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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Financing for Water & Energy Improvements in Sonoma County

Renewable Energy & Water Improvement Financing Program

By Jim Toomey
Public Information Officer, County of Sonoma

Using authority granted to cities and counties under Assembly Bill (AB) 811, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will consider creating a program to help property owners finance renewable energy and water efficiency improvements to their properties. If approved, Sonoma County would be the first county in California to create such a program. The Board will review a feasibility study conducted by the County Administrator’s Office at its meeting on February 3rd, and may provide direction to create the program at that time.

Sonoma County has a stated goal of reducing community-wide Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2015. Because decreases in energy use are directly related to reductions in GHG emission, the creation of an AB 811 program would have a direct impact on achieving the 2015 goal. Such a program would also benefit property owners by providing readily available financing, with fewer credit restrictions than traditional loan products. They would also likely benefit from the long-term energy cost savings on any improvements that are made, as well as potential increases in property values. In addition, the program would increase “green” job opportunities in Sonoma County. Given the County’s severe water situation, AB 811 water efficiency improvements would provide “win/win” advantages in both energy and water conservation.

As envisioned, the program would provide loans to property owners to perform energy efficiency upgrades to their business or residential properties. The loans are paid back along with the participants’ property taxes over a period of twenty years. Loans would be tied to the properties, not the owners, and could therefore be passed from one owner to the next. Because the loans are paid back, with interest, the program is cost-neutral to the County.

“This is a key action program to implement cost saving energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation projects,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Paul Kelley. “This will help the County reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions as a component of reducing the impacts of climate change.”

“AB 811 is a powerful tool for residential and commercial property owners to access for energy efficient improvements that provide conservation and potential savings,” added Supervisor Valerie Brown. “Sonoma County will be a model for other counties in California and across the nation.”

A copy of the feasibility study may be obtained at the Offices of the Board of Supervisors and County Administrator, located at 575 Administration Drive, Room 104A, in Santa Rosa. Phone (707) 565-2431
The County of Sonoma is comprised of 26 departments and agencies that provide a full range of services to the community. It encompasses over 1600 square miles and is home to more than 475,000 residents. Sonoma County government has a history of providing excellent and responsive public service while operating under sound fiscal principles.

Located less than one hour north of San Francisco, Sonoma County combines in one location, the beautiful Pacific coastline, award-winning wineries, majestic redwoods, historic towns, fine dining, and a wide variety of entertainment and cultural activities.

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