This week in Copenhagen, representatives from nations around the world are debating the best measures to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. The success of the Copenhagen talks is important as a measure of our collective commitment to tackling the causes and impacts of global climate change. But rather than wait for the deliberations in Copenhagen, it’s even more important that individual cities, states and nations show leadership in the fight against climate change through concrete actions and initiatives.
Acting – not waiting or debating – is exactly what we’re doing in San Francisco this week with the introduction of an innovative new initiative aimed at fueling the next wave of green job creation in San Francisco. The San Francisco Sustainable Financing program will offer residential and commercial building owners access to affordable, city-sponsored financing for energy efficiency, solar and renewable energy projects, and water conservation improvements. The repayment obligation will be attached to the property, rather than the individual, and will be paid back through property taxes over the life of the financing.
Almost half of San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions come from energy used in local buildings, while older and wasteful fixtures and appliances strain California’s limited water resources. For most property owners, the biggest barrier to making their building more energy and water efficient or installing solar panels and other renewable energy projects is the large upfront cost.
In July 2008, we launched GoSolarSF, our enormously successful solar energy incentive program, fueling a solar energy boom San Francisco. Total solar projects installed in the City doubled in just one year to more than 1,500 systems, with many more in construction. Today we have more than 8 megawatts of solar energy generation here in San Francisco, leading San Diego and Los Angeles on a per capita basis for solar power. Despite its success, GoSolarSF remains a program based on limited public dollars.
The genius of San Francisco Sustainable Financing is that it will leverage private market lending and available state and federal grant dollars to help home and business owners overcome the costs of green improvements without financial risk to San Francisco taxpayers. Up to $150 million has been set aside for this new program. This is different than cities with similar “repayment through property tax” solar and environmental improvement programs, where public or City investment dollars are used for financing instead.