Recent legislation provides new hope for those K-12 and community college districts that missed out on initial financing incentives for solar energy projects. On September 22, 2011 Governor Brown signed into law two new bills which extend and restore financing for solar energy rebate and incentive programs. Senate Bill (“SB”) 585, sponsored by Senator Christine Kehoe of San Diego, authorizes a $200,000,000 increase in funding for the California Solar Initiative (“CSI”) rebate program, one of the most successful solar energy rebate programs for schools. Assembly Bill (“AB”) 1150 extends funding for the Self-Generation Incentive Program (“SGIP”), which offers rebates for wind, fuel cell and other self generating energy resources. Additionally, the California Energy Commission urges K-12/community college districts to apply for and get on waiting lists for programs that are currently depleted of funds but expect future funding.
SB 585: California Solar Initiative
The CSI is the nation’s most successful solar installation program, and already has saved Californians over $1 billion. (SD Union Tribune 5-21-11.) Due to its overwhelming success, it has outpaced its funding, and the nonresidential portion of the program has run out of money. SB 585 was passed as urgency legislation in order to make up for budget shortfalls and ensure completion of school district and other non-residential solar energy projects already approved, under construction and on waiting lists. CSI monies fund rebate programs for school district customers in PG&E, SCE and SDG&E territories for installation of photovoltaic (“PV”) systems, as well as other solar thermal generating technologies. SB 585 increases the CSI program budget from $3.35 billion to $3.55 billion. The additional $200 million, derived from interest accumulated from monies collected by utility companies for solar projects, will be used to fund the budget shortfall for school solar energy projects on current waiting lists and new projects. If your district is considering a solar project, now is the time to get your application submitted and take advantage of the rebate for financing. More information on this program can be found at: http://www.gosolarcalifornia.org/csi/index.php.
AB 1150: Self-Generation Incentive Program
AB 1150, sponsored by Assemblyperson V. Manuel Pérez, extends the authority of the Public Utility Commission to collect $83 million each year from ratepayers for the SGIP through 2014, which will continue to fund incentives for the installation of certain fuel cell and wind technologies which meet emissions and efficiency standards. These self-generative projects meet all or a portion of the electric energy needs of a facility. School districts are eligible to participate in the SGIP. For more information on the SGIP, please visit the Public Utility Commission's website at: http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/energy/DistGen/sgip/.
California Department of Energy Programs
The California Department of Energy has several programs to help schools implement energy efficient projects. The Energy Efficiency Financing Program provides low-interest loans for energy efficiency and self-generation projects in the public sector. K-12 schools are eligible for this program and can receive loans at a 3% interest rate with up to 100% of a project funded. Although this program is currently oversubscribed, schools are encouraged to apply because the funding changes monthly and it is a first-come, first-served program. More information on this program can be found at http://www.energy.ca.gov/efficiency/financing/index.html.
Another valuable program through the Department of Energy, also temporarily suspended, is the Bright Schools Program. This program has provided free technical assistance for schools in the form of up to $20,000 worth of energy audits, assistance for new construction design, and proposal review. The hope is that this program can be resurrected after the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act (“ARRA”) programs complete in June. Three hundred school districts have participated and received comprehensive energy assistance. This program can help identify ways to save energy. School districts are encouraged to apply and get on the waiting list for this program as well. More information on this program can be found at http://www.energy.ca.gov/efficiency/brightschools/index.html
The Education and the Environment Initiative (“EEI”), complementing energy conservation projects with environment-based education in today's classroom instruction, is now made easy. Through the collaborative efforts of the California Department of Education and California Environmental Protection Agency, the California EEI Curriculum was created to address the legally mandated development and implementation of environmental education, K-12 (Assembly Bills 1721 and 1548, Pavely.) Approved by the State Board of Education in 2010, the curriculum is designed to be easily integrated into classroom instruction and to support the established academic standards.
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F3 NewsFlash prepared by Kathleen McKee and Becky Feil.
Kathy is a partner in the F3 San Diego office.
Becky is an associate in the F3 Sacramento office.
This F3 NewsFlash is a summary only and not legal advice. We recommend that you consult with legal counsel to determine how this new law may apply to your specific facts and circumstances. Information on a free NewsFlash subscription can be found at www.fagenfriedman.com.
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