SFCED | San Francisco Center for Economic Development


San Francisco Hit by Solar Financing Revival

Innovative solar financing options, such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs or power purchase agreements (PPAs), are poised to make a triumphant return in San Francisco after losing steam during the recession. Such programs are expected to springboard the Bay Area back into solar projects, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

This time around, local officials are helping to reintroduce the PACE program back to the community. PACE is a financing program that allows property owners to borrow funding for solar panel installations or building upgrades that include solar components. The loans, which are leveraged by the property’s value, are then repaid gradually as a line item on property taxes.

Ups and downs of solar financing in San Francisco PACE started as a prototype for Berkeley in 2008 and gained widespread nationwide success, however it was short lived.

In 2010, the agency responsible for overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), declared that PACE loans posed too high a risk for mortgage lenders in the event a homeowner defaulted on a payment. The program halted shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile in San Francisco, officials who had drafted the city’s own version of a PACE program just a few months prior to its decrement, were forced to put their initiative back on the shelf, where the measure lay in wait until now.

The revived version, called GreenFinanceSF, was introduced Nov. 26 by the program’s supervisor, Mark Farrell. The Bay Area isn’t the only region, however, to start re-evaluating and considering PACE-like projects that could make solar installations a reality for many home and business owners across the state, according to the Chronicle.

“Time is on our side,” Farrell said. “It would be a game-changer if the FHFA did an about-face, but there’s already a real movement out there to push forward on this.”

Read more: SunWise  San Francisco hit by solar financing revival