A day before the one-third renewable mandate became law, legislation exempting electric vehicle charging stations from regulatory authority and extending the life of ratepayer-funded alternative energy programs at the California Energy Commission passed the Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee. AB 631 by Assemblymember Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) codifies the California Public Utilities Commission ruling from last July that electric vehicle charging stations are not to be regulated as public utilities. It passed on a 12-1 vote. Ma told the panel that public and private groups interested in installing charging stations, including the City of San Francisco, owners of commercial buildings, apartments and garages, “don’t want interference with the CPUC.” Investor-owned utilities and the electric transportation coalition opposed the bill on grounds that it was premature because the electric vehicle market is a fledging industry. In addition, the CPUC has not yet ruled on how or whether it will regulate charging stations to help ensure that vehicles are not plugged in during times of high electric demand, but late in the evenings when demand drops as does the cost of the power. The CPUC has not taken a position on AB 631. It is waiting to assess the “appropriate regulatory approach,” said Ed Randolph, CPUC legislative director. How electric vehicle charging stations will impact the grid the next few years is not yet known. The bill is set to be heard next in the Assembly Transportation Committee. Two competing bills would extend the life of the California Energy Commission public goods-funded renewable research and development program. AB 1303, by Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara), passed 10-0. It reauthorizes the Energy Commission public interest renewable and efficiency funding program for another eight years, to 2020. “The program is key to our [renewable] leadership,” said Williams. The Energy Commission public goods program, which sunsets at the end of the year unless it’s reauthorized, was the focus of three recent Senate energy committee hearings for not being sufficiently effective. A provision was added to the bill to create a stakeholder group to reevaluate the program, eliminating most of the opposition. The bill was sent to the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. Another bill, AB 723, by Assemblymember Stephen Bradford (D-Gardena) reauthorizes the Energy Commission public goods program only to 2016. The bill by the chair of the Assembly energy committee passed on a 10-0 vote. It faced no opposition. AB 723 is to be heard next in the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. Passed unanimously with no discussion was a measure by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland). It aims to promote combined heat and power plants. Her AB 1186 requires that consumers be informed when natural gas is used to fuel cogeneration plants, which are more efficient--up to 30 percent more than other power plants--because they capture the heat created during the generation of electricity.