In July, the San Diego County assessor announced that assessed property values fell by $568 million from last year. As a result, the county has issued tax refunds totaling $10.6 million, hurting our schools, impacting public jobs and undercutting public programs — which are needed now more than ever.
As president and CEO of the U.S. Green Chamber of Commerce, I’ve worked with San Diego’s business community for more than 20 years. While today’s economic climate is challenging, I see a golden opportunity for the private sector to invest in improving property values and jobs for all San Diegans through clean energy.
The San Diego region has begun to embrace financing programs called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) that can kickstart the economy through clean energy upgrades. Here’s how the programs work: commercial and residential property owners apply for financing to perform upgrades, anything from installing solar panels to upgrading to less power-hungry air conditioners. Owners pay back the funds through an increment to their property taxes, which can be easily passed to the next owner if the property is sold. Energy bill savings start immediately, and in almost all cases they’re guaranteed to exceed the cost of the investment. The most effective models, such as the program operated by Ygrene Energy Fund, are funded privately, without a dime of public money.
The potential benefits are enormous. By investing in energy upgrades, these financing programs boost property values while reducing their energy costs. Installation projects create jobs that can’t be outsourced, helping to restart the hard-hit construction industry. And installing more clean energy reduces our dependence on foreign oil while expanding San Diego’s clean energy leadership.