The Federal Housing Financing Agency issued a statement in July 2010 that was critical of PACE programs. Many PACE programs, including Sonoma County's, were temporarily suspended in response to the statement, waiting for further direction from the federal agency. At their July 13 Board meeting the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors elected to re-open this program.
Sonoma County's Energy Independence Program gives property owners the option of financing energy efficiency, water efficiency and renewable energy improvements through a voluntary assessment on their property tax bills. The program is similar to others in California authorized by AB 811 of 2008, but was the first county-wide program. Eligible equipment must be permanently attached to existing buildings, new construction does not qualify. The property tax assessments are attached to the property, not the property owner. If the property is sold, the assessment stays with the property.
Sonoma County expects to offer fixed rates which are at or below the rates participants could otherwise receive on home equity loans from financial institutions. An exact interest rate will be determined at the time the contract is signed. Once the contract is signed, the interest rate will be fixed for the life of the assessment, although the county may reduce the rate if it is able to do so after negotiating long term financing for the program. The Energy Independence Program can be combined with utility and state rebates, but financing will only be available for the post-incentive cost. Tax credits, on the other hand, will not affect the amount of financing available.
A key Sonoma County Energy Independence Program (SCEIP) enhancement effective July 1, 2011, is the requirement of achieving 10% energy efficiency improvement on the property prior to (or along with) the financing of renewable generation upgrade projects. This approach supports SCEIP’s regional goal to “reduce and produce,” plus strengthens the market position of the SCEIP assessment portfolio.
Beginning March 1, 2011, the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program offers rebates for Energy Analyses performed by certified HERS II Raters. Submit your application, utility authorization, final invoice, rating certificate and recommendations report to SCEIP, and SCEIP will pay up to 75% of the total directly to the rater.
The following improvements are eligible for funding through the Energy Independence Program:
- Photovoltaic systems
- Solar water heater systems
- Cool roof systems
- Reflective roofs and coatings
- High efficiency HVAC systems and HVAC system sealing
- Duct and home sealing
- Evaporative coolers
- Efficient natural gas storage water heaters
- Tankless water heaters
- Attic and wall insulation
- Reflective insulation or radiant barriers
- Whole house fans and attic fans
- High efficiency windows and glass doors
- Window filming
- Weather stripping
- Efficient skylights
- Solar tubes
- Additional building openings to provide addition natural light
- High efficiency lighting installation
- High efficiency pool equipment
- Electric vehicle plug-in stations
- Geothermal exchange heat pumps
- Solar thermal systems for pool heating
- Custom efficiency improvements at commercial and industrial facilities
- For complete list, see Eligible Improvements at www.sonomacountyenergy.org
Commercial and industrial properties must first have Pacific Gas and Electric perform an energy audit before participating in the program. Energy audits are not required for residential participants, but they are strongly recommended. The sum of all debt associated with the property cannot exceed 100% of the value of the property. Prospective participants should fully review the program website for additional requirements and restrictions.
As of July 2012, this program has funded more than $57 million in projects.