Solar Power Recap: March 8th
Happy Monday, everyone. It’s all about the lending this morning, aswe relay news on solar energy financing programs in three places:Hawaii, Sonoma County and Cambodia. Now let’s get down to business…
Hawaii may become the next state to offer aproperty-assessed financing option for homeowners who install renewableenergy systems, reports The Honolulu Advertiser.Under the program, the state would loan funds to cover the upfront costof installing, say, a solar electric or solar hot water system. Thehomeowner would then repay the borrowed sum through an added assessmenton their property taxes. The loan — along with the solar power system —would be attached to the property, not the owner, and would remain ifthe property is sold. A growing number of states, counties andmunicipalities (like California and San Francisco,to name two) are adopting this approach, broadly called PropertyAssessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, in an effort to make cleanenergy systems available to a larger number of property owners.
In related news, this story from the North Bay Business Journalshows that a government’s ability to lend depends largely on investors’willingness to buy its bonds. Case in point: In a bid to maintainappetite among bond investors, the Sonoma County Energy IndependenceProgram (SCEIP), the county’s PACE program, has set a new requirementlimiting the amount of debt homeowners can hold when applying for theprogram. The new rule stipulates that, to qualify for a loan, ahomeowner may not owe more than 110 percent of the market or assessedvalue of their homes, including energy program loans. Bottom line:investors are wary of underwater properties, i.e. those on which theborrowed amount on a property’s mortgage is greater than the property’svalue. Homeowners interested in photovoltaic (PV) installations willlikely be the most affected by the SCEIP’s change: “Solarcontractors in Sonoma County reacted with surprise to the change.’Itwas a sudden and extreme change,’ said Nate Gulbransen, president ofWestcoast Solar Energy in Rohnert Park. Solar projects, he said, arethe hardest hit by the ruling because they are the most costly ofenergy upgrades.”
The third solar energy finance story comes to us from Cambodia, via Simon Marks of Green Inc. Blog: “Withaccess to solar-powered energy products for Cambodia’s rural poorextremely limited, the solar energy company Kamworks and the CambodiaMutual Savings and Credit Network are partnering to providelow-interest loans to customers hoping to outfit their homes with solarpanels, while Kamworks will provide and install theequipment. Directors at the two companies said the scheme — the firstof its kind in Cambodia — will help the country’s rural poor gainaccess to renewable energy.” It’ll be interesting to see how manyCambodians sign up. I hope many will. But the new joint initiativewon’t come without its challenges. Similar programs in other countries— like India’s Noble Energy Solar Technologies (NEST), a maker of solarlanterns — have sometimes struggled with user adoption. It’s difficult,in other words, to convince individuals to stop paying for theirlighting and/or energy on a per-use basis, and instead borrow to coverthe relatively high upfront costs of solar power. This is particularlytrue, I’d imagine, when it comes to households living on severaldollars a day.
Finally, Chinese solar-panel maker Yingli Green Energy (NYSE:YGE) today announced Q4 results, beating consensus estimates on revenue growth but falling short of earnings expectations, via Reuters. Investors were underwhelmed. Shares were down about five percent in mid-day trading.
That’s all for today — be sure to stay plugged in with GetSolar.
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