Sonoma Co. launches $100M green program

March 25, 2009 11:37:00 AM PDT
Sonoma County is offering a brand new way for residents to make their homes more energy efficient, through a first of its kind program in the state. The county is offering $100 million for it. Residents lined up early at the new energy store to sign up. SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

Richard Cate is looking for his piece of the $100 million energy efficiency pie - a countywide stimulus package you could call it. His slice, a few thousand dollars, for energy conservation projects at his townhouse in Santa Rosa.

"I'm going to redo the windows that are 25-years-old, the sliding glass doors - if we can get some solar ? that would be great too, a hot water heater under the sink would be nice too," said Richard Cate, Santa Rosa resident.

More than a dozen people were in line with Cate for the opening of the Energy Store - the result of the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program. The programs helps residential and commercial property owners borrow as much as they need, with 10 percent of a building's value as a rule of thumb - to increase energy efficiency , everything from insulation to low flush toilets to solar panels. Five, 10 and 20 year terms are available at seven percent interest.

"No taxpayer money is being used for this program. What will happen is through the assessments we fund back through the system - and actually fund the whole program," said Rod Dole, CFO Sonoma County.

Mr. Dole is quick to point out that this is not a loan program. It is paid back as an assessment, like a property tax, and is due when property taxes are due. And like any assessment - it stays with the property even if you sell your house.

The money will also be a much needed stimulus to the construction industry which has been especially hard hit by the recession.

"They're ecstatic - they're all behind this program. They know this means new jobs - they are going to be our marketing experts in the future because they are so excited about this and the opportunity to fix homes," said Richard Cate, Santa Rosa resident.

Taking a look at the crowd at the grand opening of the Energy Store, and hearing the excited talk among homeowners and contractors, you get the feeling this may be a program whose time has come and perhaps not just for Sonoma County; representatives from Napa, Marin, and Santa Clara Counties, as well as the cities of San Rafael and Novato have already called to learn more about it.

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