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Latest edition of 'Going Green' talks energy options

A Monterey Bay Community Power representative holds a Q-and-A session with members of the Green Business Committee

The latest episode of "Going Green TV," hosted by David Huboi and Shawn Novack and produced by CMAP-TV, discusses Community Choice Energy, featuring a presentation from Margaret Bruce of Monterey Bay Community Power and a question-and-answer session with members of the Green Business Committee.

Hollister City Councilman Raymond Friend is the special guest in this episode. More information about Monterey Bay Community Power and the San Benito County Board of Supervisors' discussion about it is available through a BenitoLink story here.

Click below to watch the show:

 

 

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How about thinking smaller for San Benito County? We don't even have a HERO program in the city or county (Home Energy Renovation Opportunity). A no risk opportunity to add solar to your home. I asked  councilman Friend about it in September, 2015, via email. No answer yet. I guess this is what the phrases "Hollister Time" and "the speed of government" are all about.  Maybe soon?

My email dated September 8, 2015...

Dear Mr Friend,

I was looking into getting solar added to my house on Tiffany Drive and found a highly rated company (Earth-Electric). They recommend financing using the HERO program (Home Energy Renovation Opportunity). Basically a lien is added to my home and collected by the county tax collector along with the twice annual property taxes. The HERO loan is assumable should I sell my house. It does not show as a negative on my credit report and is fairly easy to obtain. The only drawback is that the Hollister City Council must approve being part of the HERO program. Are there any reasons that you know of why Hollister has not already passed a resolution approving HERO? If no reasons against it, what will it take to encourage the City Council to move on this?

Thanks.

William McCarey

(I also included my phone number and street address to cover all possible avenues for my councilman to respond.)

Bill, for the well-informed, educated and careful shopper these programs can work understanding that solar is often the LEAST EFFECTIVE and MOST EXPENSIVE option for older homes that are poorly insulated, badly sited, or have other problems.  However, this is also an industry infested with bad suppliers who grossly overestimate the savings and underestimate the capital and maintenance costs and ability to "sell" the added tax assessment to a potential home buyer.  This will be a special disclosure item in any home sale negotiation. Those who do not know the ins and outs and make bad decisions are going to get slaughtered financially.

Before adopting these programs it is essential that the city set up an education and advisory program to make sure that the homeowners who are, essentially, taking a tax lien to pay for an improvement they may not be able to evaluate regarding  value, understand what they are getting into and the other options.  If I were the king I would make an independent engineering analysis mandatory in every case because the tax system is involved. 

Solar sales are often based on predictions of electric and other energy rates that are simply fairytales.  The City of Hollister found out the hard way regarding the six million dollar solar installation at the wastewater treatment plant and they have an engineering department.  That experience makes them reluctant to loose the industry on the unsuspecting residents.

Can you picture the salesman saying, "You'd be much better off spending one quarter the amount to get a good insulation company to insulate your home properly and replace that old, inefficient, heater rather than buying my solar system."?  Even if they were brutally honest how many of them could do that analysis; you need new windows but your 60-year old home may not be structurally suitable for modern windows, etc.

Caveat emptor - let the buyer beware.

Marty Richman

 

 

Marty, you are as bad as I am. I often think I should be king and solve all these obvious problems that the less fortunate people who are not as smart as I am cannot fix. That's when I shut down the computer and go outside and do something real.

Given my druthers, I'd rather the City not setup an advisory program as the State has already published a booklet on HERO. I have found most people are smart enough to seek advice from friends, relatives, and neighbors before venturing out into the unknown like solar. After 40 years in technology and science.I can still work a K&E slide rule and figure out the best options. All I need is for the City to adopt the HERO program and let the citizens make these decisions. This is not a fly-by-night program. It has been around for years. San Jose uses it, LA uses it, almost all the Bay Area has it.

With the state of affairs in this county and city, can you imagine these governing bodies trying to effectively implement a large solar delivery system? What a disaster it will be. Look at what happened in SF. PG&E is now raising its rates to connect to clean energy. Same thing is gonna happen here in our  tiny burg. But if I were king. let me tell you what will work...

--William McCarey

Bill, if the government were not doing the lending and collecting via the property tax system I would not be recommending this approach.  My fear is a a bunch of people get swindled and sue the government (me) to get their money back or more (claim that the solar panels made their roof fail, etc.) and that some crazy court or sympathetic jury will rule in their favor the supplier then folds up their LLC and goes away and the lien remains for decades and Uncle Sugar is left holding the bag.   In the end I am trying to protect my tax money more than the homeowner.

Do you believe the the average homeowner can do an independent energy evaluation/audit and related cost/benefit analysis on their home?  I don't think I could, I don;t even have the basic data or tools to get that data (FLAIR photos, air flow tests, with some work I could probably do my window analysis, etc.).  The salesman is not going to care, if they sell windows they are going to tell you that you need windows, if they sell insulation they will say insulation and if they sell solar that's going to be the answer.

I am totally cynical on the subject.

Yesterday the Sheriff made a great point during the mini-debate on the marijuana ordinance at the County BOS: (Sheriff talking about marijuana grows - paraphrasing) Only a small group of people are interested in using marijuana, but a very large group of people are interested in making money from the marijuana business.  I see this same philosophy applying to many of these programs - it's crazy.

It needs to start with engineering not end with dueling engineers in court.  We do a disservice to the public when we "sell" these programs to those not capable of doing the evaluation,  Like a credit card, the fact that you do not get a bill today leads to over use and when used, over-spending.  You're fighting human nature.

Marty Richman

 

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