Weather extremes are damaging parts of the U.S. infrastructure [NY Times]

The United States ranks 9th out of 12 of the world’s largest economies on energy efficiency but feels the least guilty []

Demolition began at the West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library – when completed, it will be a zero net energy building [Berkeleyside]

The Feds say the PACE retrofit program is still too risky []

Photo: A blooming artichoke in Berkeley, CA, by Anna LaRue

Upcoming Webinar – PACE Programs

PACE – What Comes Next?

Organized by Build It Green

February 23, 2011 (Wednesday)

10:30 AM-12:00 PM

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) allows property owners to pay for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to their homes via an annual assessment on their property.  This approach became a central part of the Obama Administration’s “Recovery Through Retrofit” initiative and had been authorized in 24 states.  However, recent actions by federal regulators have frozen most residential PACE programs.

This webinar will discuss the status of PACE as well as efforts underway to resolve the federal regulatory issues.  Perhaps most importantly, the webinar will include lessons learned from PACE programs and outline the financing options being made available in the absence of PACE.

More information and links to register here.

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Assorted Links

Window reflections can melt vinyl siding.

PACE program participants must pay off the loans before they can refinance their mortgages.

Transit-oriented development may be threatened by air quality rules in California.

EPA & DOT propose colorful fuel economy labels to make it easier to compare vehicle mileage.

And there’s an interesting article about Smart Grids and privacy.

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What’s Next for California Solar?

photo source:

No one seems to dispute that solar technology will play an increasingly important role in transitioning away from fossil fuel dependence. But what is less clear is how solar tech will be deployed, and how fast. Is the market for single-point residential solar really ready to take off, or will it be large-scale solar fields? What can we learn from other countries that have had a longer history of serious solar initiatives (and will the U.S. commit to catching up)?

And although California is leading the charge in residential solar with innovative funding mechanisms like PACE – the Property Assessed Clean Energy model developed in Berkeley and influential in the planning of similar clean energy and efficiency programs around the country- the regulatory landscape under which these programs would operate remains uncertain at best.

This week’s links unearth information on the issues affecting California’s solar future from around the web:

Start with the July 15 broadcast of Forum from KQED Radio. This broadcast is a “Solar Panel”  discussion featuring Danny Kennedy of  Berkeley-based residential solar installation company Sungevity, Eicke Weber, director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Germany, U.C. Berkeley Professor and co-director of The Energy Institute, Severin Borenstein, and news reporter Todd Woody.

Next up, visit the California Energy Commission and California Public Utilities Commission’s “Go Solar California” website, urging CA residents to jump on the solar bandwagon.

Think the hot plains of the Mojave Desert are a great place for a giant solar farm? Many people do, but the “empty” desert is still home to ecosystems that need consideration- check out NPR’s coverage on how the plans are shaping up here.

Finally, we here at Zero Resource will be keeping up with the PACE debate, and you can too, by checking out the latest headlines- including the breaking news of Attorney General Jerry Brown’s lawsuit against Freddie Mac and Fannie May over delays to the program:

AG Brown sues feds over slowed solar PACE – San Jose Business Journal

California Sues Federal Mortgage Giants to Save Clean Energy Program – On Earth Magazine

California Sues Fannie, Freddie, Regulator over PACE program – NASDAQ

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PACE Programs Here, and Gone


This post is part of our ongoing focus on energy, water, waste and transportation issues relevant to California at large.

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photo credit: free

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs are being quickly halted due to a recent announcement by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) that declared the investments potentially unsafe for lenders. The new and upcoming PACE programs being piloted and planned by cities and counties around the country would offer homeowners bond-backed loans for solar and other energy efficiency upgrades to homes.

Under most terms, the PACE loan (which is attached to the house itself, like an assessment) would have first priority for repayment ahead of the mortgage. This repayment structure provoked a warning pronouncement from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac last month. Now the FHFA has dealt another blow by also warning lenders that the programs could prove risky- effectively halting operations for the time being.

Read more coverage on the FHFA’s PACE announcement in:

The Bond Buyer, The Huffington Post, and Greentech Media.

Problems for PACE Programs?


An article in the New York Times today highlights problems that may arise for Property Assessed Clean Energy programs (initiated here in Berkeley in 2008).  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have warned lenders that “an energy efficiency lien may not be senior to any mortgage delivered” to the loan giants.

For at least one home in California, the lenders refused to approve a loan for the purchase of a home with heating and cooling systems financed through a program in Sonoma County.  The property tax assessment that was to cover the cost of the systems had to paid off before the lenders would issue a loan for the property.

The full New York Times article, with more information about PACE programs and implications for them and other property tax assessment programs, is here.

More information about PACE programs can be found here.