'Race To Green:' Obama, California Lawmakers Separately Push Energy Efficiency Incentives
President Barack Obama will ask Congress, states and local governments to make it easier for businesses and schools to become energy efficient as he propels the U.S. toward a goal of gathering 80 percent of its electricity from “clean” sources by 2035.
In California, the state Legislature's Democratic leaders said Tuesday they expect to see four green energy measures quickly become law, casting a goal of having the state receive 33 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
A “Better Buildings” initiative Obama will announce Wednesday calls for Congress to take several actions as part of next year's budget:
- Turn a tax deduction for commercial building upgrades into a tax credit, which the White House says will result in 10 times as many retrofits.
- Fund a new Department of Energy program that would guarantee loans for energy efficiency upgrades at hospitals, schools and commercial buildings.
- Authorize “Race to Green” competitive grants to be awarded to states and local governments that rework their laws and ordinances to make it easier for properties to become green.
The president also plans to challenge university presidents and business executives to team up in going green in exchange for "public recognition" and some technical help from the government.
Obama's energy agenda has stalled since the passage of $20 billion of Recovery Act grants. Last year, he wanted Congress to give credits to homeowners that make their homes more energy efficient, but Congress has yet to pass a budget for the current fiscal year.
By switching the focus to incentives for businesses, the president continues a reaching-out to the business community that began after the Nov. 2 midterm elections saw a Republican majority take over the House of Representatives.
The four pieces of legislation in California were all rejected by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, but are expected to get the support for Jerry Brown. They would:
Require energy companies to jump 15 percentage-points and get 33 percent of their power from alternative energy sources by 2020.
Streamline the process of getting permits for renewable energy projects—perhaps helpful in qualifying for a Race to Green grant should they materialize.
Provide loans to residents and small business owners to make energy efficiency upgrades.
Take some money from an available pot of $8 million from energy bill surcharges and use it to start 90 academies to train students for clean tech jobs. A legislative analyst's office report released this week says some money for grants from surcharges has been mispent.
California Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-L.A.) said passing the state budget is still the first priority.