduce strain on the grid on the hottest days of the summer and reduce price spikes,” said Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), author of AB 811. Numerous cities, including Berkeley, San Francisco, Santa Monica, and San Jose plan to develop low interest loan programs to offset the high cost of installing rooftop solar panels, solar hot water systems, and efficiency measures on businesses and homes. Generally, the cities would front the money to interested parties and recoup it from a special property assessment from the participants. However, only general charter cities, such as Berkeley, have the authority to establish this kind of voluntary property tax. In contrast, what are known as general law cities lack the authority to provide the financing that is repaid via increased property taxes. In addition, some question whether general law cities have the authority to create special property assessments to promote solar power and energy efficiency, particularly some major lenders. “If cities issue revenue bonds, Wall Street needs to know there is a clear and unambiguous revenue stream,” said Edward Randolph, consultant to the Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee. AB 811 would clarify any ambiguity, he added.

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