NRDC Applauds Gov. Davis, Legislators for Extending Investments in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy

Group Says Bills Will Save Money, Improve Reliability and Protect the Environment

SACRAMENTO (October 2, 2000) - Gov. Gray Davis’ signature on bipartisan energy bills will mean dollar savings, improved electric reliability and a cleaner environment for all Californians, according to a national environmental organization. The legislation’s passage was met with applause by NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council), which led support for the bills, as well as dozens of other environmental groups, businesses, associations, labor unions and consumer organizations, ranging from the Chamber of Commerce and the California Retailers Association to the Latino Issues Forum and the American Lung Association.

AB 995 and SB 1194, authored by Assemblyman Rod Wright (D-Los Angeles) and Sen. Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto) respectively and championed by NRDC, will extend California’s System Benefits Charge (SBC) (a small surcharge on electricity bills to fund utilities’ investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass. The current program had been due to expire at the end of 2001. The bills will raise $5 billion over 10 years without increasing the rates paid by consumers.

"This is quite possibly the largest sustainable energy fund ever created by a single legislative act," says Ralph Cavanagh, director of NRDC’s energy program. "And it will continue California’s proven long-term investments in energy efficiency and clean renewables. The average household’s contribution of just a nickel a day will be leveraged into a program that returns high dividends in the form of energy savings, increased electric reliability, economic growth and reduced industrial air pollution."

In the last two decades, energy efficient investments from Californians’ utility bills have avoided the need for more than 11 giant power plants, according to the California Energy Commission. The California Public Utilities Commission estimates net benefits from energy efficiency programs at almost $2.9 billion between 1990 and 1998.

AB 995 and SB 1194 will provide continued investment in renewable energy resources, including but not limited to:

  • production credits for new and refurbished renewable energy,
  • rebates and other economic incentives for emerging renewable technology,
  • customer credits for purchasing renewable power, and
  • support for biomass and solar projects.

"This was a top priority for NRDC in Sacramento this year," says Ann Notthoff, NRDC’s California advocacy director. "The overwhelming support for these bills is a good sign that Californians realize these long-term investments will help meet the state’s energy needs without sacrificing our environment. It’s a win-win for the environment and energy consumers."

The governor also signed the following energy bills:

  • SB 1771 by Sen. Sher (D-Palo Alto) encourages California businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. It sets up a voluntary system for them to register their reductions with the state. It requires the state to inventory all emissions sources and investigate strategies for reductions.

  • SB 1298 by Sen. Bowen (D-Marina del Ray) will ensure that only the most efficient and clean small-scale energy generation technologies are sold and deployed in California. It creates the nation’s first environmental performance standards for those technologies, which include fuel cells and microturbines.
  • AB 970 by Assemblywoman Ducheny (D-San Diego) will expedite the siting of power plants that meet rigorous air pollution standards and are slated to replace dirtier plants. The bill also funds various energy efficiency initiatives, including NRDC's "Cool Communities" program. Cool Communities encourages the planting of trees and the purchase and installation of light-colored roofing and paving materials to shade and reflect heat from buildings in hot urban areas. This reduces the energy needed to air condition the buildings.
  • SB 1939 by Sen. Alarcon (D-Sylmar) will ensure that energy conservation programs are available for low-income consumers in rural parts of the state. It also repeals the outdated, century old exclusion of non-landowners from serving on the boards of irrigation districts that provide electrical services to low-income residents.
  • AB 1002 by Assemblyman Wright (D-South Central Los Angeles), will extend indefinitely a modest surcharge on natural gas sales to fund energy efficiency and low-income services.