California bill backed by Gov. Brown would continue program that collects about US$400M/year from utility ratepayers to invest US$250M on energy efficiency, US$75M on renewable energy projects, US$75M on R&D and demonstration

LOS ANGELES , August 29, 2011 () – Gov. Jerry Brown is sponsoring legislation to extend a state program that collects a total of about US$400M a year from utility ratepayers for investing in renewable energy, the Los Angeles Times reported on Aug. 25.

The tax surcharge, which amounts to $1-$2 per month on ratepayers’ bills, would expire at the end of this year, and lawmakers have only two weeks left to act.

The measure, called the Clean Energy, Jobs and Investment Act of 2011 by the governor, would spend $250 million a year on energy-efficiency activities, $75 million/year on renewable energy projects and $75 million/year on research, development and demonstration ventures.

Under the draft bill, which was unveiled by the governor at a private meeting late last week, the program would continue to collect the surcharge and have greater oversight, the Times reported.

The legislation is expected to be heard first in the Assembly and Senate committees next week. A related measure that would extend the surcharge to 2020 passed the Assembly.

The bill is backed by the renewable energy industry, environmentalists and labor unions that would benefit from new construction jobs, but it is opposed by anti-tax groups and some business groups, including the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, reported the Times.

The program’s focus would be investing in small-scale projects. These include installing rooftop solar systems, reducing farmers’ fossil-fuel use, and discovering ways to store wind- and solar-generated electricity.

More than $700 million from the surcharge was used in the past 14 years to fund research that cut ratepayers’ energy bills by at least $1 billion, according to the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, the Times reported.

New energy-efficient projects were spurred by the research, said the commission.

The commission’s chairman, Sen. Alex Padilla, supports the governor’s proposal, due to its job-creating aspects, although Padilla initial sought to repeal the surcharge. However, he said the program would have to be “much more focused and accountable.”

The program will be managed to ensure “greater transparency and accountability in program-funding administration,” said Nancy McFadden, Brown’s top legislative aide, reported the Times.

The primary source of this article is the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, California, on Aug. 25, 2011.

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