The Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee approved several bills from the Senate that seek affordable clean energy, acceleration of transmission planning, undergrounding of power lines, renewable hydrogen and improvements in the energy efficiency of new air conditioning systems.
The most significant bill passed June 22 by the energy committee ties together the state’s zero-emissions energy goal and rate affordability.
SB 1020 “for the first time puts ratepayer affordability at the core of climate policy,” bill author Sen. John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) told the committee.
It would do that by directing the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission to establish a new nonprofit entity, the California Affordability Decarbonization Authority, to fund electric programs and actions, including rebates. This authority would be charged with figuring out how to control the cost of utility bills, which should have been done years ago, Laird noted.
His bill also authorizes the CPUC and CEC to provide confidential information from utility power purchase agreements to the grid operator to help with its transmission planning.
To help ensure California reaches its goal of 100% clean and renewable energy by 2045, SB 1040 also sets interim goals: 90% clean energy by 2035 and 95% by 2040.
In addition, the energy sources of all the state agencies must be 100% zero emissions by 2030. “It puts them at the forefront of efforts to decarbonize,“ Laird said.
The measure is a product of the Senate Climate Workgroup made up of 11 senators who met nearly two dozen times to develop climate pollution solutions.
The bill received broad support but faced opposition from environmental justice groups for including methane captured from large dairies in the definition of renewable energy. Their representatives pointed out that large dairies pollute the air and groundwater of surrounding, largely disadvantaged communities, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley.
SB 1020 passed on a 12-0 vote and will be heard next by the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources.
Hourly emissions reporting
SB 1158 by Sen. Josh Becker (D-San Mateo) would require that utilities and other electricity providers report annually on their systems’ hourly emissions beginning in 2028 to ensure they are in fact reducing greenhouse gases as necessary.
California already requires annual emissions reporting but it fails to capture the use of unspecified power, principally fossil fuel generation, during many hours of the year. In contrast, hourly emissions reporting reveals much higher carbon emissions from electricity resources, up to 15 times higher in some cases, Becker said.
“We’ve set greenhouse gas targets for all of our electricity suppliers for 2030 and later years but we have nothing in place to measure how well they are doing against those targets,” according to Becker.
Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) took issue with the bill for creating a “one size fits all” measurement program. “It will generate a lot of data but I am not sure who at the CPUC will look at it,” Quirk added.
“I fundamentally believe you can’t prove what you can’t measure,” Becker replied.
SB 1158 was sent to the Natural Resources Committee after winning a 12-0 vote.
Two other bills, like ones approved by the Senate energy committee earlier, seek to remove transmission planning delays.
Becker’s SB 887 would require the CEC and CPUC to develop and provide the California Independent System Operator long-term energy forecasting for at least 15 years to speed up transmission projects. It passed on a 15-0 vote and will be heard next in the Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Mike McGuire’s SB 884 would promote the undergrounding of utility lines in high fire-threat regions.
It would help expedite the process by limiting local agencies’ approval of projects to 150 days and judicial review of projects to 270 days. McGuire’s bill also would require the investor-owned utilities to meet their project undergrounding deadlines.
Because of the extensive and worsening wildfire we “have no other choice” than to bury the wires and “utilities have to be held to their word,” said McGuire (D-North Counties).
Pacific Gas & Electric committed to underground 10,000 miles of its power lines over the next decade at a cost of roughly $40 billion.
SB 884 passed 12-0, and will be heard next in the Natural Resources Committee.
SB 1174 by Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) mandates that the CPUC identify all interconnection or transmission projects necessary to transport renewable energy in order to reach California’s 100% decarbonization goal by 2045. Hertzberg said the bill would ensure coordination among the energy agencies.
Two other bills, SB 733 by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) and SB 1075 by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), promote the production of what the authors call “renewable” gas and hydrogen.
The measures were opposed by environmental groups for not limiting the gases to those produced by renewable energy.
SB 733, which was overhauled before the hearing, also authorizes the CPUC to include renewable hydrogen in its biomethane procurement standard. The CPUC also must allow gas corporations to recover their investments in the infrastructure to deliver renewable hydrogen in the rate base.
Michael Boccadero, Agriculture Energy Consumers president, said the bill would lock in the price of “extremely expensive hydrogen,” which can be up to 10 times more than natural gas. He also objected to allowing hydrogen to be put into SoCalGas and other pipelines because the action is “extremely premature” and would corrode pipelines.
SB 733, passed on a 9-2 vote, will be heard next in the Natural Resources Committee.
Skinner’s SB 1075 heads to the same committee after being approved on a 14-0 vote.
Other bills approved by the committee Wednesday are as follows:
- SB 1164 by Sen. Henry Stern (D- Los Angeles) would require creating a registry and tracking all heating and cooling equipment to make sure they have the proper permits before installations to reduce the number of unpermitted systems. Unpermitted systems are notorious for improper installations, which drive up energy use and demand on the grid. It passed on a 13-0 vote and will be heard next in by the Appropriations Committee;
- SB 1112 by Becker would provide on-bill financing so utilities would cover the upfront costs of residential efficient electric appliances. The utility would recoup the cost over time from the energy reductions. Passed on a 15-0 vote, it heads to Natural Resources;
- SB 1208 by Hueso would create one application for struggling ratepayers to receive low-income assistance from various utility programs. It advanced to the Communications and Conveyance Committee following a 14-0 vote; and
- SB 1383 also by Hueso would expand the CPUC’s current safety operation and maintenance standards for electric generation facilities to include oversight of energy storage systems. It passed 15-0 and will be heard next in the Appropriations Committee