Government should offer incentives for homes to go green

By Hank Kalet |

The federal government should help homeowners go green.

Several states are already seeking ways to encourage homeowners to switch from dirty fuels to cleaner energy sources, kick-starting a green revolution house by house.

In New Jersey, the state Legislature recently passed a bill that would require homebuilders to offer buyers solar energy systems as an option. And the state government provides grants and loans for solar installation on existing housing.

Communities, neighborhood groups and educational facilities in New Mexico are experimenting with solar and biomass systems, and dozens of cities and counties around the country are doing the same.

Take a look at California, where several cities are offering homeowners the opportunity to finance the installation of solar power the same way most public water, sewer or gas-line projects are financed – over a 20-year period to be paid back as a special assessment on a homeowner’s property taxes.

Cities and towns, however, have to get the money to finance these programs. Berkeley, the first city in California to create a public-financing program, turned to the banks for financing. Palm Desert, another California community that offers financing, used its own reserves to get its pilot project off the ground.

But interest in such programs could outstrip the ability of local governments to procure financing, which is why the federal government must step in.

Most states and towns face tight budgets because revenue has become scarce and their budgets, by law, have to be balanced.

Federal money ought to be made available – as it has for energy-efficiency projects and large-scale conversions of the energy grid.

By engaging individual homeowners in going green, we will not only reduce our carbon footprint one household at a time. We will simultaneously be building the larger constituency we’ll need to arrive at our clean energy future.

Hank Kalet is online editor and columnist for The Princeton Packet newspaper group in New Jersey. He can be reached at