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The California Public Utilities Commission has agreed to take up Gov. Jerry Brown's request to figure out how to continue funding clean energy projects paid for by a soon-to-expire utility tax known as the "public goods charge."

The roughly 1.5 percent tax on electricity bills expires on January 1, eliminating roughly $400 million a year that goes toward research and technology development, renewable energy sources and encouraging energy efficiency. Legislation to extend the charge failed to get the necessary two-thirds approval.

Following the Legislature's decision not to extend the tax, Brown asked the PUC last month to find another way to keep it going. Today, the commission announced that it's set up a process to "consider whether and how" to continue funding for clean energy projects associated with the public goods charge.

"Today the CPUC is taking the first formal step in response to the Governor's request that there be no hiatus in funding the several vital programs that make up the Public Goods Charge and that have helped to make California a world leader in energy research and energy efficiency," Commission President Michael R. Peevey said in a statement.

The PUC plans to issue its first decision on the issue by Dec. 15, but expects to continue fine-tuning the program in 2012.

The PUC's full proposal is here.


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