Financing Solar Power

Berkeley, CA was one of the first cities to use special utility districts to fund the switch to solar power in their community. Now the man behind the plan is trying to make the financing system national.
November 25, 2008, 12pm PST | Tim Halbur
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"Cisco DeVries wanted to outfit his home with solar power, but he wasn't sure the costly installation would pencil out. So the Oakland resident put together a spreadsheet, analyzing his last three years of PG&E bills. He soon realized it wasn't going to work financially. "Screw this," he thought to himself. But then he had an epiphany.

At the time, DeVries was the chief of staff to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. In 2006, Bates had helped spearhead the passage of Measure G, a city ordinance which set some of the most aggressive targets for reducing greenhouse gases in the nation. Bates made DeVries the point person in his office for coming up with innovative ways to meet Measure G's goals. Then DeVries had an idea about solar power.

The city was working on an underground utility district for a neighborhood, and DeVries thought that the same concept could be applied to solar installations. Such utility districts are common throughout the state. They allow neighborhoods to form a taxing district and sell bonds that pay for putting the utilities underground. Then the neighborhood residents pay off the bonds by paying extra taxes on their annual property bills.

It was simple, and DeVries thought the same could be done with solar installations."

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Published on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 in East Bay Express
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