State Grant Program Could Help More Solar Projects

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A bill to extend a grant program supporting renewable energy initiatives-including solar-awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's signature.

Democratic state assemblymen V. Manuel Pérez and Steve Fox introduced AB 1060 earlier this year. It passed both state legislative houses and now just needs Brown's approval before the end of the legislative session Sept. 30. The bill would allow for more grants to be awarded to local governments that are part of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). The DRCEP encourages local agencies to develop collaborative renewable energy projects while also conserving the ecosystems of California's desert regions.

The grant program was created in 2011 through a bill authored by Pérez. The initial bill provided $7 million in grant funds for governments to develop policies and regulations for new renewable energy programs such as solar. Five county jurisdictions have been given grant money: Los Angeles ($603,000), San Bernardino ($700,000), San Luis Obispo ($638,000), Imperial ($700,000), and Inyo ($700,000). With the program ending this year and roughly $3.6 million of grant money still available, AB 1060 would offer another round of grants ending in June 2014. The extension would offer local governments who hadn't applied for grant money another chance to do so, Pérez said in news reports.

One county that may take advantage of the opportunity the bill could afford is Riverside. The county opted not to pursue a grant during the initial funding period due to the time and cost the application would involve; instead, it funded solar development policy updates with a franchisefee paid by the 550-megawatt Desert Sunlight solar project. Officials in Riverside County indicated they would consider applying for a grant if the bill passes, according to reports.

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