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Governor's Solar Plan Is Rejected

The proposal to install systems on 1 million houses, unveiled just a week ago, fails to make it to the Assembly floor as adjournment nears.

August 27, 2004|Marc Lifsher | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The Legislature pulled the plug Thursday on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's hopes of fulfilling a campaign promise to install solar power systems on 1 million homes.

With lawmakers set to adjourn today, the governor's negotiators failed to find the votes needed to pass a $1-billion program that Schwarzenegger said would cut pollution and boost power reserves.

The bill, SB 199 by Sen. Kevin Murray (D-Culver City), received only two of seven needed votes in the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. Chairwoman Sarah Reyes (D-Fresno) said passage probably would have led to a rate increase for residential and industrial electricity customers, which are still recovering from the energy crisis of 2000-01.

According to an analysis prepared by the committee's staff, Schwarzenegger's program would have cost residential users an average of $3.72 a year and large industrial plants $24,796.

The governor's solar program, details of which he had unveiled only a week ago, would have required home builders to offer new-home buyers the option of installing photovoltaic solar generating systems, beginning in 2010. The extra cost to home buyers would have been about $6,400, after a $5,600 state rebate.

Instead of backing the governor, the committee endorsed and sent to the full Assembly a more modest solar energy bill by Sen. Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey). Her measure contained no potential rate hike. The Bowen proposal sets up a rebate program for homeowners installing solar systems but depends on limited funds from existing state programs.

Schwarzenegger's bill had strong support from environmentalists and the reluctant backing of home builders. An eclectic coalition of ratepayer activists, investor-owned utilities and large manufacturers opposed the plan because of its cost.

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