For Immediate Release: October 15, 1997
Media Contact: Claudia Chandler -- 916 654-4989

Legislation Advances Renewable Energy Industry and Public-Interest Electricity Research and Development

Governor Pete Wilson signed legislation on October 12, 1997, that will help solidify a role in the new electricity market in California for renewable energy and public interest research, development and demonstration projects. Senate Bill 90, authored by Byron Sher (D-Palo Alto) and passed with broad, bipartisan support by the Legislature, implements $540 million in renewable energy projects and $250 million in public interest electricity research and development. These programs and funds were specified in California's 1996 Electricity Restructuring law.

The funds will be collected from the three investor-owned electric utilities over the next four years to continue programs undertaken with ratepayer funding. This significant financial commitment will continue California's leading role in advancing renewable energy and help the renewables industry make the move to a competitive market. The State's investment in public interest research is designed to bring lower prices and develop, in the long run, a cleaner and more reliable electricity system

. Senate Bill 90 builds on last year's landmark electricity restructuring legislation. The bill authorizes the California Energy Commission to implement the renewable energy and public interest research and development programs described in the legislation. Both programs were developed at the Energy Commission with broad public input, including utilities, environmental and consumer groups, and participants from the renewable power and research industries. "There is broad, bipartisan agreement by the Governor and the Legislature that the public will benefit from the implementation of the Electricity Restructuring Law of 1996," stated Energy Commission Chairman William Keese. "Consumer groups, environmentalists, electricity producers and government entities are all working hard to ensure a successful transition to an open electricity market. We must stay focused on the January 1, 1998, start-up date and do everything we can to ensure that it is implemented as enacted. Senate Bill 90 is critical legislation, which takes us closer to that end."

Senate Bill 90 establishes a renewable energy program that provides $540 million to consumers and producers of renewable energy, such as wind, solar, geotheral, biomass, landfill gas, and small hydroelectric power. The program includes provisions for credits on consumers' bills if they purchase eligible renewable electricity and provides market-based support for upgrading and extending California's renewable power industry. The overall goal of the program is to build a market-driven renewable power industry in California.

The legislation also transfers the public interest research, development and demonstration program responsibility from the utilities to the Energy Commission. The Commission will allocate $62 million a year from 1998 to 2001 to research projects that best meet the public-interest goals of the program. Selected research projects may include some technologies already in the development stage, as well as new concepts with strong potential to increase the reliability, cost-effectiveness, and environmental cleanliness of California's electricity industry.

"The development of advanced energy technologies has been a centerpiece of state energy policy. It is through such advancements that consumers are provided options-to chose from expanded product and service offerings, while costs and environmental impacts are reduced and reliability increased. SB 90 will help insure that such advancements continue as the electricity market changes," stated Dr. David Rohy, Vice Chair of the California Energy Commission.

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