SACRAMENTO, CA – An innovative and pioneering energy efficiency and renewable energy finance mechanism took a step closer to reality today with the introduction of Senate Bill 998 (SB 998) by Senator Kevin de León. The bill would authorize the Public Utilities Commission to establish a first-in-the nation On-bill Repayment (OBR) program allowing consumers a creative way to save money and energy by financing energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy projects through their utility bills.
The OBR program was envisioned by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which is the principal supporter of SB 998. Assuming a 1% annual participation rate by homeowners, EDF estimates the program could generate more than 20,000 jobs for the hard-hit construction industry and reduce more than seven million tons of CO2 emissions per year. “Banks want to participate in funding energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in California. This gives them a great opportunity to help fund these worthwhile projects at no cost to taxpayers,” said Brad Copithorne EDF’s Energy and Financial Policy Specialist.
“The OBR program gives us the opportunity to begin putting back to work thousands of California trades workers while reducing our dependency on imported energy and cutting emissions,” said De León. “This is a great opportunity for the utilities to show that they are adapting to a modern energy world where smarter is better than bigger.”
The PUC is conducting a three-day Energy Efficiency Financing Workshop this week in San Francisco intended to discuss all aspects of establishing the OBR program. SB 998 provides statutory authority for the program but most program elements will be created by the PUC after hearing testimony from all affected parties.
“On-bill repayment means jobs, plain and simple,” said Rick Wylie, President of Beutler Corporation, a Sacramento-based HVAC company, which has done more than 500,000 installations in its history. “This is a creative, non-partisan solution resulting in projects occurring quickly that would not happen without it, and at no added cost to either the state or to ratepayers. Buildings are upgraded, property values are increased, energy is saved and work is done by California contractors. This is the kind of thing that we send people to the Legislature to do.”
EDF also estimates that this program could generate $2.7 billion in annual private investments when it is up and running. “A well-designed On-Bill Repayment program could meaningfully increase our ability to finance energy efficiency projects in commercial buildings,” said Vincent Siciliano, CEO of New Resource Bank, a likely program participant.
The bill is pending referral to policy committee and is expected to be first heard in early spring.