Proposition 39: California Commits to a Clean Comeback

For decades, California has been on the cutting edge of energy efficiency trends. From minimum refrigerator efficiency to fuel economy standards, California sets the bar for the entire nation to follow. With the recently passed Prop 39, which closed a corporate tax loophole that provided incentives for companies to move jobs out of state, California is yet again on the brink of forging a new energy efficiency paradigm. In the 2013–14 fiscal year, Prop 39 promises to devote $381 million of the recouped tax money improving the energy efficiency of the state’s public K–12 schools. The energy improvements will run the gamut from performing deep retrofits to installing photovoltaic solar panels—but the energy efficiency projects must precede renewable projects.

It’s all part of the Comeback California master plan. As State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a news release last November, “With Proposition 39, voters made it clear that they see support for education and the environment—and the intersection of the two—as a direct investment in the future of California.”

In mid-December, the California energy commission adopted the California Clean Energy Job Act Guidelines. This act transfers $550 million from the general fund to the clean energy job creation fund for five years. To put that in perspective, that’s about 1/13th of what utilities nationwide spend on energy efficiency according to the Clean Energy Jobs Act website.

The funding recipients, who may be able to start their projects as soon as this spring, can use the money on energy projects that include new HVAC systems, improved lighting sensors, solar panels, as well as other upgrades. 

Schools across California are excited about the possibilities. Not only do energy products save money, protect the environment, and create much needed jobs, they also provide a wealth of teachable moments for students and teachers. From a local to statewide perspective, recipients will be able to witness firsthand the impact of energy efficiency on their environment.

While the bulk of the money goes to K–12, California community colleges will also receive $47 million to put toward energy efficiency. To help schools apply for funds, an Energy Expenditure Plan Handbook is available. This guide provides step-by-step directions for educational institutions to apply for Proposition 39 award funds.

SmartWatt Energy’s California-based teams are currently assisting clients with planning, ideas and analysis for Proposition 39 projects throughout the state. To schedule an appointment, please call 888-348-0080.