San Mateo County is committed to providing financial incentives and rebates to residents who are looking to purchase renewable energy systems and other energy-efficiency upgrades. Available in San Mateo County are programs such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), a financing mechanism that allows homeowners to install energy efficiency, water efficiency or clean energy projects with no upfront costs; SunShares, an annual, limited-time program that offers discounts on residential solar and EVs; and Bay Area Renewable Energy (BayREN), which offers energy use reduction improvements through partner contractors. A home energy adviser can help residents of detached single-family homes and buildings with up to four attached units to receive cash rebates for installing energy-efficient measures.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE)

The property assessed clean energy (PACE) model is an innovative mechanism for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements on private property. PACE programs exist for both commercial (C-PACE) and residential (R-PACE) properties. The unique characteristic of PACE assessments is that the assessment is attached to the property rather than to an individual. Click here to learn more. It is important to note that PACE funding may require using a contractor from a pre-approved list of providers. Not all solar and energy contractors are on that list. Choosing PACE financing is an individual decision based on comparing financing costs and payments provided through PACE to rates and costs from other financial institutions. PACE financing can fund solar installation, water conservation, energy efficiency and more. Property owners receive 100% financing of improvement costs, and projects can be cash-flow positive from day one.

PACE Study: A 2018 study by Berkeley Lab found that between 2010 and 2015, residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (R-PACE) programs increased deployment of residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in California by about 7% to 12% in cities that adopt these programs. R-PACE is a financing mechanism that uses a voluntary property tax assessment, paid off over time, to facilitate energy improvements and, in some jurisdictions, water and resilience measures. While previous studies have demonstrated that early, regional R-PACE programs increased solar PV deployment, this new analysis is the first to demonstrate these impacts from the large, statewide R-PACE programs dominating the California market today, which use private capital to fund the upfront costs of the improvements. Read the complete study here.

Solar and Energy-Efficiency Financing Programs in San Mateo County

San Mateo County’s Office of Sustainability offers a range of tools, assistance programs and resources to help its residents and businesses to use energy wisely and reduce emissions. These offers can range from the PACE program (mentioned earlier) to measures which can include retrofitting light fixtures, installing insulation and replacing single-pane windows. Visit the county’s Office of Sustainability Energy Efficiency website for more information and financing options.

Energy Resilience

Sustainable systems must maintain their function even in the event of disruptions to be considered truly sustainable. As the energy landscape undergoes a transformation from fossil fuels to cleaner energy and navigates the impacts of climate change – including increased wildfires and heat waves that lead to sudden demand surge – it is imperative to build energy resilience on both the supply and demand sides.

Resilient grids hedge against the negative effects of increasingly intense weather events and support continuous, critical electricity service. Supply-side energy resilience is achievable, in part, by modernizing existing grids and designing resilient, new grids able to quickly resume their system functions after a disturbance. However, the stability of the electricity supply may impact energy pricing and continuous power availability.

Energy resilience on the demand side must ensure that at-risk populations, including those belonging to lower-income and/or medically vulnerable communities, can afford clean and reliable energy supply and the needed storage options during emergencies. Additionally, the insurance costs relating to damages from wildfires and sea level rise (coastal flooding) place an additional financial burden on San Mateo residents who are vulnerable to these hazards. Solutions that provide affordable options for all communities will ensure equitable demand-side energy resilience.

Choices for medically vulnerable populations dependent on power-operated equipment

PG&E’s Medical Baseline program is an assistance program for residential customers with special energy needs due to medical conditions. Enrollment in this program provides a lower rate on energy bills and extra notifications in advance of Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events. In addition, Peninsula Clean Energy’s Power-On Peninsula program, which targets approximately 4,300 known Medical Baseline customers,[1] helps people access clean backup power and other resources during power outages. Learn more here. Image: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine.

The California Public Utility Commission’s (CPUC’s) Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) offers rebates for installing energy storage technology at both residential and nonresidential facilities and covers the full cost of battery and operations. These storage technologies include battery storage systems that can function during a power outage. In preparation for the wildfire season, the CPUC has authorized funding of more than $1 billion through 2024 for SGIP. This funding prioritizes communities in high fire-threat areas, communities that have experienced two or more utility PSPS events, and low-income and medically vulnerable customers. The funds are also available for “critical facilities” that support community resilience in the event of a PSPS or wildfire.[2] To learn more about PCE’s energy resilience strategy, click here.

Energy resilience through battery storage

Local Bay Area energy agencies are joining forces to stabilize California’s grid by providing residents and businesses with economical and emissions-free battery backup systems. East Bay Community Energy, Peninsula Clean Energy, Silicon Valley Power  and Silicon Valley Clean Energy are issuing a joint solicitation for the installation of more than 30 megawatts of battery storage for their customers. The program will provide resilient solar power combined with battery storage to approximately 6,000 homes and hundreds of businesses in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, including those hit by recent PG&E power shutoffs. This innovative program also enables the use of local resources to fulfill the state’s “resource adequacy” requirements. Resource adequacy refers to energy-generating capacity that local agencies and utilities are contractually obligated to provide in order to ensure the safe and reliable operation of California’s electrical grid in real time.

Learn more about Peninsula Clean Energy’s 2020 Resilience Strategy here.

Renewable Energy Procurement and Green Workforce Development

Peninsula Clean Energy hopes to build and sustain healthy communities by ensuring that every PCE-owned renewable energy development project will utilize local businesses, union labor and foster apprenticeship programs through multi-trade agreements and/or through multiple agreements for work.[3] In addition, PCE will proactively seek services from local and green-certified businesses and/or businesses that are taking steps to protect the environment. More information on these goals and how they will be accomplished can be found here.

California Renewables Portfolio Standard 

California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) is one of the state’s key programs for advancing renewable energy. It mandates that 33% of electricity sold by the state’s investor-owned utilities be generated from renewable resources by 2020. The program sets continuously escalating renewable energy procurement requirements for the state’s load-serving entities.

Senate Bill (SB-100) revised the state’s RPS program. It requires that 60% of electricity retail sales be served by renewable resources by 2030 and that all of the state’s electricity come from carbon-free resources by 2045.

Municipal Green Building

BayREN provides free engineering technical assistance and funding to help local governments, businesses and homeowners save energy and money while reducing their carbon footprint. It also offers incentives to homeowners for switching to energy-efficient electric heating appliances, including heat pump water heaters. Additional incentives are available to multifamily property owners switching from gas-fueled space heating and cooking appliances to cleaner, highly efficient electric alternatives. Click here to find out more about the BayREN programs and its eligibility requirements.

Credit: BayREN Regional Forum – No Missed Opportunities: Decarbonization of Public Buildings, Sept. 16, 2020

The Municipal Zero Net Energy/Zero Net Carbon Assistance program helps municipalities retrofit or construct buildings to meet zero net energy (ZNE) or zero net carbon (ZNC) goals by providing engineering analysis and recommendations for projects. A building meeting zero net energy standards is one where the amount of energy produced by on-site or adjacent renewable energy resources (e.g., solar panels) is equal to the amount of electrical and natural gas energy consumed by the building annually. A building achieves zero net energy when, over the course of 12 consecutive months, the building consumes an amount of energy less than or equal to the renewable energy generated on site. Click here to read more about zero net energy and get assistance.