A father-son team from Berkeley has developed an online tool aimed at assisting East Bay residents in navigating the complex landscape of clean energy tax credits and rebates.
Jerome Paulos is an alumnus of Berkeley High who’s currently attending college in Minnesota. He collaborated with his father Ben Paulos to create a widget for the East Bay Community Energy website.
There has been a significant influx of funding in recent years to support residents in transitioning to cleaner energy sources, according to Ben (who works in the renewables industry).
However, eligibility criteria differ based on factors such as location, income, housing status, and more. This often leads to confusion when trying to determine the available credits for which one may qualify.
How it works
The “incentive finder” database created by the Pauloses currently consolidates 84 incentives from 27 different sources, including cities, counties, regional entities, and state and federal programs. These incentives aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.
By entering their zip code, income, tax filing status, household size, and whether they are homeowners or renters, users can access a personalized list of available incentives.
For instance, the tool demonstrates how a hypothetical Downtown Berkeley renter earning $70,000 per year could potentially be eligible for up to 32 incentives. One such incentive is a $4,000 federal rebate for a smart electrical panel. A smart electric panel uses software to minimize a home’s electricity usage.
Additionally, they may qualify for an $8,000 rebate from the federal government to upgrade to an electric heat pump. A heat pump functions as both an air conditioner and a heater.
To view specific requirements and apply, users can click on a “Learn more” button associated with each incentive.
Try out the tool for yourself here.
How Jerome and Ben made the tool
According to Berkeleyside, the Paulos family drew inspiration from Rewiring America’s IRA Savings Calculator. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into law by President Biden in August 2022, is comprehensive climate legislation that allocates $370 billion toward transitioning the United States to cleaner energy sources.
The Pauloses’ tool highlights incentives primarily focused on environmentally friendly upgrades to homes and transportation options, similar to the IRA Savings Calculator.
Although the tool does not specifically outline incentives from the city of Berkeley, it does mention Albany’s offer of rebates up to $2,000 for residents who upgrade their HVAC system. The tool does not include Berkeley’s pilot e-bike program for low-income residents due to the closed application period in March.
Jerome and Ben organized incentives into a spreadsheet. Jerome, who has studied computer science, made the spreadsheet user-friendly by creating a customized tool. Their aim was to accommodate users like Ben’s 92-year-old mother, Maggie.
The Pauloses aspire to expand their incentive finder to other states and regions. While nothing has been confirmed, Ben mentioned that several community choice energy providers, including Marin Clean Energy, could buy the software.