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Green Building News

Boulder County’s Renewable-Energy Loan Program Takes Off

Image Credit: ClimateSmart Loan Program of Boulder County

The deadline recently passed for Boulder County property owners to apply for ClimateSmart loans, which they can use to pay for renewable-energy improvements. Early indications are that the program is going to be a success

Last month, design expert and GBA contributor Annette Stelmack provided us with a compelling and thoroughgoing overview of the ClimateSmart Loan Program administered by Boulder County, Colorado.

The program is off to a quick start if the following notice, posted Monday on a Web page for the ClimateSmart program, is any indication:

“As of 2:59 p.m. today, a total of 517 property owners have successfully completed applications for ClimateSmart Loans, for a total of $9,534,329.47,” the message read.

ClimateSmart is one of several municipal financing programs designed to grant homeowners low-interest loans for renewable-energy improvements, including solar power installations. The loans, which are added to qualifying residential and commercial property owners’ tax bills and paid off over 15 years, stay with each property’s tax bill when the property is sold.

Intended to encourage building owners to make energy-efficiency improvements to their properties, the loan program in Boulder County (population approximately 245,000) is similar to loan programs launched in a half-dozen cities in California, including San Francisco and San Diego, notes a recent New York Times story on the subject. The Times adds that other states, including Arizona, Texas and Virginia, have introduced bills to allow municipal financing.

One of the main financial incentives for prospective participants: They can get a renewable-energy improvement without putting out lots of cash or applying for a conventional equity loan. And they don’t risk a diminished investment if they move, since the loan stays with the property’s ongoing tax bills.

One of the most successful programs of this type was recently launched in Palm Desert, California. Many of Palm Desert’s almost 51,000 residents are conservative in ways that don’t necessarily encourage implementation of environmentally progressive policies. But, as the Times notes, the place gets a lot of hot sun.

Taking into account its citizens’ considerable incentive to stay cool at lower cost, the city decided to tap into $7.5 million of its own reserves to run a pilot program, which was almost immediately fully subscribed. About half of the 100 or so households approved so far have already installed a system and have it up and running, Patrick Conlon, director of the city office of energy management, told the paper.

By that standard, Boulder County’s ClimateSmart program, with 517 applications submitted from April 1 through the submission deadline, April 10, is doing quite well. As Annette Stelmack pointed out in her blog, the program is “awesome.”


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