Legislature Sets Busy Agenda with More Energy Bills

By Published On: February 20, 2018

Legislators in Sacramento continued introducing energy-related measures through the end of last week, including perennial bills that to make large hydropower a qualified source of renewable energy and to promote electric vehicles.

While some are largely statements of intent at this juncture—with the substance to be developed later—two of the more developed measures introduced in the Assembly aim to set the state on a course to making zero net energy construction standard for new buildings and also to weed out which natural gas power plants will be needed on a long-term basis.

Lawmakers also introduced many measures to make non-substantive amendments to codes related to energy, which could become vehicles for substantive legislation down the road.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D- Oakland) introduced AB 3001 to eventually eliminate natural gas use in new buildings and use the growing amount of renewable power supplied by the grid and rooftop solar systems in its place.

“AB 3001 lays the groundwork to jumpstart the marketplace to make our renewable electricity go further by using it to heat homes and buildings across our state, while adding jobs in the booming clean energy economy,” said Bonta.

“Heating California’s homes and buildings emits more carbon than all in-state power plants” noted Pierre Delforge, Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist. “Laying the building blocks to transition to cleaner heating systems will reduce dangerous greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality in our communities, and enhance public safety.”

Another measure in the Assembly, AB 3232 by Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), aims to get the California Energy Commission by 2020 to develop a plan for seeing that all new buildings have zero net emissions by 2030. The Energy Commission has reasoned that a standard dealing with emissions attributable to buildings may be the best way to ultimately reach the state’s zero net energy construction goal because it would squarely address remaining uses of natural gas in buildings.

AB 1967 by Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), however, would require a cost-benefit analysis before any state-owned building is retrofitted to a zero net energy standard.

Meanwhile, AB 2653 by Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) would require the California Public Utilities Commission to identify which natural gas-fired power plants are needed to assure long-term grid reliability in California. It then would require utilities and other electricity providers to enter into long-term power purchase contracts with the facility operators.

Quirk’s bill comes at a time of extra capacity in the state’s electricity markets and rising questions about the need for some gas-fired plants.

Quirk also announced his intent to push legislation, though the vehicle was unnamed, to reduce incidents of power outages and fires caused by metallic balloons.

SB 1339 by Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park) envisions that utility distribution resource plans will seek to enhance grid resiliency to keep power flowing in emergency situations. The plans, which outline how utilities will integrate more distributed power generation resources into their distribution systems, are required by the CPUC.

SB 1380 by Stern calls for a state Clean Energy Financing Clearinghouse that will coordinate government investments in clean energy technology and make information about those investments and funding programs available in one place.

Stern’s SB 1370 seeks to require permits from state authorities before well stimulation treatments are carried out at natural gas storage facilities. Right now, only well stimulation treatments at oil and gas production wells are subject to permits.

AB 2814 by Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced) and AB 2809 by Patterson both would allow hydropower facilities sized over 30 MW to become qualified sources of power under the state’s renewable portfolio standard.

SB 1434 by Sen. Connie Leyva (D-China) would require electric rates to be structured to encourage the advance of zero emissions medium- and heavy-duty trucks, buses, and other vehicles.

AB 2127 by Assemblymember Philip Ting (D-San Francisco) calls on the California Air Resources Board, CEC, and the CPUC to assess the need for electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the state. Ting also introduced AB 2407, a placeholder bill that promises eventual substance regarding electric vehicle programs, and AB 2695, another placeholder that promises to deal with energy storage.

Among other energy-related measures introduced, were:

  • SB 1399 by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to require that customers get all the bill credit they are due when they become part of Green Tariff Shared Renewables programs;
  • SB 1410 by Sen. Mike Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga) to allow the CPUC to audit the books of utilities once every five years, instead of every three, if the general rate case cycle is changed from every three to every five years;
  • AB 2569 by Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) to require the CPUC to consider potential hardships on low-income electric utility customers before implementing time of use rates; and
  • AB 2604 by Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) to prevent any utility employee from serving as a commissioner at the CPUC until at least two years after they have left utility employment.

—William J. Kelly

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