Saturday, September 25, 2010

SUNRUN backs down from its stance against PACE programs.

There is a lot of behind the scenes politics going on over Energy Efficiency (EE) and Renewable Energy (RE) financing options at various levels of our government. California, a traditional leader in creating progressive legislative solutions to the traditional road-blocks on the path to a greener energy economy, has developed various Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs that have been copied in other states throughout the nation. But these programs are seen as a threat to some who have made bets against Green technologies, and invested in corrupt systems such as home-mortgage financing.

All the traditional big corporation stake holders (Utilities, Energy Brokers, Carbon-Fuel Companies, Transportation Corps., etc) have substantial lobbies against the emerging Energy Efficiency and distributed Renewable Energy markets. Every watt of energy these new markets safe or produce is a decrease in demand from their traditional systems, and thus MONEY OUT OF THEIR POCKETS.

In the latest discussion, a national Power Purchase Agreement agent, SUNRUN, which provides Solar Electric Leases to homeowners in multiple states, has been helping slow down the move to PACE type programs, out of 'concerns' over various issues of implementation.

Some call SUNRUN's move against PACE financing self-serving, and I agree.

Sun Run is a venture capital financing model, looking to guarantee large interest rates on long term contracts. PACE directly competes with their business model by lowering interest rates, and providing long term financing to people without equity or credit. That shouldn't be seen as a threat, but it is, because people essentially funding their own Energy Efficiency can create service jobs, but that doesn't necessarily sell a tangible product, like Solar-PV, that can be depreciated for tax benefits, or could be repossessed.

Thus, SUNRUN, which is gaining vast market share as an alternative financing scheme, while PACE programs flounder, benefits at consumer expense.

That aside the SUNRUN argument is disingenuous. They are pushing Solar PV renewable energy production - the highest-cost piece of the green energy puzzle - over Energy Efficiency or even Solar Thermal Hot Water (STHW). They don't mention the low cost alternatives that efficiency provides, because they can't OWN EFFICIENCY.

To address the SUNRUN concerns: 

"1) PACE loans are typically larger than solar equipment value." YES, because the PACE programs require EE work first to minimize the size and expense of any necessary renewable energy generation, and thus maximize return on investment while minimizing property-tax payments.  

"2) PACE loans do not always create clear savings." This seems more relevant, but when using the Department of Energy (DOE) loading orders and EE "in-and-out" testing, the 'clear savings' are obvious.

"3) Solar inverters fail in 8-12 years ,while PACE lien payments persist 15-20 years." This is a valid concern for those who NEED SOLAR PV systems, but the simple solutions are A) shorten the lean payment period to the inverter period, B) include inverter replacement costs in the lien, C) allow the lien to include insurance for catastrophic problems like inverter failure, theft, or hail damage.

Thus, shutting down all of PACE programs nation-wide for such easily surmountable problems is untenable. That's why SUN RUN eventually backed down, for their "concerns" were not substantial and profited their business model over the industry as a whole, and over the common good. 

See SUNRUN's statement here.

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