California jurisdictions launch HERO Program to conserve water and energy

California jurisdictions launch HERO Program to conserve water and energy

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Thirty cities and two counties across California launched the Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program in June.

 HERO financing enables homeowners to make energy- and water-efficiency improvements and pay for them through their property tax bill. Property owners repay the assessment over 5 to 20 years and the interest is tax-deductible. Homeowners see immediate savings on utility bills.

Given the State of California's newly-adopted regulations aimed at reducing urban water consumption by 25%, PACE financing is a particularly appealing option for homeowners and municipalities.

"The HERO Program makes it possible for homeowners to do both the right thing and the smart thing: invest in conservation," said Mayor Maureen Frechet of San Mateo. "PACE financing allows for homeowners to pursue energy efficiency remodels, solar installations, and drought-tolerant landscaping projects that will make their homes more sustainable. Property owners that take advantage of PACE financing programs, such as HERO, can feel good that they've made a smart investment in their properties and in our community as a whole."

The HERO Program has been adopted by 319 California communities in the Golden State since launching in December 2011. HERO is now available to over 10 million California households. To date, the program has funded more than 33,000 residential efficiency projects, totaling more than $650 million in financing. By stimulating home renovation activity, the HERO Program increases demand for local contractor services. HERO is estimated to have spurred the creation of more than 5,500 jobs in California since beginning in December 2011.

The program launched this week in the cities of Antioch, Blythe, Capitola, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Cathedral City,Del Mar, Del Rey Oaks, Elk Grove, Gilroy, Imperial, Indian Wells, Kerman, La Quinta, Lafayette, Manteca,Martinez, Morgan Hill, Pacific Grove, Palm Springs, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, Rancho Mirage, Richmond, San Carlos, San Mateo, Sonoma, South San Francisco, Tulare, Ventura and Winters, as well as the unincorporated areas of Coachella Valley and Sacramento County.

As California's drought drags on, eligible retrofits give homeowners a fast, affordable way to lower water bills and conserve a desperately needed resource. HERO has a wide variety of products to help homeowners save water, including high-efficiency toilets, faucets and showerheads; drip irrigation systems; rainwater catchment systems; gray water systems; and artificial turf and drought-tolerant landscaping. 

"It's no secret that we live in a particularly thirsty region," said Mayor Linda Evans of La Quinta. "With mandatory reduction orders coming down from the state, local residents are moving quickly to find ways to reduce their demand for water. The HERO Program is launching in our community at exactly the right moment. It will make it feasible for homeowners of many income levels to make water-smart improvements."

A wide variety of energy-saving products are available through HERO as well. Some of HERO's most popular products include solar panel installations, whole-home heating and cooling systems, energy-saving windows and doors, roofing and insulation.

The HERO Program's success rests in its extensive contractor network. When a homeowner faces unexpected and inevitable repairs such as a broken water heater or leaking roof, HERO-qualified contractors can steer their customers toward more efficient upgrades. Bringing HERO into the process has many advantages for the homeowner. Homeowners can select a truly efficient product for their repair since they don't have to put down large amounts of money upfront; they then enjoy immediate savings on water and/or energy bills. Cities and counties benefit through economic stimulus and local job growth, while helping their communities reach state-imposed water and energy savings goals.

HERO's ongoing contribution to the environment is significant – and growing daily.  An estimated 4.5 billion KwHs of energy are already being saved by projects completed to date.  This is equivalent to the CO2 emissions from 28,000 homes' energy use for a year. Water-efficiency projects HERO has helped finance to date will save 790 million gallons of water, or the equivalent of 25 million showers. If every resident of California used HERO, we could save the equivalent of twice the volume of Lake Tahoe, every year.

PACE is relatively new, so it is essential that customers educate themselves about the details of this type of financing. HERO's consumer protection policy sets the industry standard for PACE financing. HERO-qualified contractors undergo rigorous training aimed at ensuring customers are fully informed about the costs and benefits of the Program. Funding for projects is made available to the contractor only after the homeowner has indicated full satisfaction with the completed project. HERO also staffs a hotline to respond to homeowner queries that is available for 15 hours a day, 7 days a week.

"Between the extended drought and rising energy costs, property owners are eager to make the types of investments HERO supports," said Blair McNeill, vice president of Community Development for Renovate America, the company that administers the HERO Program. "We're happy to provide an avenue for financing that requires no money down and does not depend on personal credit, bringing efficiency improvements within reach for a broad range of homeowners."  

Cities and counties need only pass a resolution to make PACE programs like HERO available to local property owners. The HERO Program has received numerous awards, including the Governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award, the Urban Land Institute Best of the Best and the Southern California Association of Governments President's Award for Excellence. Taking part in HERO is 100% voluntary for both jurisdictions and property owners. PACE financing is cost neutral to participating local governments.

Read more about sustainable communities.

Topics: Going Green, Rebates / Tax Credits, Sustainable Communities, Water Saving Devices, WaterSense

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