GreenFinanceSF launches its services this week, helping San Francisco homeowners pay for retrofits to their homes that save energy and money. This city backed program allows these homeowners to borrow money to make improvements, and repay the city from the savings on their energy and water bills. These loans are attached to the property and repaid through property tax bills. This is really a no-brainer, a very effective model for encouraging home owners to take action and make improvements to their homes that help them save money, while saving the planet.
This model isn't new. In the early 1980s, I worked at Citizen's Energy, a Boston based non-profit, and we created a similar program. Our goal was to help Boston residents weatherize their homes to be warmer, save money, and save energy. Energy inspectors performed audits on people's homes, and the recommended improvements were financed by Shawmut Bank (purchased by Bank of Boston, then Fleet, and now Bank of America), and the recipients of these loans (the homeowners) repaid the loans over a 3-10 year period from the money they saved by reducing their energy bills. Many of these homeowners had poor credit histories, so these loans were backed by a private grant. A nice side effect was that for some, their credit ratings improved significantly.
Trolling around the GreenFinanceSF site, I am looking for more details about the cost of financing these improvements. Another interesting note: homeowners must choose from a list of approved contractors to do this work. Currently, the majority are Bay Area contractors from outside of the city. Hopefully they screened to contractors to choose the best contractors, and if this is true, I'm glad that we didn't require these contractors to only be SF based.