Residents of the United States will soon be able to install energy-efficient solar panels on their homes without paying significant upfront costs, according to the renewable energy development company Citizenre.I think this is a great idea.
The Delaware-based business has launched a program that allows customers to “rent” the panels for specified periods of time, paying a per-kilowatt fee that takes the place of the local utility bill. The monthly rate is locked in when the 1, 5 or 25-year contract is signed, so as energy prices go up participants are likely to save money while significantly reducing their output of greenhouse gases.
The rental program, called REnU, is billed as a cost-effective response to the challenges many would-be solar users face when confronted with the high costs of solar system equipment, installation, and maintenance. The program’s only upfront charge is a security deposit of roughly US$500, which is paid back—with interest—at the end of the contract. The REnU website has a “solar savings calculator” that estimates the amount of money households will save by switching to solar power.
Many renewable energy and energy efficiency projects make sense financially but are hampered by financing issues. The projects have a high enough return on investment, but individuals are unwilling to make the upfront investment to make it happen and the projects are too small for banks and other companies with capital to come in and invest in them.
Citizenre becomes, in a way, a distributed power plant company that pays people to rent their rooftop space. Customers like it because they don't have the upfront cost and can rely on a expert to install and maintain the panels. Investors like it because they can aggregate a bunch of small investments into one larger one. They can get a good rate of return while knowing they are helping the environment.