Per Capita Davis: Now’s the time for energy upgrades

By From page A3 | March 06, 2014

Financing solar or energy efficiency: There’s a new program available to Yolo County residents who would like to install energy-efficiency measures or put solar on the roof but hesitate to lay out the cash to do so. The program is called Clean Energy Yolo and was adopted by the Board of Supervisors and all four of the cities late last fall.

Essentially, this program pays the complete cost of energy-efficiency or solar improvements on your home or business; there is no up-front cost out of your pocket. Instead, the “loan” is repaid through an increase on your property taxes, the amount of which is less than the savings you will see on your utility bill. Any homeowner or business property owner can do it.

The program also benefits those who are concerned they might move in a year, two years or five years and don’t want to fuss with paying off a conventional 10- or 20-year loan: the assessment on the property taxes rolls over to the new owner.

Does this sound too good to be true? Contact Ygrene, the company administering the program (https://ygrene.us/ca/yolo) for more information.

Cindy Tuttle, a true jewel of county government and the person most responsible for shepherding this program into existence in Yolo County, reports that, “Only four short months after launching the Yolo PACE program, the consultant, Ygrene, reports that there are 44 projects in the pipeline with an estimated value of over $10 million, 26 of which have applications pending for over $2 million, and six are already under contract for over $300,000.

“The projects are both commercial and residential in nature and are spread throughout the county, including projects in all four cities.”

* Strength in numbers: Speaking of rooftop solar, have you been thinking about putting panels on your roof but are waiting for the cost to come down? You might want to check out repowerdavis.com. This is a local business that will, at no cost to you, analyze your energy use and costs, figure out if your roof is a good site for solar, and provide you with a system design.

Just like any other solar company, right? Not quite. RepowerDavis will bundle your project into its goal of 100 Davis homes and, through the power of bulk purchasing, reduce the overall cost to you by about $5,000. Couple this with financing from Clean Energy Yolo and now we are really cooking with cheese, especially since there is a possibility of significant utility rate increases in the near future.

* Yolo County recognized as climate leader: Many Californians don’t know Yolo County exists, and, if they do, they more often than not have no idea where it’s located. The Environmental Protection Agency, on the other hand, knows and recently recognized the county government as No. 14 on its list of top 20 green power-producing jurisdictions in the country.

* 60 minutes in 15 seconds: A friend from the Far North (Davis) sent me this link (http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57618089-1/nasa-shows-60-years-of-climate-change-in-15-seconds/?part=rss&subj=news&tag=readMore) to a NASA video that superimposes color-coded temperature information on an image of the Earth, and shows how global temperature has changed over the past six decades.

It only takes 15 seconds to watch, but it shows how global warming is, in fact, global, with greater increases in the Far North (planet).

* The silence is broken: My last column had several “short stories,” one of which was about my perception, and apparently that of the government and the auto industry, that relatively silent electric vehicles should make some sound. I received a few comments on this, one of which was quite thoughtful and informative. The author clearly knows more about the issue than I do.

The overall argument was that talking about how relatively quiet electric vehicles can be feeds into a general feeling that electric cars should be feared when, in reality, it is the gas-guzzling greenhouse gas emitting, fossil fuel-consuming vehicles that are causing mayhem on our streets and highways. The discussion should instead focus on the responsibility of each of us, whether motorist or cyclist, in (or on) whatever type of transportation we are using, to pay attention to all the other motorists and cyclists.

I think I see the merits of this argument, and it wasn’t my intention to scare people away from electric vehicles. So, for the record, I’m a big fan of electric and gas/electric vehicles. I think the plug-in hybrid is the future for automobiles. I’m also a huge fan of bicycles. And I don’t think that electric vehicles are “silent killers.”

But having thought about it for a couple of weeks, and notwithstanding being a person who finds daily engine noise (lawn mowers, leaf blowers, etc.) obnoxious, I don’t see merit in completely ignoring the relative silence of electric cars. Nor do I see why the fact that most mayhem is caused by cars with gasoline engines, which one commenter pointed out are very clearly audible, should deter us from acknowledging and planning for something I find to be intuitively true: A couple thousand pounds of moving metal (and plastic), whether silent or without a muffler, is a potential danger and designing to minimize any danger isn’t such a bad thing.

— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis; his column is published on the first and third Thursdays of each month. Send comments to [email protected]

John Mott-Smith

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