Prop 39 to Provide Economic Stimulus & Energy Savings for California’s Communities.

By Susan Frank, Director, California Business Alliance for A Green Economy

More than 100 leaders from Orange County turned out for a recent briefing session led by State Senator Kevin de León and hosted by Clean Tech OC to present information about the substantial economic and jobs opportunities that Proposition 39 can make possible in communities throughout the state. The California Business Alliance for a Green Economy’s assistant director Ruben Aronin attended the briefing, and came away enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead.

Prop 39, which passed in November 2012 by a wide margin, will generate $2.5 billion over the next five years to be invested in energy efficiency upgrades. The California legislature will determine exactly how the money can be invested, but it’s likely that public schools, community colleges and other municipal buildings will receive a significant portion of the funding. The event was part of a statewide listening tour that Senator de León is conducting with asset manager and philanthropist, Tom Steyer, who backed the ballot measure.

Senator de León emphasized that Prop 39 brings a new, significant infusion of money – likely the biggest of its kind in the nation – that will create jobs across the state while significantly reducing electricity and other costs for schools.

To put the magnitude of this investment in context, the last pot of similar funding came through California energy efficiency block grants (EECBG) to the tune of $582 million over 3 years. Prop 39 provides nearly that level of funding in just one year and will continue for five years. In addition to creating jobs and local economic activity, the investment will continue to pay off every year as schools are able to reduce their annual utility bills. Today most schools pay more for electricity than they do for books and computers combined. In the Los Angeles Unified School district alone, the annual electricity bill is $105 million dollars.

The need and opportunity to improve California schools’ energy performance is not insignificant. One in eight students in the United States goes to school in California. There are 10,000 K-12 school facilities in the state and 70 percent of schools are over 25 years old. While three percent of schools’ annual funds should be spent on facilities, the dramatic education budget cuts over the last five years have stopped almost all of that spending and there hasn’t been a new school facility bond since 2006. Amazingly, there also is currently no state database that tracks the energy use of schools or their general modernization needs. To learn more, you can read The Center for the Next Generation’s report, Proposition39: Investing in California’s Future.

The California Legislature needs to pass legislation that will specifically direct the funds, and Senator de León has authored SB 39 with Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to specify that the revenue is spent on energy efficiency programs in schools and accomplishes the following goals:

• Create in-state jobs through energy efficient retrofits
• Create clean energy generation
• Create competitive grants targeting disadvantaged schools
• Include transparent, built-in measurement and verification to quantify the results including:
• Job creation
• Money savings
• Pollution reduction
• Consider financing leverage to create an investment pool that would create more projects and jobs.

When numerous small business representatives and renewable energy companies asked about how businesses would benefit from Prop 39, Senator de León responded by saying he is adamant about ensuring that the rules support California companies and employees with jobs that can’t be outsourced. He added that the Prop 39 funds will likely serve as a model investment program for other energy efficiency and clean energy investments.

While the details still need to be worked out, and many people and entities are likely to weigh in with an opinion, it is clear that the funds from Prop 39 will create huge opportunities to generate California jobs and leave lasting, positive impacts for the state. To learn more, visit www.Sb39advancecalifornia.org.

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