Sacramento – In the final hours of the legislative session, state lawmakers failed to pass one of the country’s largest and most successful clean energy initiatives, known as the Public Goods Charge. Meanwhile, a lesser-known bill, AB 1150 (M. Perez), aimed at extending the Self-Generation Incentive Program to provide incentives for wind, fuel cells and other technologies that can generate electricity on-site where the electricity will be consumed, did pass.
The Public Goods Charge legislation, which in the final hours was housed in two companion bills AB 724 and SB 870, would have invested $4 billion over ten years in energy efficiency programs, innovative clean energy projects like solar homes, and research and development for clean energy solutions. Far from passing by its needed two-thirds approval, this legislation failed to garner even enough votes to pass on a majority vote in the state senate.
“Californians overwhelmingly want this state to continue to be a clean energy leader,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, director of clean energy programs for Environment California. “Our elected leaders failed to act out the peoples’ wishes this year.”
Also debated in the final hours of the legislative session was AB 1150, which, similar to the Public Goods Charge, is an incentive program that is funded through a non-bypassable surcharge on utility bills. AB 1150 extended the pre-existing $83 million per year program through 2014. It passed with flying colors, 30-6 off the senate floor Friday night.
Environment California blamed one powerful special interest in particular for the seemingly incoherent votes of the legislature on clean energy this year.
“Besides being a smaller program in terms of its size and scope, AB 1150 had another thing going for it,” said Del Chiaro. “So Cal Edison didn’t oppose it like they did the Public Goods Charge. Ultimately, when it comes to energy policy in California, utilities are powerful in more ways than one.”
Both clean energy programs, the Public Goods Charge and the Self-Generation Incentive Program, were existing programs that were to continue to be funded through a relatively small (at highest 1.5 percent fee on power bills or around $1 per month).