Results from California’s HERO Program: 10 billion solar kWh, tons of water saved

California solar power

We all know that California is leading the way in sustainability, but lets put some numbers behind it. Renovate America reported that the home energy savings from the HERO Program alone hit 10 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), which is a milestone that is roughly equivalent to taking almost 1 million Americans off the grid for a year or closing two coal-fired power plants for a year.

HERO Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing enables homeowners to make energy- and water-efficiency improvements and install solar power panels and pay for them over time through their property tax bill. The renovations and installations completed to date are projected to save 10 billion kWh of grid electricity over the useful lifetime of the products and systems.

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To put this number in perspective, the City of San Francisco uses roughly 6 billion kWh in one year. The entire country of Costa Rica uses about 10. Ten billion kWh could light up the Eiffel Tower for more than 17,000 years.

Since its inception in December 2011, the HERO Program has provided $1.58 billion in financing for projects in more than 70,000 homes throughout California. The program is a public-private partnership with municipalities, and has been adopted by 425 communities within 48 of California’s 58 counties. It is currently available to 87 percent of California households.

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“Californians are once again leading the country in energy conservation, clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Rick Bishop, executive director of the Western Riverside Council of Governments, a public administrator of the program, representing the region where the program launched. “By helping homeowners improve their homes and lower their utility bills through energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades, the HERO Program has demonstrated that incremental, individual action can bring about change in a significant way.”

In addition to the energy savings it is generating, HERO has financed projects saving almost 4.7 billion gallons of water – a significant contribution to water conservation in the face of ongoing drought. These water savings have the added benefit of conserving a significant amount of electricity: roughly on the order of 10 million kWh. Moving and treating water uses a lot of electricity, especially in southern California, where much of the water is imported from the north. A recent UC Davis study documented a significant reduction in electricity use in California over the nine months of emergency water conservation measures mandated in response to the drought.

The value of residential energy efficiency and renewable energy generation is becoming more apparent than ever this summer, as energy shortages, power outages, and the looming prospect of rolling blackouts hit California. As more homeowners embrace energy efficiency and home power generation, the seasonal pressure on the grid eases up.

Another bonus of reducing energy use on a regional level is that everyone may end up saving money on utility bills. According to a recent analysis by the Brookings Institution, several studies have shown a monetary benefit to all energy customers from rooftop solar installations. The key to the savings is that reducing the demand on an electric grid translates to less need for grid maintenance and new power plants. This, in turn, saves money for the electric utility companies, which then can postpone rate increases.

The HERO Program’s work aligns with California’s energy conservation initiatives. The state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policy establishes a goal of 50 percent renewable electricity sources by 2020 and stringent energy efficiency goals. HERO-financed projects also help city and county governments reach their state-mandated CO2 emissions targets.

As a partner with local governments, the HERO Program offers the strongest consumer protections in the home improvement industry. These include, among other things, ensuring contractors are licensed and bonded; ensuring pricing does not exceed the market value, and ensuring all installed products are federally rated energy- and water-efficient; obtaining homeowner sign-off before paying contractors; and providing additional protections for customers age 65 and up.

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