Pitkin County Smart Energy can’t show you the money, yet
November 5, 2009
PITKIN COUNTY – Property owners looking to take advantage of Pitkin County’s new Energy Smart Loan Program needn’t rush. It will be spring, at least, before there’s a mechanism in place to apply for funds.
Tuesday’s election saw voters in Pitkin, Eagle and Gunnison counties approve a loan program, but that authorization was just the first hurdle.
“That was just one step in kind of a lengthy process,” said Dylan Hoffman, energy program manager for Pitkin County.
All three governments will be working with the governor’s energy office to set up a program that has common elements for efficiency’s sake. An identical application form and promotional materials that can be used in all three counties, for example, are envisioned, Hoffman said.
The counties will be looking at an already established program in Boulder for guidance.
There are many details to be worked out before Pitkin County commissioners approve the nuts and bolts of the program, probably early next year, Hoffman said. It will likely be March or April before property owners are actually able to apply for a loan.
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Pitkin County has been authorized by voters to issue up to $7 million in bonds, creating a pool of money for low-interest loans to residential and commercial property owners who wish to invest in renewable energy or energy efficiency projects – everything from solar installations to better insulation in the attic. The loans will be repaid through a special assessment on the property tax bill for those who choose to participate. The debt stays with the property, if it changes hands.
As the process is envisioned, the property owner will obtain a bid for the desired work at a “not to exceed” price, then apply to the county for a loan. The county will make sure the project qualifies and give the property owner the go-ahead to proceed. Once projects are completed, the contractor will be paid.
Among the questions still to be addressed is what special qualifications the counties might require of participating contractors.
“We could say we want our solar installers to have certain credentials … that’s to be decided by the collective group,” Hoffman said.
Boulder doesn’t allow do-it-yourself projects with it’s program; Pitkin County has yet to address that prospect, he added.
In Boulder, both the contractor and homeowner must sign off on a project, agreeing that it has been satisfactorily completed. Those checks and balances are absent if a homeowner undertakes a project on his or her own, Hoffman said.
Once the details of the county’s program have been formalized, property owners who are interested in getting started will be able to turn to the internet for information. Hoffman plans to set up an Energy Smart Loan Program link at http://www.aspenpitkin.com, the local government website.