The University of California 10-campus system came to the state utility regulatory commission president with a plan for climate change. With two degrees from the UC Berkeley campus, Michael Peevey listened. On Thursday, Peevey and his four colleagues on the California Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved a statewide examination of the university’s plan to create the Climate Solution Institute with a $60 million annual budget for its first 10 years.

Eventually, Peevey envisions the institute or its equivalent attracting other universities, funding sources and private and public organizations throughout California and the nation, if not globally. He considers energy utility ratepayers as having “a huge stake” in finding solutions to global climate change and part of their monthly rates should go toward this effort, he said.

Although expressing reservations about dealing unilaterally with only one of the state’s major universities, CPUC members agreed the institute appears to be compatible with the state’s broadening efforts to head off the adverse impact of global climate change and one of its chief contributors, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The UC campuses came to the CPUC with a plan describing the proposed institute’s mission, organizational structure, priority program and research areas, and an annual budget. The CPUC, led by the Berkeley graduate who last year gave millions of dollars to his alma mater, will review the proposal over the coming months.

“Our rulemaking will assess the need for the institute, the focused areas, the level of funding required, and how accountability can be assured by its organization and governance structure,” Peevey said. “I expect through the rulemaking this proposal will be further fleshed out and stakeholders will have a chance to question UC officials and offer refinements to improve the proposal from what it is today.”

Peevey said the institute could build on what he called the UC’s “already impressive body of research on climate change. He sees the institute’s role as engaging in “mission-oriented, applied and directed research that results in practical technological solutions and policy recommendations” as its principal focus, along with training the next generation of researcher in the field and advancing public education on climate change.

He called the UC systems’ 10 campuses “uniquely situated” to help California’s policymakers and businesses find and deploy integrated solutions to meeting the GHG emissions challenges.

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