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Green Building News

California Efficiency Program Off to a Slow Start

Three years after voters approved a new tax plan that would help schools save energy, the state has very little to show for it

California voters closed a corporate tax loophole three years ago, with half the savings earmarked by the state legislature for energy efficiency programs in schools. Three years later the commission that oversees the work has yet to meet and the state has no idea what's been accomplished.
Image Credit: Joe Wolf under license from Flickr

A three-year-old program in California designed to underwrite energy efficiency projects in schools and add thousands of new jobs every year isn’t living up to expectations.

The Associated Press reports that the Clean Energy Jobs Act, approved by a wide margin at the ballot box, hasn’t raised nearly as much money as had been predicted, and that more than half the $297 million that has been turned over to schools so far has gone to consultants and energy auditors.

The program was to have created 11,000 new jobs each year. But in the last three years, the total is 1,760. And the board that was created to oversee the work and submit progress reports to the Legislature has yet to meet, the AP said.

“Accountability boards that are rubber stamps are fairly common, but accountability boards that don’t meet at all are a big problem,” Douglas Johnson of Claremont McKenna College in Southern California told the AP.

No data on completed projects

Spending under Proposition 39 is overseen by the California Energy Commission, but the commission was unable to give the AP any information about projects that have been completed or say how much energy is being saved, because schools are not required to submit that information for as long as 15 months after the work has been finished.

A lack of information is apparently the reason that the supervisory panel, which includes professors, engineers, and climate experts, has yet to meet, according to a commission spokesperson.

In Los Angeles, the state allocated $12.6 million for projects, but the AP said not a single one has been completed so far. Two schools were to get updated lighting this summer, along with upgrades to their heating and cooling systems, but no work has been done.

Still, backers of the program appeared unfazed.

The State Energy Commission spokeswoman said she thought the program is on track, and the spokeswoman for a key legislative booster for the program, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, said the program appears to be working as planned, the AP said.

“We encouraged local districts to allow their funds to build up so they can make bigger, more comprehensive investments,” Claire Conlon said.

School officials contacted by the AP said they intend to meet a 2018 deadline for requesting money, and a 2020 deadline for completing projects.

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