Boulder Voters Follow Berkeley with Clean Energy Financing
November 12, 2008
Voters in Boulder County, Colorado, have approved a ballot issue for the county to provide financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to residential and commercial properties, an approach also recently adopted by Berkeley, California. Boulder County Ballot Issue 1A passed easily, with unofficial results showing 63.63% of voters approving the measure. The voter approval allows Boulder County to issue up to $40 million in special assessment bonds to finance the clean energy improvements. Homeowners and businesses that elect to participate in the program will repay the county over a number of years through special assessments that are added to their property taxes. The measure caps the effective interest rate for the bonds at 10%, although the county should be able to secure a lower interest rate. Because the measure has just passed, many details of the program remain to be worked out, but the county hopes to begin accepting applications as early as February 2009. See the unofficial election results from the county, the county's overview of the measure, and the official ballot language as submitted via a resolution of the Boulder County Board of County Commissioners (PDF 72 KB). Download Adobe Reader.
The Boulder County measure follows a nearly identical financing effort now being launched as a pilot program by the City of Berkeley, California. In September, the Berkeley City Council approved an ordinance that allows the city to issue up to $80 million in bonds to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The city also passed a resolution to sell the first $1.5 million in bonds to Renewable Funding, LLC, which will administer the pilot phase of the financing project. Called the Berkeley FIRST program (short for "Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology"), it is initially being launched as a program to finance solar photovoltaic electric systems on residential or commercial properties, with a cost cap of $37,500 per installation. Property owners will repay the city over 20 years through a special tax on their property, paying interest at a rate similar to a mortgage. As in Boulder, the tax will stay with the property, even if it is transferred or sold. For the pilot program, the city will finance 40 solar power installations throughout Berkeley. Applications are being accepted for the pilot program through November 19. Read an overview of the program from the city's Office of Energy and Sustainable Development and see Renewable Funding's Berkeley FIRST Web site. For the legal background, download the resolution by visiting the city's online record system, selecting "Resolution" as the document type, and entering "64207" as the document number. To see the associated ordinance, select "Ordinance" as the document type and enter "7061" as the document number.