An interim program and surcharge would replace the soon-to-expire public goods program that funds renewable energy research and development under a proposed California Public Utilities Commission ruling. Administrative law judge David Gamson would temporarily continue funding renewable research and development at the same level as that provided by the public goods program administered by the California Energy Commission--which is set to sunset at the end of this year. Legislators’ last session did not reauthorize the surcharge on ratepayers to fund the research, renewable, and energy efficiency programs developed during the state’s deregulation era. Subsequently, the governor directed the commission to keep the program going. Separate rulemakings were launched to handle different programs funded by the surcharge. But, the commission’s authority to continue the investor-owned utility ratepayer surcharge to fund renewable and efficiency programs has been questioned. To get around challenges to the commission’s authority, Gamson, in this phase one regulatory proposal, would not continue the existing public goods program but create a new program, the Electric Program Investment Charge, “to support the state’s clean energy and climate goals,” his tentative Nov. 15 ruling states. The program would be funded at the same level as under the renewables public goods program--$70.4 million for 2011 and $73 million for 2012. The commission’s authority is based on its constitutionally-granted power to set rates for investor-owned utilities, Gamson stated. The program would be in effect until the conclusion of the second commission rulemaking aimed at revamping the public goods program to help ensure ratepayer funds effectively advance renewable energy development.