Smattering of Bills Win Lawmakers Approval

By Published On: September 5, 2008

The unprecedented budget standoff at the State Capital is wreaking havoc not only on the state’s reputation, schools, students and vendors, but also on numerous bills, many of which were waylaid in the process. Legislators, however, gave final passage to a handful of energy bills, none of which are expected to significantly impact utilities or ratepayers. The governor said he’d abstain from bill signing while a budget remains in limbo. Approved measures awaiting the green light from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger include: SB 1491 that prohibits mandated use of remotely-controlled thermostats and other devices in California homes. The approved bill by Senator Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) requires the consent of the ratepayers before remotely controlled devices are used, which McClintock said is needed to protect customers privacy. SB 1473 by Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) was enrolled this week. It requires local agencies to impose fees on building permit applications to fund green building guidelines and training standards. The Building Standards Commission is charged with developing the standards. The Senate passed the legislation August 30, on a 22-9 vote. Senator Darrell Steinberg’s SB 1700 passed all of its legislative hurdles at the end of last month. The bill by Steinberg (D-Sacramento), the incoming Senate pro Tem, requires underground gas storage facility owners to have adequate liability insurance to protect people against harm from a natural gas accident. The California Public Utilities Commission will determine the minimum level of insurance. There are nine underground natural gas storage facilities in California. Three are operated by Pacific Gas & Electric, four by Southern California Gas, and the remaining three are owned by two independent operators. A bill by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) aims to increase the amount of renewable power the state uses, and at a lower cost. SB 1754 allows the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority to use prepaid bonds in place of private financing to pay for alternative power purchase deals it signs with public and private entities. SB 1760 by outgoing Senate pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) requires the Climate Action Team to coordinate global warming policy and the associated spending of state funds dedicated to reduce carbon emissions. The team will be made up of heads of the California Energy Commission, Air Resources Board, and the Public Utilities Commission and the secretaries of Environmental Protection, Resources, Business, Transportation and Housing, and Food and Agriculture. The Assembly passed SB 1760 on a 47-31 August 29. Another bill that made it to the legislative finish line was SB 312 by Kehoe, which requires the CPUC to post all filings on its website to increase agency transparency. It passed the Senate on a 36-0 vote last month. SB 380 by Kehoe passed the Senate 25-12. It requires investor-owned utilities to buy solar power and other renewable energy generated by their ratepayers at a price set by the California Public Utilities Commission. Payments for the energy sent into the grid from home and business power systems under SB 380 are limited to solar and other distributed renewable systems that are less than 1.5 MW The Assembly passed on a 47-24 vote August 31, AB 2267 by Felipe Fuentes (D-Arleta). It provides higher incentive payments for California-based renewable projects. It also specifically requires the California Energy Commission to place qualifying state-based entities in the front of its Public Interest Energy Research funding line.This bill is intended to both help meet greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and promote economic development in the state. AB 2768 by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) replaces time-of-use meters on solar homes with time variant pricing developed by the CPUC. The regulators formula is suppose to reward customers for trying to achieve maximum power production during peak periods, avoiding, for example, placing solar panels in shady areas. AB 3058 also passed the Assembly by a vote of 77-0. It is an Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee bill that requires CPUC review of Department of Water Resources power contract modifications Assemblymember Mark Leno’s (D-San Francisco) AB 2863 passed on a 77-1 in the Assembly August 29. It allows solar companies to install, maintain, and sell the power from rooftop solar systems atop home and businesses under power purchase deals not regulated by the CPUC. The solar company is allowed to keep the state solar rebate and collect federal tax credits and in exchange the underlying customer is expected to receive lower cost power.

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