Legislation driving clean energy, lowering utility bills, and better informing citizens of projects and carbon emissions cleared the Senate energy committee mid-week.
The main bill debated by the Senate Energy Utilities & Communications Committee was SB 1020 by Sen. John Laird (D-Santa Cruz). It seeks to put rate affordability at the center of the state’s clean energy policy. Passed on a 10-2 vote, it would create a new agency, the Climate Equity Trust Fund, which would appropriate monies for various costly programs now funded by ratepayers, such as wildfire mitigation, transportation electrification, and public purpose programs, to lower utility bills.
California’s commitment to clean energy “must go hand with meaningful measures to reach affordability,” The Utility Reform Network staff attorney Matt Freedman told lawmakers.
San Diego Gas & Electric’s and Pacific Gas & Electric’s rates have soared 50% since 2017, and 30% in just the last two years alone, he said. It is “a crushing burden” that will sabotage funding for the electrification of transportation, the sector that is the largest source of state carbon pollution, Freedman warned.
The legislation also would require that electricity supplied to state agencies be 100% net zero carbon by 2030, aligning California targets with those set for federal agencies by the Biden Administration.
Funding for the Clean Equity Fund was not specified, but it could come from a range of sources, including the federal government, the state general fund, and the greenhouse gas reduction fund.
SB 1040 also would set interim targets for the state law requiring a 60% renewable standard by 2030 and a 100% zero-emissions electricity sector by 2045. The measure directs that by 2035, electricity supplies be 90% zero emissions and 95% by 2040.
In another development, SB 1119 by Sen. Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), passed 10-1. It would authorize utility regulators to require an environmental impact analysis of gas projects that are to undergo substantial upgrades as part of their approval process.
The environmental review “will give the public a seat at the table,” Limón said.
The bill grew out of a controversy over Southern California Gas’s modernization of a gas compressor station at a century-old facility in Ventura. It was carried out without notification to the city or its citizens, Mayor Sofia Rubalcava said. City officials had to deal with the public anger over the project after it was approved by regulators though it had no input.
“The city has to do environmental reviews all the time, be it for a botanical garden or closure of a main street in downtown to allow outdoor seating at restaurants,” she said, adding, it should be no different for utility projects.
A related bill, SB 1486 by Sen. Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles), would require the California Public Utilities Commission to better plan for closure of the massive Aliso Canyon Storage field by 2027 to “avoid putting communities at risk.” The field suffered a four months-long blowout starting in October 2015 that released an estimated that 109,000 metric tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, requiring the evacuation of surrounding community.
It passed on a 7-1 vote.
SB 1158 by Sen. Josh Becker (D-San Mateo) would develop a new greenhouse gas reporting requirement for public utilities and community energy under which they would have to measure hourly emissions from electricity resources, in place of once a year.
The measure seeks to ensure all energy providers are “doing their fair share” to reach a grid that is 100% non-polluting around the clock, Becker said.
It aims to avoid the mismatch between hourly deliveries from retail suppliers and the hourly customer load they serve, particularly that coming from “unspecified” fossil-fueled generation.
The California Energy Commission is directed to develop hourly emissions reporting rules for the publicly owned utilities.
It passed on a 7-1 vote with the California Municipal Utilities Association opposing it.
CMUA’s Patrick Welch said more granular data would not solve the “key challenge” of developing “cost-effective, dispatchable, and reliable clean energy technologies that today do not exist at scale.”
Money for green hydrogen
SB 1075 by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) seeks to ensure the state can access part of the federal government’s $8 billion to support state regional green hydrogen hubs. A key project is being driven by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power’s plan to fuel its power plants with non-fossil-derived hydrogen.
To enable federal funding, the measure establishes a California Clean Hydrogen Hub Fund, with the California Infrastructure & Economic Development Bank tasked with administering it. The cost of hydrogen produced from water split by electrolysis is very high but this fuel is considered critical to enabling large zero emission vehicles and ships, as well long-duration energy storage
It passed on a 12-0 vote.
Other measures passed by the Senate energy committee were:
- SB 1026 by Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) that would provide incentives for landlords to install energy efficiency upgrades at their apartments. It also would set an energy efficiency baseline and require that the average energy use of the building be revealed to the potential tenant;
- SB 1063 by Skinner that seeks to speed up the time the Energy Commission enacts energy and water efficiency appliance standards;
- SB 1112 by Becker that would create on-bill financing to lower the cost of investing in building efficiency upgrades, to enable affordable and equitable financing at low-income residences;
- SB 1208 by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) that would streamline the application process for low-income assistance for various CPUC programs. It would create a single application for assistance with electricity, gas, water and telecommunications, in place of separate applications; and
- SB 1376 by Stern that directs the CEC to identify ways to streamline the interconnection process for zero carbon projects in the CPUC Integrated Resources Portfolio.