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Governor Brown Confirms Commitment to Making California a Leader in Clean Energy

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed three clean energy bills into law. Governor Brown should be commended for following through with this commitment and leadership on this important policy area. The three renewable energy bills signed by the Governor serve to bolster California’s stated commitment to clean energy, to create jobs, lower electric bills and improve air quality.

Last month at the National Clean Energy Summit (NCES) hosted by CAP and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Governor discussed how California has been consistently committed to clean energy as exemplified by former Governor Schwarzenegger’s efforts and California’s status in the early 80’s as the world leader in wind generated electricity. Governor Brown continued by asserting California’s current commitment to regaining its leadership in renewable energy by investing in its key resources, wind, solar and efficiency.

Let’s look at the three bills.

The first piece of legislation, Senate Bill 585, authored by Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) is a restoration and extension of the California Solar Initiative (CSI), which originated with Governor Schwarzenegger and took effect in 2007. The bill authorizes California to increase the total cost limit of the CSI from 3.4 billion to 3.6 billion. CSI is a solar rebate program for consumers in California that are customers of investor-owned utilities. This program funds solar technologies for existing homes and existing or new commercial, agricultural, government and non-profit buildings. School districts, public agencies and non-profits in California have often relied on the rebates offered under CSI to finance and carry out solar projects. In fact, CSI has been successful in facilitating the generation of almost 900 MW of solar energy. It allows for enormous cost saving benefits, reductions in pollution and the conservation of water typically used for cooling gas fired power plants.

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The second piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 1150, authored by Assemblymember Victor Manuel Perez (D-Coachella) gives the California Public Utilities Commission the authority to collect funds for the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) through December 2014. The SGIP provides rebates for qualifying distributed energy systems installed on the customer’s side of the utility meter. These qualifying technologies include wind turbines, fuel cells, and their corresponding energy storage systems. This incentive program makes approximately $83 million in rebates available each year for the installation of clean energy.

The final bill signed by Governor Brown, Senate Bill 16 by Sen. Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield), requires the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) to expedite permits for renewable energy projects. This bill works to streamline the notoriously slow permitting process for large-scale renewable projects while balancing the need for responsible project reviews of wildlife impact.

With these three pieces of legislation California will be better positioned to meet its stated goal and regulation of raising California’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard to 33 percent by the year 2020. At this point, California is about halfway to this goal. There is a long road ahead, but thanks to Governor Brown California is on the right track towards a sustainable future.

Araceli Ruano is Senior Vice President and Director of Center for American Progress-California and Rebecca Friendly is a Special Assistant at the Center for American Progress.