The Davis City Council voted unanimously to pass the CaliforniaFIRST clean energy finance program last Tuesday.
Sponsored by the California Statewide Communities Development Authority (California Communities), an association of counties and cities, CaliforniaFIRST helps property owners to finance efficient and clean energy projects in their homes or businesses with the assistance of their local municipality, according to a Yolo County press release. Participants can then pay back the monies as line items on their tax bills.
This decision follows the Yolo County Board of Supervisors’ vote on Jan. 12 to join the program, making it possible for Yolo County cities to participate.
Yolo County Sustainability Program manager Mitch Sears explained in a City Council presentation how the process works.
“Dollars ‘up-front’ go to the property owner [to help finance the projects]” Sears said. “Dollars are [then] repaid on the tax bill.”
Sears said financing could be repaid over up to a period of 20 years.
Renewable Funding, an organization in charge of the administration of Property Assessed Clean Energy programs, like the environmentally geared “FIRST” programs, claimed on its website that local municipalities must first approve the program before residents in the area may apply to receive financing. With the City Council having passed three separate resolutions to enact the program, Davis residents are on track to receive the benefits offered by CaliforniaFIRST.
Currently, CaliforniaFIRST is a pilot program. Thirteen other counties have also joined the pilot program, including Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Sacramento and San Diego counties.
The program’s operations in Davis are a fraction of its total $16.5 million price tag. Opting for the program costs Davis $12,500 in set-up fees, but these are to be paid by stimulus funds. Government bonds will be issued to aid the program.
The program promises noticeable benefits too. Aside from giving back to the environment, CaliforniaFIRST is poised to create a multitude of “green” jobs if residents participate to the point of driving substantial demand for energy efficient technology.
“Clearly we want Davis residents to participate in this program,” Sears said.
CaliforniaFIRST is follow-up legislation written in accordance with its June 2009 progenitor, the State of California’s Clean Energy Municipal Financing Law (AB 811).
“[AB 811] is the enabling legislation,” Sears said. “It allows property owners to… establish financing districts…to repay the funds that are used through their property tax bill.”
Sears said the primary advantage is the amount stays with the property rather than being, for example, a second on a mortgage.
Projects deemed eligible for financing under CaliforniaFIRST include energy efficient windows, doors and ventilation systems, as well as renewable energy systems that can harness solar energy.
Davis Mayor Ruth Uy Asmundson said she would like to see financing through CaliforniaFIRST.
“I would like to apply for [the program] if I can,” Mayor Asmundson said.
Sears estimated Davis residents could apply for CaliforniaFIRST financing in June 2010, which is when the first monies would become available to the program.
YARA ELMJOUIE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.