It's Worth Going Green!
Written by: Ambika at buildaroo.com
Incentives in Berkeley and Alameda County
Alameda County, CA is home to the city of Berkeley which as you may know by now is buildaroo's home base. Naturally we're interested in the incentives close to home and hope they'll provide you with a good example of what you may find in your own home town. The savings categories (everything from tax rebates to loan programs) are broad and vary in nature, so there's certain to be something that works for you.
If you live in Berkeley you can take advantage of the city's local loan program, the Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology (FIRST), which gives up to $37,000 per installation of a photovoltaic system (photovoltaic is just a big word that means anything related to solar cells and the use of solar cells for energy). The loan applies to both commercial and residential projects and its effective rate is 7.75% as of the end of last year. There is little up-front cost and the cost ends up being paid through a special property tax, which is spread out over 20 years. If you decide to sell the property, the tax goes with it to the new owners. For more information about the program, be sure to visit the City's website.
Looking for something a little smaller in scale without a 20 year loan behind it? Residents of Alameda, which includes cities such as Berkeley and Oakland, can take advantage of the County's solar rebate program which gives residential users of solar technology $2.60 per watt of photovoltaic installation. The program applies to commercial users of solar energy as well, but those of you that fall into that category will have to give Alameda County a call. You can find a number and more information about the program here.
Want to get even smaller in scale? Alameda County residents can get a $100 rebate on an Energy Star approved refrigerator (we told you the incentives were diverse!). The new fridge just has to be at least 14 cubic feet, and the county will recycle your old one for you. If you have an extra old fridge or freezer sitting in your garage, the county will take it off your hands for you and give you a $35 rebate. Visit the Alameda Municipal Power site to find out how you can get started on your refrigerator upgrade. Remember, the new fridge will save you cash on your electricity bill, too!
Incentives in San Francisco
California just loves going solar, and San Francisco is no exception. The City and County of San Francisco, like Alameda, provides rebates for just about anyone that invests in a photovoltaic system on their property. This includes commercial, industrial, residential, and nonprofit properties. Systems must be at least 1 kilowatt in capacity and there is no maximum size limit. Basic residential installations are eligible for rebates of $2000. If you system is installed by a local installer, you qualify for an even higher $3,000 incentive. If that installer is an individual trained by the city's workforce development system, you'll qualify for a $4,000 incentive. Basic installations done in special "environmental justice districts" quality for a rebate of $3,500. This includes lower income and racially diverse neighborhoods that are near industrial sites and major highways. As of February 1, 2009, low-income applicants are eligible for a rebate as high as $7,000. For more information about how the solar rebates in San Francisco apply to other sectors, visit the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
California at Large
Regardless of where you live in California, there are a number of policies that apply to the entire state. The California Solar Initiative, which works with the solar benefits discussed above, is one such program that provides users of solar technology with monetary rewards for using energy efficient equipment. The rewards vary based on the customer segment and size of the project, but applies across the board to commercial, industrial, residential, and goverment users of solar technology. Components must be approved by the California Energy Commision (you can find a list here) and installed by an appropriately licensed solar contractor, but with a $3.2 billion dollar budget there are some significant rewards to be had. The program is being implemented by PG&E and you can see how it applies to your sector at GoSolarCalifornia.org or at the PG&E website for CSI incentives.
It's likely that if you live in California, PG&E also supplies your utilities and you can take advantage of their Residential Energy Efficiency Program. The program provides three rebate programs for using energy efficient equipment in your home, a Standard Energy Efficiency Rebate Program, a Rebates for Multi-Family Properties Program, and a Residential New Construction Rebates Program. The Standard Energy Efficiency Rebates, probably the most applicable to the average home-owner, are available online as e-rebates for various improvements in energy efficiency, including lighting improvements, heating and cooling upgrades, and remodeling or pool improvements. You can even get up to $1500 in tax credit for your energy efficient upgrades. Looking for a utilities rebate for a commercial building? They've got an equivalent program for businesses.
If your utilities are provided by a different company - say the Southern California Edison Company, the San Diego Gas & Electric Company, or the Southern California Water Company - the state still provides some cash incentives for using wind or fuel cells using renewable fuels. Read more about the program at the Consumer Energy Center website.
Looking for more incentives nationally, in other parts of California, or in your own state? Check out the map at DSIRE USA (that stands for Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency), where you'll find programs from all 50 states. You can search based on renewable energy or energy efficiency, and browse the federal incentives. Happy incentive hunting, and we hope this helps you realize that going green is can be good for both the environment and the wallet!