Quartet of Bills Advances

By Published On: March 27, 2009

The Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee passed four bills this week, including ones requiring a study of the seismic risks at the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant, promoting utility investment in energy storage devices, and reducing the number of reports public power agencies must submit to the state. During a March 23 hearing, AB 44 by Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo) passed on a 14-0 vote after the provision making it take effect immediately upon enactment was stripped out. Blakeslee, a professional seismologist, seeks to require Pacific Gas & Electric to conduct a study of the seismic risks of its 2,200 MW nuke in his district as part of the utility’s $16.8 million feasibility study on whether to extend the plant license another 20 years. The Assemblymember also wants PG&E’s study peer reviewed. Blakeslee and PG&E spared over which agency was best suited to review any seismic risk study. Also on a 14-0 vote, the panel passed a bill by Assembly member Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City) that would reduce the number of renewable reports munis are required to submit to the California Energy Commission. According to the Northern California Power Association, the bill sponsor, the number of reports public power agencies must produce at different intervals has escalated since 2005, and includes separate ones on renewable and solar power policy and practices and greenhouse gas reductions. Ruskin said the aim of AB 162 was to “better synchronize renewable reporting to the Energy Commission while reducing costs.” The measure also aims to provide clearer information to consumers about the sources of power--fossil, solar, wind and other resources--supplied by munis. Assembly member Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland) proposed including carbon content on the power content labels. The bill headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Two other Blakeslee bills also passed and head to the appropriations committee AB 44 would encourage investor-owned utilities to invest in power storage devices aimed at helping address the uneven flow of wind and solar power resources. The legislation would allow utilities to reap a rate of return on storage devices in which they invest. It would further sweeten the pot by requiring the California Public Utilities Commission to set a rate reflecting real time higher peak prices. In addition, utilities could buy cheap off peak power and sell it a peak times at high prices. A range of technologies are expected to qualify--from flywheels to electric and hybrid vehicles. “The range of technologies is breathtaking,” Blakeslee said. Consumer advocate Lenny Goldberg found the rate of return breathtaking in today’s economy. “Storage is incredibly important on one hand but a rate of return of 11 percent is huge incentive to invest. In this economy no one is getting that kind of return.” AB 44 passed 14-0. The third Blakeslee bill, AB 42, would extend two energy efficiency programs from 2011 to 2020. One of the programs, the Energy Conservation Assistance Account, provides loans to schools, hospitals, and local government entities for financing conservation-related projects. The other program is the Local Jurisdiction Energy Assistance Account where conservation loan repayments are deposited. AB 42 passed on a 13-0 vote.

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