Already an innovator in its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, the city of Palm Desert is one step closer to realizing its goal of reducing citywide energy consumption by 30 percent before 2012. Governor Schwarzenegger recently signed Assembly Bill 811 into law as an “urgency measure,” for the first time allowing city and county governments throughout California to provide loans to property owners planning home or business improvements that will reduce energy consumption. The bill, termed locally the Energy Independence Program, was written and lobbied for by Palm Desert’s civic leaders.

Palm Desert’s City Council is has passed a program to put the bill into effect locally as quickly and simply as possible and has already heard from more than 275 residents who are interested in participating.  The Council approved the Energy Independence Program at its regular meeting on August 28. The city plans to provide loans for as little as $5,000, with no upper limit, for improvements such as efficient air-conditioning, dual-pane windows, pool pumps, solar panels, or white roofs—anything that will reduce electricity consumption and is considered a permanent fixture. The city will provide low-interest loans requiring no credit checks or other qualifications other than the title to the improved property. The loans will be paid back as part of the property tax bill—meaning if the home or business is sold, the loan stays with the property.


“Three years ago, we set a lofty goal of reducing our energy use by 30 percent, and now we have the means to accomplish it,” said Councilman Jim Ferguson, who spearheaded the passage of the Energy Independence Program. “During the summer months, when temperatures regularly reach over 100 degrees, Palm Desert residents can pay over $1000 a month for electricity. This program will empower them to explore renewable energy sources and make meaningful changes for the environment as well as their own finances.” 


The city has enlisted the expertise of EcoMotion, a consulting company that also advises cities such as Anaheim and Santa Monica on their environmental initiatives. Under the leadership of president Ted Flanigan, EcoMotion will coordinate and help facilitate the loan program. Flanigan will also work to document Palm Desert’s carbon footprint and suggest further improvements to the city’s already aggressive energy- and emissions-reduction programs.


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