Energy Storage, Shutoffs & More Solar Bills Flow

By Published On: April 23, 2010

A bill requiring utility investment in energy storage technologies barely made it out of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. Members expressed concern over the emerging technologies’ costs. AB 2514 by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) passed on 7-6 vote April 19. According to Skinner, the measure helps attract venture capital to the energy storage industry to make “California the leader in the development and management of advanced energy storage.” The Attorney General’s office, which is sponsoring the bill, claims storage promotes renewable energy resources. Under the bill, all but small utilities have to invest in infrastructure capable of storing 2.5 percent of their average peak electricity demand by January 2014. The mandated level of energy storage would double by 2024. Investor-owned utilities, large energy consumer advocates, the electric utility workers union, and PacifiCorp objected to the mandate because of questions over the cost of the technologies--including batteries, compressed air systems, and flywheels. Today, storage is largely provided by hydropower pumped storage facilities. AB 2514 is supported by renewable and consumer advocates. The bill’s language is in flux. Separate legislation by Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino) focuses on uniform shutoff practices among investor-owned utilities. The bill, AB 2207, passed on a 10-4 vote. It requires utilities to first allow delinquent ratepayers to pay off their bills over several months before remotely disconnecting their power. The bill also prohibits increasing deposits for reconnections. “The cost of disconnects and reconnections add up to $230 million a year,” said Fong. Last year, the Division of Ratepayer Advocates revealed a spike in disconnects in the economic downturn. PG&E lobbyist Kent Kauss expressed concern that the legislation conflicts with a California Public Utilities Commission proceeding on utility shutoffs. Another bill, AB 1879, directs regulators to limit back-billing to three months. Passed 14-0, it is supported by consumer advocates. Currently, small businesses can be back-billed for erroneous utility bill estimates for up to three years. According to the bill’s author, Assemblymember Jim Bealle (D-Santa Clara), this has resulted in some small businesses getting saddled with huge utility bills. Also advanced was legislation that allows residences unsuited for solar installations, in particular multi-family dwellings, to use adjacent rooftops for photovoltaic installations. The bill, AB 2296 by Assemblymember Lori Saldana (D-San Diego), which is undergoing amendments, aims to help more ratepayers tap into the $2.2 billion in subsidies under the California Solar Initiative. After its 14-0 passage, the California Public Utilities Commission voted to oppose it. CPUC legislative director Ed Randolph noted April 22 that the revised bill fails to allow the property owner installing a solar system on adjacent property to collect higher utility bill credits for power sent to the grid. Allowing what is called net metering makes renewable installations more economic. AB 2132 by Assemblymember Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto) allows “surplus” funds in the Energy Commission’s renewable resource fund to be directed to energy efficiency measures in buildings built before 1978. The vote was 13-0. AB 2061, also by Carter, encourages investments in improved grid efficiency. It passed 13-2. Legislation that failed in the committee included AB 2662, which would have prohibited the siting of 20-story high transmission towers on existing utility easements created for much smaller infrastructure. “It would look like space ships landing in our city,” said the bill’s author, Assemblymember Curt Hagman (R-Chino Hills), of the proposed high voltage towers. Hagman specifically sought to reroute Southern California Edison’s Tehachapi line though a state park instead of the city of Chino Hills. The bill sunk on a 2-8 vote, but is set to get another shot at reconsideration.

Share this story

Not a member yet?

Subscribe Now