LOS ANGELES (AP) — California has spent billions of dollars in recent years on alternative energy programs, even as education, public safety and other spending was cut, a newspaper reported.
Over the years, state money has funded some failed projects and private companies with political ties, the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/16GLqlv) reported Sunday.
"Suddenly, you look up and there are literally hundreds of millions of dollars going into investments that produce marginal benefits," said state Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, who sits on the Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.
For example, California agencies are investing nearly $15 million to build hydrogen fueling stations, though there are little more than 200 hydrogen-powered vehicles in California. Other purchases include milk trucks that run on cow manure.
Typically, projects are paid for with little-noticed consumer fees or small charges on electricity bills. A $3 fee on license plates is paying for the hydrogen fueling stations.
State disbursements last year included $317 million for renewable-energy projects; about $250 million for advanced transportation projects; and $44 million for research grants, according to a report by the Legislative Analyst's Office.
The programs make California an international leader in an emerging field, said Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission.
"We are on a mission to deal with climate change," he said. "It is considered a great success story."
His commission estimated that each year, the various fees add $24 to the average electric bill for a residence and $12 to the average gas bill.
Much of the nearly $15 billion the state has spent on energy efficiency and alternative energy over the past decade moved through about 20 programs run by the commission, the California Energy Commission and the Air Resources Board.
The largest program involved rebates and subsidies for commercial and residential installation of solar panels and other energy-saving technologies.