The Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee June 27 approved a handful of bills aimed at funding solar resources and increasing gas pipeline safety. An additional $180 million from ratepayers goes into the $3 billion California Solar Initiative to replenish utilities\u2019 portion of subsidies for non-residential photovoltaic systems under SB 585. The bill by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) is an urgency measure that goes into effect upon enactment. It passed 11-2 and went to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The solar program funding shortfall was attributed to the California Public Utilities Commission\u2019s \u201cbad math\u201d for larger subsidized photovoltaic projects. Owners of those projects get subsidies based on the performance of their systems in making energy instead of an upfront payment, said Edward Randolph, CPUC legislative director. Some consumer advocates objected to residential ratepayers subsidizing commercial and industrial solar installations. Kehoe responded that while some of the funds \u201cended up in Google\u2019s pockets, 64 percent of the non-residential CSI subsidy went to public funding programs or non-profits.\u201d The approved bill was amended to require the CPUC to conduct a study on setting cost caps for household, commercial, and non-profit solar power system subsidies. Approved with little discussion was SB 216 by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), requiring automatic shutoff valves on natural gas pipelines that run through densely populated areas and seismically active regions. It passed 15-0 and is in response to the San Bruno pipe explosion in September 2010 that killed eight people and destroyed more than three dozen homes. The bill is to be heard next in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. San Francisco Senator Mark Leno\u2019s SB 705 requires natural gas companies to develop and implement natural gas safety plans, which are to be reviewed by the California Public Utilities Commission. The bill, which Leno said creates \u201ca proactive approach to safety,\u201d passed the committee on a 13-2 vote. It heads to the Appropriations Committee. Senator Kevin de León\u2019s (D-Los Angeles) SB 343 seeks an unspecified amount of Energy Commission efficiency funding for commercial building retrofits to cut avoidable energy uses. The funds are to be diverted to the California Alternative and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority in the State Treasurer\u2019s Office. The diversion of energy efficiency funds is opposed by private utilities. Randy Chinn, Southern California Edison lobbyist, said that once funds are sent to the State Treasurer they can be used to balance the budget, and not as intended. \u201cIt turns the [energy efficiency] program into a hidden tax,\u201d he claimed. SB 343 passed on a 10-5 vote. The Assembly Natural Resources Committee is the next panel in line to hear the bill. A bill by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) to extend net metering benefits to agricultural biomass and biogas systems also faced considerable opposition. But, it passed 13-0. It is to be heard next in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. Wolk said her SB 489 aims to expand the benefits of net metering beyond solar and wind projects to other renewable units, making the program \u201ctechnology neutral.\u201d Up to 5 percent of a utility\u2019s load supplied by solar and wind resources receives a more favorable payment for energy sent into the grid. Numerous large and small agricultural interests and environmental groups support the bill. Investor-owned utilities oppose the measure, seeing it as adding pressure to increase the 5 percent net metering cap and requiring non-participating ratepayers to subsidize the biogas and biomass systems.