How big a role hydro will play in the state\u2019s renewables portfolio standard\u2014whether it includes small or big hydropower projects or storage technologies\u2014dominated the Assembly Utilities & Commerce Committee hearing April 15. \tOne bill unanimously passed requires state agencies to make a full-court press on investigations for renewable storage technologies. \tAB 1258 by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland), sponsored by the Center for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Technologies and passed 15-0, started with using pumped hydro storage \u201cto add to operational flexibility\u201d for grid stability, V. John White, CEERT executive director, said. The bill was amended to require the California Energy Commission, instead of the California Public Utilities Commission, to investigate back-up storage for intermittent resources, in an \u201cenvironmentally friendly way.\u201d \tA law written by Skinner, AB 2514, directed the CPUC to determine if the private utilities should be required to invest in renewable storage technologies, and if so, at what level (Current, Sept. 11, 2012.) \t\u201cWe\u2019ve got to rely on storage. We\u2019ve got to look at every possible opportunity,\u201d Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) said this week. \tA measure to excuse the Merced Irrigation District from procuring renewables for one-third of its power for the district\u2019s 8,000 customers passed the committee 9-0, despite opposition from solar and wind interests. AB 793 by Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) excuses the district for a year to allow its 95 MW New Exchequer dam to qualify for renewable power\u2014even though it\u2019s over the 30 MW cut-off for qualifying as small hydro capacity. \tGray put it as a deal that the district\u2019s been waiting on for 50 years. He said Pacific Gas & Electric\u2019s contract with the district expires in 2014. That would release the district to pursue its own resources. The bill only applies to Merced. \tOther bills passing committee were: * AB 327 by Assemblymember Henry Perea (D-Fresno). The bill attempts to change the tiered rate structure that allows low-income consumers discounted rates through California Alternate Rates for Energy. Rates \u201cneed to be cost-based and equitable,\u201d Perea said. While the Greenlining Institute and The Utility Reform Network were against the measure, they both agreed that there should be some reform to the rate structure. \u201cThe tiers are somewhat antiquated,\u201d committee chair Steve Bradford (D-Inglewood), said.\t * AB 874 by Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) prevents utilities from passing on the costs of either opposing or supporting unions. * AB 1295 by Assemblymember Roger Hernández (D-West Covina), sponsored by Southern California Edison, allows customers to opt for increased renewables\u2019 content on their bills. While it passed, opponents, including munis and environmentalists, are concerned that it allows the same input into the system without creating new renewables projects. They maintain that out-of-state credits could be used instead of new \u201csteel in the ground\u201d projects.