CEC Approves Building Standards, Feints on Solar Project

By Published On: April 25, 2008

In a turnaround, the California Energy Commission should be getting money for research and development instead of the other way around. In its April 23 meeting, the commission agreed to accept an almost $2 million royalty payment from the software company Autodesk for a “clean title” to green building simulation software. The royalty is twice the amount that the state granted Autodesk to develop the software, according to CEC staff. In more contentious news, the commission voted to approve additions to its building standards (Title 24). Despite rounds of complaints from builders who cited that 75 to 90 percent of building owners are not obtaining permits for work–making new requirements useless–the commission voted to implement the modified codes. The additions include increased efficiency restrictions on windows and cool roofs. “We have to stick the right thing on new buildings,” said commissioner Art Rosenfeld. The new requirements do not violate the California Environmental Quality Act, according to commissioners. Rosenfeld said that over a decade the building standards will create 1.3 (n)gigawatts in savings. Builders and roofers objected to the rules, calling them ineffective and difficult. In other CEC actions, the commission found data deficient the application for the proposed 250 MW Beacon Solar Energy concentrated solar project in Kern County. The permit application fell short in six out of 23 technical areas under review, including air quality and biology. Beacon submitted the additional paper work to fill in the noted gaps, which staff is currently reviewing. The adequacy of the solar project certification, slated for 2,012 acres in eastern Kern County, is expected to come before the commission again at its May 6 business meeting. On the other hand, the commission did give the go-ahead for a more traditional fossil fuel plant–the 600 MW Colusa plant, acquired by Pacific Gas & Electric from a private developer. An attorney for the utility said it plans to “start construction as soon as humanly possible.” Despite the thumbs up, commissioner Jeff Byron expressed concern about the cost of the plant to ratepayers. “I hope our colleagues at the California Public Utilities Commission are looking out for the interests of keeping costs down,” he said. According to the commission, the plant is expected to cost between $450 million and $500 million. A number of items won unanimous approval this week, including a $650,000 contribution to a $1.3 million contract for research and development to improve energy efficiency in water reuse projects. The funds will be used by the Wateruse Foundation exclusively for research and development and not overhead, said CEC staff.

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