Recent trends for financing to encourage renewable energy and conservation are becoming more popular in Wisconsin, as city officials and utilities are pushing residents to be more energy efficient. Milwaukee has developed a new solar loan program that will provide revolving loans that homeowners can repay on their property tax. The city will provide $135,000 for the initial loans to Milwaukee Shines, the city’s solar project. Qualified residents will receive loans between $5,000 and $20,000, and they will contain an interest rate of 5.25 percent, which is two percentage points higher than the prime rate. “The big barrier to entry for people has been the significant upfront cost, and that’s the strongest part of this package,” says Alderman Tony Zielinski. “For as little as $300, they can have a solar system installed on their homes and they have 15 years to pay back the city. The money they save on reduced costs for energy, those dollars can be used to pay back the city.”
Other initiatives also are being announced, including River Falls Municipal Utilities, which is allowing residents in Pierce County, Wis., to extend payments for renewable energy upgrades. The residents would see a decrease in their electric bill similar to the loan payment. Racine, WI, will allow residents to fund energy-efficient retrofits in the Retrofit Racine program. The idea behind focusing on older buildings, such as the ones in Racine, will allow residents to see that older buildings are so inefficient that they pay too much on their utility bills. Studies have shown in Wisconsin and elsewhere that energy efficiency is the cheapest way to lower emissions of carbon dioxide.