Lawmakers failed to renew a statewide utility surcharge before the end of their session, dealing a blow to Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to promote alternative energy and keep California at the forefront of the industry.
Brown sought to extend a public goods charge that adds $1 to $2 to the average monthly household utility bill and has been in effect since 1997. He wanted to use about $400 million in annual proceeds to fund renewable energy and efficiency programs.
"The public goods charge debate is not done; just call it a major bump in the road," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said Monday.
The California Energy Commission says California receives more electricity from renewable resources than any other state. Supporters say the surcharge has helped California earn that title because it pays for programs that make homes and businesses more energy efficient and subsidizes renewable energy research.
The commission says the state has used more than $700 million from the surcharge to fund alternative energy research, creating jobs, spawning new industries and attracting investors. The state has set a goal to generate one-third of its electricity from renewable resources such as wind, solar and geothermal by 2020.
The program has provided funding for clean energy companies that employ thousands of people. The research also has helped develop wireless lighting controls, thinner solar cells and improved wind turbines.
SunPower, a San Jose-based solar panel manufacturing company, worked with the Public Interest Energy Research Program to develop a less expensive solar panel that was more energy-efficient than previous models.
Some opponents of the surcharge called it redundant to the state's environmental efforts. Unless lawmakers find a way to revive it, it will expire at the end of the year.
"In this economy, you just can't keep adding ratepayer charges," said Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks. "There's going to be revolt among ratepayers."
Strickland was one of the few Republicans who supported the bill establishing the 33 percent renewable energy standard for utilities.