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Next up for cities: Pay-as-you-save solar buildings

Marc Lefkowitz  |  05/10/10 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Clean energy

Ohio lawmakers made it a little easier for cities such as Cleveland to push ahead with a green, self-help economic recovery. Not only Cleveland, but the suburbs, too, are now able to help you finance a solar panel on your house or business. When The Ohio General Assembly approved Property Assessed Clean Energy financing on April 9, it opened the way for cities to raise bonds that pay for home solar electric projects. Cleveland is working on establishing the first solar 'special improvement district' in Northeast Ohio, Sustainability Chief Andrew Watterson said. Cleveland wants to establish a program that could extend participation to inner-ring suburbs. "All they would have to do is agree, and sign up," Watterson said.

A bill to extend city supported bond programs to include energy efficiency, wind and solar has been introduced to the General Assembly. Watterson sees its passage as key to supporting the nascent Cleveland Energy$aver Program, which would finance energy efficiency improvements and allow Cleveland residents to pay it off with the savings.

The city was recently informed that the program would not receive a $10 million federal Energy Efficiency Block Grant (Cincinnati and Toledo beat out Cleveland). Cleveland still plans on forging ahead. The city received a $500,000 federal seed grant for a pilot project: The hope is to establish a routine for energy efficiency retrofits by doing the work on 100 homes. Before this pilot phase can begin, though, the city wants to establish a business model. It's looking to a leader in the Pay-As-You-Save program arena. Cleveland, with a $150,000 grant from Living Cities, hired Clean Energy Solutions, the consultants who helped build the nationally recognized Cambridge Energy Alliance. The feasibility study is targeted for completion by 2011 when the city hopes to kick off the pilot retrofit program.

Meanwhile, a Solar SID for business was selected as a finalists of the 2010 EfficientGovNow program, the competitive grants and civic engagement effort of the Fund for our Economic Future. The First Suburbs Development Council (representing 16 inner-ring suburbs) and the City of Cleveland are proposing to create a special improvement district that will make it easier for businesses to pay for solar power installations. Northeast Ohio residents can go here to vote on which projects get funding.

As a side note, the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 Green Building group, which set a goal of figuring out how to retrofit 100% of Cleveland's buildings to be 50% more energy efficient by 2019 was invited by Watterson to advise the city on its residential energy retrofit project. The 2019 group will align the goals of the city's pilot and full-scale energy retrofit program (proposed 2,100 homes) with its goal of 100% retrofits by 2019. The Green Building: Retrofit Working Group will meet this Thursday, May 13, from 6:00-7:30 p.m.at the basement conference room of the Cleveland Environmental Center, 3500 Lorain Ave. to discussion the City's Energy$aver consultant's scope of work and how the working group might best align with that scope. Read more.

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