I got this via email and wanted to make it as visible as possible. Morgan Carroll was a member of the Colorado House through this past session. She won election to the Colorado State Senate in 2008. She is a fighter for progressive causes and part of Colorado’s netroots community. This op-ed is about spreading the benefits of the new energy economy to those who need it most: those who can least afford to pay for the large costs right now. Rep. Carroll is all about finding and implementing pragmatic solutions to today’s problems. These are some examples of that.
One of the key obstacles to leasing or monthly payment plans is preventing third party ownership allowed for systems under 10kW (the size of a typical household system). With this barrier removed there are several investors poised to invest in Colorado’s economy and help make the installation, equipment and maintenance affordable for the majority of Coloradans.
There are even ways to save money on bill payment assistance to include low-income financing arrangements as well to convert homes into solar or other renewable avenues. We as a state and country spend hundreds of millions of dollars on bill payment assistance to help the low-income pay their utility bill. Just in Colorado, one in five households request bill payment assistance. Nationwide, the costs of this program have kept increasing with rising cost of energy. One would think that we would create policies that would incentivize and promote programs that would reduce the need for bill payment assistance.
iCAST (International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology) initiated a program to provide free solar energy to 1,000 low-income families in Colorado. Providing energy efficiency and solar solutions will reduce the utility bill for low-income families for the life of the installation (typically 30 years) and stop the annual bill payment assistance needed by these families. It is a program that teaches folks how to fish rather than provide the annual fish allocation. However, it will take not only a change of thinking but a change of policy to facilitate these longer-term cost-savings.
The capitol building now has solar panels, as does the governor’s residence. Both installations will provide benefits far beyond the clean energy generated from the photovoltaic (PV) panels, including community awareness gained by Colorado residents on solar energy. Colorado tax payer money was not spent on these installations because a third party investor stepped in to cover the costs. The investors made this purchase because they could recover the funds. Returns include a variety of rebates, incentives and federal tax credits. Unfortunately, a low-income family or organization is unable to avail of the same opportunity because they don’t have a tax liability to begin with nor can they monetize tax credits and depreciation allowances.
By keeping solar energy and other similar clean energy technologies out of the reach of regular or low-income families, we are implying that these technologies are only for the wealthy. We CAN increase affordable choices and access to the renewable energy economy for all Coloradans — and create good jobs in the process. We’ve challenged everyone to be part of the solution, now let’s make sure we can all afford to participate in the solution.
If we allow 3rd party ownership agreements in Colorado (leasing, lease-to-own) and encourage multiple financing options at affordable price-points for regular people, we can not only increase our energy independence and save money, but we can also trigger economic investment and jobs creation in Colorado.
Senator-Elect Morgan Carroll
Senate District 29 – Aurora