Legislation to allow California to take advantage of the federal residential energy efficiency retrofit program expected to be enacted soon passed unanimously April 12. The Assembly Utilities & Commerce committee also advanced a bill that would allow state agencies to tap into the Million Solar Roofs’ subsidies. AB 2614 by Assembly speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) directs the California Energy Commission to work with the Department of Energy to develop ground rules for the Homestar program. The parameters, which aim to ensure California qualifies for part of the funds at the program’s launch, would be pursuant to the pending Homestar Energy Retrofit Act of 2010. The proposed federal law provides $6 billion of stimulus funds for residential energy efficiency retrofits to reduce energy use, increase energy security, and create jobs in the beleaguered construction industry (Current, March 19, 2010). The federal legislation was introduced April 14 by Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), Representative. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), and others. Markey is chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Environment subcommittee. The bill passed the House Energy & Commerce Committee April 15 (see story below). “I don’t believe stimulus dollars have done what they said but this is a smart bill,” Assembly member Mike Villines (R-Fresno) told the Assembly panel. In spite of concerns about reducing subsidies for home owners seeking to install solar systems, the committee also approved AB 2724 that would direct state solar energy subsides to projects on state-owned property. Assemblymember Bob Blumenfeld (D-San Fernando Valley), the bill author, said the legislation would help the state reach its 20 percent renewable mandate, which is expected to be pushed to 33 percent. “We need to increase the state’s use of renewables--energy efficiency is not enough,” Blumenfield said. The roofs of state prisons alone could hold more than 120 MW of photovoltaic power, according to the Department of General Services. AB 2724 would expand the existing cap on solar-powered systems eligible for California Solar Initiative subsides from a maximum 1 MW to 5 MW. To address concerns that allowing the state to tap into the $2.2 billion subsidy under the CSI--also known as a Million Solar Roofs--Blumenfield agreed to cap the amount of subsidized power the state could tap into. The level of the cap, however, is in flux. The solar unit subsidies are “limited and some residential customers are already being edged out,” warned Bernadette Del Chiaro, Environment California clean energy advocate. “If we spend the money on large systems we won’t transform the solar market in the state,” she added. Another glitch is that for the bill to go forward, the state’s cap on net metering, which makes solar units more economical, would need to be raised. A new law recently increased from 2.5 percent to 5 percent the amount of systems that would be eligible for higher utility bill credits (Current, Feb. 19, 2010). Solar installations on state property have created $250 million in savings, according to the Department of General Services. Earlier on April 12, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee passed three bills related to greenhouse gas emissions. AB 2311 by Tony Mendoza (D-Norwalk), passed on a 9-0 vote, would weigh down the Low Carbon Fuel Standard the California Air Resources Board approved last year. The measure would require the standard, which seeks to reduce the carbon emissions of transportation fuels by 10 percent compared to gasoline, be reviewed every three years for an unlimited time. Currently, reviews are set for 2012 and 2015. It also would mandate a peer review within 45 days and require numerous public and private entities to comment on the review. The bill is supported the oil and trucking industry and California Chamber of Commerce. It is opposed by clean air advocates. Another bill, AB 1846 would allow an expedited California Environmental Quality Act review for installations of greenhouse gas emission reduction technologies at plants pursuant to AB 32, the state’s climate protection law. This bill by Perez passed 9-0. Also approved was a resolution reiterating state leaders’ commitment to curbing carbon emissions by 25 percent and related ocean acidification. SJR 17 passed on a 6-3 vote.