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Bill would let cities shift taxes to renewable energy projects

A bill introduced last month by Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, would allow cities to redirect property tax revenues to renewable energy projects.

The bill, AB 2551, would create a mechanism similar to how the state’s now-defunct redevelopment agencies collected revenue. It would allow cities to designate an area as a renewable energy zone, with the area required to generate at least 10 megawatts of renewable energy. Then the city could create an infrastructure financing district in the area and use the funds it collected “for the purpose of promoting renewable energy projects.”

Renewable energy zones would be limited to “an area that is characterized by the proposed development of more than 10 megawatts of renewable energy projects, including, but not limited to, solar, wind, and geothermal projects, as determined by the legislative body.”

Cities would also be able to designate a non-contiguous area as a renewable energy zone, or combine different projects to reach the 10 megawatt minimum.

If passed by a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature, Hueso’s bill would exempt these energy districts from voter approval requirements, meaning that city councils could create them with a simple majority vote.

Most large-scale solar developments in the High Desert, like BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah Valley project, are not within the limits of a city.

The bill “provides another tool for local jurisdictions seeking to fund community-benefitting projects in renewable energy zones,” stated a fact sheet prepared by Hueso’s office.

Hueso received $2,500 in campaign contributions from Sempra Energy, which is building the Rosamond Solar project in Kern County. The East County Renewables Coalition was listed as a sponsor for the bill.

State to hold public hearing on BrightSource project

The California Energy Commission is holding a workshop Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the proposed Rio Mesa solar project, about 13 miles southwest of Blythe, in Riverside County. BrightSource Energy proposed the project last year. It consists of three solar fields that would focus the sun’s rays on a receiver atop a tower at the center of the field.  The project would take up 5,750 acres and generate a total of 750 megawatts — enough to power 300,000 homes during peak hours, the company says.

Members of the public unable to appear personally at the meeting at the agency’s headquarters in Sacramento can participate by conference call. Instructions are available online at http://energy.ca.gov/calendar.


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