Efficiency Funds & Community Solar Laws Swap Houses

By Published On: June 7, 2013

Measures making it to the other side of the Legislative aisle before the May 31 cutoff include ones expanding access to solar roof tops and directing where and how to spend Proposition 39’s $550 million in annual revenue on energy efficiency measures in schools. Sen. Kevin de León’s (D-Los Angeles) SB 39, approved on a 38-0 vote by the Senate, requires the State Office of Public School Construction to work with the state’s energy agencies on developing a competitive grant program for efficiency upgrades at K-12 schools. Getting top priority for Prop. 39 funds are schools in disadvantaged areas and those with above average energy consumption. Under AB 39 by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner’s (D-Oakland), the California Energy Commission calls the shots on which schools, including K-12 and community colleges, receive Prop. 39 money for efficiency and clean energy retrofits. The Assembly sent her bill to the Senate after passing it on a 76-2 vote. Passed 30-7, Sen. Ellen Corbett’s (D-Fremont) SB 64 requires the Energy Commission to provide Prop. 39 funds for efficiency installations and upgrades not only at school districts but also at city and county facilities. AB 114 by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) directs almost 10 percent of the annual Prop. 39 money generated by closing a tax loophole on out-of-state firms to clean energy job training for disadvantaged youth. The bill, passed 75-2 by the Assembly, directs the Labor & Workforce Development Agency to award the funds as grants to eligible projects. Two measures on a different—but also clean energy—topic allow those without a roof top solar system to buy into a community system. SB 64 by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) allows residential customers—renters and others unable to invest in their own photovoltaic system—to invest in community renewable energy facilities. The legislation permits up to 500 MW of these kinds of solar investments for private utility customers who are renters, have shaded roofs or can’t afford an onsite solar energy investment. One-fifth of the 500 MWs are to be set aside for residential customers and another 100 MWs reserved for 1 MW facilities located in disadvantaged communities. Under SB 64, ratepayers making investments in community solar projects are to get credits on their utility bills for the energy produced by their share of investment. Eligible investments include the 2 MW PV USA 86-acre solar farm owned by the city of Davis. The site developed by PG&E in 1986. It later was sold to the Energy Commission in 1997 then symbolically transferred to Davis for $1 in 2001. A similar measure on the Assembly side is AB 1014 by Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara). It also opens the door to offsite solar investments by renters and other ratepayers. After passing 55-17, it was sent to the Senate. Passed unanimously was another piece of legislation by Sen. Tony Canella (R-Merced) exempting the Merced Irrigation District from the state’s renewable portfolio obligation. SB 591, passed 39-0, allows the district as of July 2014 to count the output of its 94 MW Exchequer hydropower facility towards its 33 percent renewable portfolio mandate Until next July, the output of Exchequer flows to PG&E, but after that date it is to go to Merced. The renewables law has only counted hydropower 30 MW or smaller towards a utility’s alternative power mandate. The Assembly version of the bill allowing Merced Irrigation District to bolster its “renewables” portfolio with large hydropower also passed. AB 783 by Assemblymember Adam Gray (R-Bakersfield) went to the other house after winning a 65-4 vote in the Assembly. Other bills passed by the Assembly include: AB 415 by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). It expands the testing protocol for solar hot water heaters as well as the list of required solar water heating systems accredited listing agencies. It passed 74-0. AB 489 by Skinner, passed 53-25. It expands funding of 11 efficiency pilot projects created under a 2009 law beyond federal dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. AB 722 requires the California Public Utilities Commission to verify continuing eligibility for discounted home energy rates by requiring customers to submit proof of income. The bill by Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) passed 70-4. A number of controversial bills attempting to halt or regulate the booming hydraulic fracking business in California fell by the wayside. One still standing is AB 7 by Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont). It requires companies fracking for natural gas and oil in California to reveal to the Department of Oil, Gas, & Geothermal Resources, and the public chemicals put down wells to induce fracking—unless the material is considered part of a firm’s “trade secrets.” It has yet to head to the Senate. It is to be re-debated in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee after being granted a rule waiver of the deadline to move to the other house by the Senate Rules Committee.

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