County Facilities and Operations: Leading by Example
Implementing cost-effective energy efficiency renovations at County facilities yields a dual benefit of reducing the local and global environmental impacts associated with energy production and use and reducing County government operating costs, thereby, reducing the burden on County taxpayers. The County Energy Specialists have been utilizing federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to: replace street lights with state-of-the-art light emitting diode (LED) lamps (reducing energy consumption approximately 50%!), perform energy efficiency audits on County buildings, renovate County facilities with energy efficient lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) improvements, and conduct a "route optimization" study to reduce County field vehicles' daily miles traveled. The results from the County facilities energy audits will be used to guide future improvements at those facilities.
Renewable Energy Financing District Update
In 2010, the County was pursuing implementation of its Renewable Energy Financing District program using an innovative approach to financing solar energy improvements on homes. The program would have involved financing the cost of solar energy systems by having a special assessment placed on the property owner's tax bill. Only the property owner installing a solar system would have had a special assessment placed on their tax bill - not all property owners. The loan, in essence, would have been with the property, rather than with the individual property owner and had the potential benefit of a low interest rate and long loan term. Similar programs sprouted up around the country in 2009 and 2010 under the umbrella label of "PACE" programs – for Property-Assessed Clean Energy. Unfortunately, in August of 2010, the Federal Housing Finance Administration (a newly formed federal organization established to oversee FannieMae and FreddieMac loans) declared PACE programs to be in violation of their loan conditions. This had the effect of stopping PACE programs in their tracks nationwide – including in Santa Fe County. Federal legislation (HR 2599) has been introduced in Congress to overturn FHFA's decision, but its passage is uncertain. For County residents purchasing an existing home (not a newly-constructed home) or refinancing their own home, the US Housing and Urban Development's 203K Home Improvement Loan program (see "Resources and Programs" page) provides an alternative opportunity for low interest, long-term financing for energy efficiency and solar power improvements. Similarly, for low and moderate income families, Homewise provides low interest, long-term financing for clean energy-related improvements.