Palm Desert passes energy saving act

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 811 into law this July, allowing city governments throughout California to provide loans to property owners planning home or business improvements that will reduce energy consumption.

Palm Desert, Calif. - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 811 into law this July, allowing city governments throughout California to provide loans to property owners planning home or business improvements that will reduce energy consumption. The bill, termed the Energy Independence Act, was written and lobbied for by Palm Desert's civic leaders.

Palm Desert's City Council is now working to formulate a strategy to put the signed bill into effect locally. The city plans to provide loans for as little as $5,000 for improvements such as efficient air-conditioning systems, lighting systems, waterheating equipment, refrigerators or pool pumps, and installation of solar panels, white roofs or insulation. Anything that will reduce electricity consumption and is considered a permanent fixture will qualify as an energy saving improvement.

The loans are low-interest and require no credit checks or other qualifications other than a property title. They will be paid back as part of the residents' tax bill; if the home or business is sold, the loan stays with the property. Palm Desert plans to bring funding to the Energy Independence Program through the sale of municipal bonds.

“Two years ago, we set a lofty goal of reducing our energy use by 30%, and now we have the means to accomplish it,” said Councilman Jim Ferguson, who spearheaded the passage of the Energy Independence Act. “During the summer months, when temperatures regularly reach over 100°F, Palm Desert residents can pay up to $1,000 a month for electricity. This program will empower them to explore renewable energy sources and make meaningful changes for the environment as well as their own finances.”

The city has enlisted EcoMotion, a consulting company that also advises Anaheim and Santa Monica on their environmental initiatives. Under the leadership of President Ted Flanigan, EcoMotion will coordinate and manage the loan program. Flanigan will also work to document Palm Desert's carbon footprint and suggest improvements to the city's energy and emissions reduction programs.

“Palm Desert is unbelievably progressive,” said Flanigan. “I really salute them for having the creativity and foresight to change state law in this historic way.”

Additional information is available at www.cityofpalmdesert.org.