On February 4, 2014 the Fullerton City Council discussed the possible implementation of the Home Energy Renovation Program (HERO) to assist property owners who want to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes and businesses. HERO is a financing mechanism that allows owners to add solar panels, gray water systems, electric car chargers, tankless water heaters, better insulated windows and doors, and other infrastructural improvements that would lead to diminished energy use. Nine other Orange County cities have already signed on to the program, including Anaheim, Brea, and Newport Beach. Over one hundred and sixty cities have adopted the program statewide, with more expected this year.
What HERO provides, through the Western Riverside County of Governments, is a bond sale that finances energy efficiency improvements, with a lien tied to the property. The owner still pays back the loan, but it’s more like a mortgage payment made over a much longer period of time, and appears on the property’s tax bill.
Many homeowners balk at the high (though dropping) price of solar panels, for example, because the upfront costs are too expensive to justify the energy savings unless the occupant plans to stay in a home for the life of a mortgage. HERO will allow them to add these improvements now without having to foot the bill for future owners as well.
Other government programs have provided limited rebates for such investments, but HERO provides a much needed way to allow property owners to stop wasting so much water, electricity, and natural gas with the old technologies that power their houses and businesses. With energy costs at a premium already, and a seemingly continuous drought in California, it is critical that we find ways to shift over to sustainable levels of use as quickly as possible.
The Fullerton City Council should not only approve a resolution to participate in the HERO program, but should also correct the problem that has led to its necessity in the first place. All future developments in Fullerton should be required to be built with the kinds of improvements covered by HERO. It is absurd to build houses these days without solar panels and gray water systems that are simply part of the structure that is paid for over time with a mortgage loan. It is time to bring older structures up to speed with financing options that make energy efficient improvements feasible for everyone, and stop building new housing and other structures as if we are still living in the 20th Century.