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FOWLER -- Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation this morning authorizing the state to raise $200 million more from utility rate-payers to subsidize the installation of photovoltaic solar panels on homes and small businesses, and also extending the Public Utility Commission's authority to collect $83 million annually from ratepayers for similar projects.

The bills are supported by the green-energy industry but opposed by the California Chamber of Commerce, which said the increased cost would burden businesses.

Brown, a Democrat, signed the measures on an elementary school grounds in Fowler, south of Fresno, with a crowd of students watching from the bleachers and a high school jazz band playing.

Senate Bill 585, by Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, authorizes the state to increase the total cost limit of the California Solar Initiative to $3.6 billion from $3.4 billion. The program, which took effect in 2007, called for the installation of 3,000 new megawatts of solar electricity by 2016

Assembly Bill 1150, by Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, extends until July 1, 2016 the Public Utility Commission's authority to collect $83 million annually for an incentive program for small renewable energy systems.

Brown also signed Senate Bill 16, by Democratic Sen. Michael Rubio of East Bakersfield, which requires the Department of Fish and Game to expedite permits for renewable energy projects.

Fowler Unified School District is planning to put solar panels on school sites, including the elementary school where Brown was speaking.


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