The topic, according to a handout provided to me via the magic of e-mail, was AB 811, which is apparently a consequence of AB 32, the greenhouse gas measure passed by Sacramento. You know, the one that doesn't remove CEQA review rights from the purview of California's cities. More of a carrot than a stick, it largely seeks proactive ways of nudging the unwilling towards accepting what are purportedly cleaner energy standards rather than merely turning such municipal decisions over to the Courts as is the case with its more draconian sibling, SB 375.
Here is how AB 811 is described on a site that calls itself California Green Solutions:
California passed AB 811 in September 2008 to assist municipalities with retrofitting residential and commercial properties by providing low interest loans for energy efficient installations that are paid for using tax assessments.
Rather succinct. Wikipedia, where those in the know go to write about things they care to share, makes the pithy more profound with this pronouncement:
The passage of AB 811 makes it more imperative to provide an energy efficiency community program. AB 811 states: "This act is an urgency statute..." Cities and counties can now: (1) Make energy-efficiency and renewable energy affordable for California citizens (2) Increase property values (3) Improve the efficiency and indoor air quality of residential & commercial properties (4) Reduce the burning of dirty fuels and hence, pollution (5) Lower greenhouse gas emissions (6) Empower constituents with the fiscal security of of distributed energy.
In other words, Sacramento wants to give you a low interest loan to buy yourself some of that exciting new solar energy technology we've all been hearing so much about. Which I guess is a good enough deal. You get solar panels at a reduced interest rate, your electricity becomes free, and neither the City of Sierra Madre nor their cash collectors at Southern California Edison have yet to figure out a way to tax you on it yet. What a great way to avoid paying the 100% UUT tax increase! Or at least that part dealing with electricity consumption.
Plus won't your crib look positively styling with some of those modernistic solar panels glistening up there on the roof for all to see? You'd be the envy of your block, that's for sure. Sunshine proud, the greenest guy around, a veritable paragon of proprietary virtue personified. All on Uncle Sugar's borrowed dime. I'm asking you, where is the downside here?
And apparently SGVCOG is chill with the concept. Of solar energy, that is. As far as I know nothing was said about utility tax evasion yesterday. Here is how the COGsters worded it in an enthusiastic letter penned to Karen Douglas, Chairman of the California Energy Commission:
Dear Chairman Douglas - The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) is pleased to submit this letter of support for the County of Los Angeles grant applications to the California Energy Commission under the State Energy Program (SEP) Category #1 - Municipal Financing Program and Category #2 - California Comprehensive residential Building Retrofit Program ... The County of Los Angeles has committed nearly $12 million of its $15.4 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block grant funds to develop and implement a Countywide AB 811 municipal financing program and community-scale building retrofit program. The County will make this program available to property owners in the 88 cities located within the County's boundaries. The SGVCOG intends to support its member cities efforts to join the County's program where it is available.
Well, I guess that was a nice thing for them to do. Of course, if I had $12 million dollars sitting around to buy people solar panels I'd probably get some happy letters, too. So am I reading this correctly? Does this mean that soon we will be able to go down to City Hall and snap up one of these low interest loans? And locally this will be a City Staff administered program?
But even if that is the case, I'm thinking that this cash won't last for very long. 88 cities into $12 million dollars comes to around $137,000 per burgh. Which I calculate as roughly the cost of solar panels for 6 buildings. And that doesn't include all those unincorporated spaces out there, which I assume will also have their mitts out. And if it is divvied out proportionally based on population, our cut of the action will be even smaller, I'm afraid.
Isn't that always the way? Just when you think something sounds really good, and you get all excited about it, reality intrudes. But I guess your chances are better than lottery odds. Maybe that's how we should do it. Get one of those clear plastic spinning drums with the numbered balls in it, and bring in Vanna White. With the happy winner getting a low interest loan, courtesy of the City of Sierra Madre, COG, Edison, the County of Los Angeles, Chairman Karen Douglas, and Helios. And if you are a lucky number holder, you'll be literally walking on sunshine.
I have a question. How come when SGVCOG gets together down there at our City Hall nobody ever thinks to invite us? If they are going to be lending out government dough at minimal costs, you'd think some residents might like to attend. It really is an interesting topic if you think about it.