Can we convert every home in Lighthouse Point FL to solar? The background for making green changes on a larger scale came from the book, “The Green Collar Economy” by Van Jones, available at the Lighthouse Pt library. The first step is to
Create a Green Assessment District.
KEY FACTS: A property owner OPTS- IN to an agreement to implement energy saving solutions. The cost of implementing the solutions are paid via a special property tax assessment for a specified number of years. Your annual energy bill savings should cancel out any annual property tax assessment. The assessment is permanently attached to the property, not the property owner.
The special assessment district is created for large items that people generally don’t buy due to the high cost. It has a defined purpose such as solar heating & cooling.
An example of a special assessment district is if a neighborhood decides to put utility lines underground. Residents opt-in to an assessment district, committing to paying an extra amount per month on their utility fees. The power company does the work and they are paid back from the city out of assessment fees. (Let’s leave this actual idea for LHP for another article as every property in a continuous line would likely have to opt-in, but that’s not needed for my idea. )
This type of financing could be used for energy improvements. Why don’t most people have solar panels on their home?
– too expensive
– can’t get value back if home is sold
– financing is too high
Even though we want to, most people never put the solar panels on for these reasons. Lighthouse Point is a small city. We could create a test area or possibly use the entire city as a green assessment district. To pay for retrofits, residents who choose to participate pay a small assessment on their property tax bill. Here’s the real beauty- the program is not implemented until enough people sign up to make it worthwhile. The city bundles all the promised deals and gets a much better deal on financing from the bank.
RESIDENT/ BUSINESS BENEFITS:
– No financing needed for solar panels or other costly energy saving items.
– Bundled deal with others for better rates.
– Only deals that generate energy savings are implemented. Your energy bill savings should cancel out any property tax assessment.
– Reduces dependency on energy grid after hurricanes and storms.
– Financing not tied to the owner, it’s attached to the home. Low risk for city.
– City benefits from unique attraction. A green city is a desireable place to live and thus fewer empty homes and properties.
– Increased jobs. The city should tie in a local jobs component, including training for a percentage jobs. Most Going Green Businesses lack enough staff for implementation and are seeking labor. At the very least, we should tie in with county initiatives seeking job training opportunities.
– The city uses a revolving line of credit, not a fixed loan. This enhances the flexibility of the program both financially and from a technology viewpoint.
– Increased permit revenues to offset recent declines.
RESIDENT/ BUSINESS RISKS or negatives:
– What if you install solar panels and they need maintenance or break? How much will it cost to fix? Will it add to insurance costs? Does windstorm insurance cover damages to green technology installations, and solar panels?
CITY RISKS or costs:
– City will have to invest manpower into program exploration and development for resident registration, communications, and implementation. Additionally for vendor/partner selection.
– Property owners who committed change their minds, no longer own the property or other circumstance. This could be easily offset by setting a minimum participation above actual need.
– Successful implementation will likely lead to media attention. There is a man hour cost associated with these communications.
– Cost of documenting all processes from the initial meeting. This is critical not only for internal improvement, but for ongoing management of the solution and for sharing with other cities.
– Ultimately, a ‘green manager’ of some sort would likely be needed to oversee all related aspects including media, resident, staff, and state and federal government programs that could reduce our costs. Hiring outside our city would likely be cost prohibitive due to high demand in the industry. We’d need to develop and train from within.
Anything installed on the homeowner property belongs to the homeowner. The city has no responsibility or liability.
The homeowner must use the approved program, including vendors to participate in the program. The basis for the program is bulk purchases and streamlined order processing and any deviation would alter that cost basis. If possible, installation/contractor agreements should be awarded to two or more vendors to increase customer satisfaction. Competition usually spurs better quality.
The deal should include local components to the extent possible. For example, if there is a Broward County company that could manufacture parts, we should prioritize working with them.
A solar solution does not necessarily mean the entire home. It could be just solar heating your pool or hot water, both of which are very wasteful when heated with electric. Would the city be able to offer a menu of choices based on the property energy audit?
What if solar technology changes? I hope it does. The point of increasing orders is to spur increased investment and innovation in the industry. It’s not likely that every installation will get the same technology solution, as over time, newer, better, cheaper solutions will evolve. We should be entering into a ‘business commitment’, not a ‘technology commitment’. This means the vendor cannot install inferior technology 5 years later, because it becomes so cheap they can expect a big profit. This will be a difficult aspect to wording of the contract, but one that must be included at least in spirit.
How will home improvement projects impact property tax assessments? I believe simultaneously we’ll need to work on a Broward County property tax revision to exclude any home improvements made using the Green Assessment District provisions from reassessment. See related article on permits and tax reassessments.
Please write your comments below. If offered, will you participate in a Green Assessment District?