Can you provide an update about the on going meetings you have been convening to establish a process for the development of the California Coastal Trail along the Big Sur coast?
When completed, the California Coastal Trail will provide a continuous public trail along the coastline from Oregon to Mexico. Predating my involvement, a committee of local community members took the initiative to compile a document that synthesizes the criteria by which the Coastal Trail should be established adjacent to the Big Sur coastline.
Since November 2009, I have convened regular meetings of the Coastal Trail Working Group that have included representatives from the Big Sur community and relevant county, state, and federal agency representatives to refine the community’s initial trail proposal. The Working Group had to take into consideration a list of difficult issues, including private landowners’ property rights, the trail requirements of public land stewards, and dwindling state finances.
The end result of countless hours of meetings and painstaking wordsmithing is the Proposed Process for Writing the Master Plan, which recommends that the 90 miles of coastline, based on key trailheads, be broken into segments. The Coastal Trail Working Group is now reaching out to the broader Big Sur community to obtain community approval of the proposed Master Plan.
This has truly been an unprecedented grassroots approach to resolving a challenging issue and I applaud the commitment and collaboration of all members of the Coastal Trail Working Group for their dedication and work to reach this point. The California Coastal Trail has the potential to attract visitors, provide an alternate route in the event of highway closures and, most importantly, be a source of great community pride.
How has California promoted solar energy and what can we expect in the future?
California has long been a leader in solar energy through a wide variety of state-enacted policies and programs like the California Solar Initiative (CSI) program and the Net Energy Metering (NEM) program.
The CSI program provides rebates for the installation of solar water heating and solar electric generation in homes, businesses, schools, public buildings, and low-income housing. Now in its sixth year, the program is on target to reach its goal of generating 1,940 megawatts (MW) by 2016 and bringing thousands of clean, renewable solar systems onto the electrical grid. Because of the CSI program, California represents the fastest-growing solar market in the country and provides nearly two-thirds of the country’s total amount of installed solar capacity.
Part of the success of the CSI program is due to the NEM program, which encourages homeowners to invest in solar energy by allowing for no-cost interconnection and a retail credit for every unit of energy generated that is not used on site. Initially, the NEM program was capped at 2.5 percent of each utility’s peak demand, but with the passage of Assembly Bill 510 in 2009, the cap was doubled to 5 percent.
Even though investment in renewable energy sources is a priority, California has not realized its full potential, and additional policies have been enacted to help expand our renewable energy sources. The Renewable Portfolio Standard requires utilities to procure 33 percent of their electrical energy from renewable sources by 2020, and Gov. Jerry Brown recently called for the addition of 12,000 MW of solar power and other forms of community-based renewable energy to be connected to the utility’s distribution infrastructure. As we look for opportunities to enhance renewable energy, protect the environment, and create jobs in California, I am confident solar-generated electricity will continue to be a crucial component in that effort.