The state?s energy agencies? proposed budgets got little scrutiny by the Senate Budget Subcommittee while the problem of the aging workforce and the need for retraining to keep the agencies vigorous were on the radar screen. The governor?s proposed budget for the California Energy Commission is $317 million, 17 percent less than for the current year. The CEC?s Public Interest Energy Research program is asking for seven new positions as well as a one-time $10 million augmentation to fund additional energy-efficiency research using funds from a loan repayment made to the general fund. Scott Matthews, CEC acting executive director, told the subcommittee on April 18 that 80 percent of his agency?s technical staff and managers are of retirement age. He noted that the CEC relies heavily on consultants. Committee chair Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica) questioned the wisdom of using consultants, which are often more costly. ?Every year we hear about the need for consultants, but it is an expensive way to go,? Kuehl said. The Department of Finance objected to a long-term plan to use consultants. Kuehl appeared resigned to the need for consultants for training staff in the near future, but she wants language in the budget that would require the CEC to assess what the best staff-to-consultant ratio should be. A onetime $10 million augmentation for the CEC has been proposed to beef up its staff. The California Public Utilities Commission also suffers from an aging workforce and soon a loss of significant institutional memory (<i>Circuit<\/i>, April 1, 2005). But the main issue for it during this week?s hearing was not its aging workforce but its opposition to giving the Office of Ratepayer Advocates budget independence. The proposed CPUC budget for 2005-06 is $1.2 billion, about 2 percent less than last year. ?Fiscal-issue-wise, the ORA has been favored over other parts of the agency,? said the CPUC witness. However, the commission wants to keep control of the advocate?s budget. Kuehl said the office?s role as a consumer protector is held in high esteem. She clearly approved of the move to give ORA autonomous funding and more of it. A bill by Senator Martha Escutia (D-Whittier) would give the ORA director say over her budget and also give the CPUC?s sister agency its own legal staff to avoid conflicts of interest (<i>Circuit<\/i>, April 8, 2005). Another issue for the subcommittee was water used for once-through cooling at power plants, a technology that causes considerable aquatic impacts. Kuehl wanted to know the CEC?s time frame for adopting a long-term policy on use of coastal, bay, and fresh water for cooling hot turbines. Matthews said the CEC policy recommendation is expected to be adopted in November and will then head to the governor. The Energy Oversight Board has a proposed $3.9 million in funding?even though the administration apparently still wants to subsume it under agency reorganization. The governor?s energy czar, Joe Desmond, who was participating in a hearing on a direct-access bill in the Assembly energy committee, did not appear at the budget hearing. Kuehl wanted to know why Desmond did not send a replacement given that the governor is mulling over several important energy issues, including liquefied natural gas development, a transmission line extending from Wyoming to California, and an unprecedented ?Million Solar Roofs? initiative.