Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has defended Berkeley FIRST, a pilot program initiated by the city to help residents finance solar power systems for their homes, and which has been cited as a model for other cities across the country.

In a letter to the East Bay Express, Bates says he believes Berkeley FIRST might be the city’s “most important contribution to combating climate change” and says it has laid the foundation for a larger scale state-wide program.

He says Berkeley FIRST was a catalyst for the expansion of residential solar energy and that one of its greatest advantages was its scalability.  “Berkeley FIRST has become a national model for energy efficiency and renewable energy adoption. Vice President Biden recognized Berkeley FIRST and, in taking it to national scale, renamed the program Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). Seventeen states and more than 200 cities are now preparing to launch Berkeley-like PACE programs,” he writes.

Bates cites the California FIRST program which he says has incorporated lessons learned from the Berkeley FIRST initiative.

Read the full letter here.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...