The turn of the year always brings news on the climate and energy front: new faces on the legislature’s energy committees, new bills, a second chance for two-year legislation that didn’t make it last year, and legislation that goes into effect.
Here’s the initial roundup:
The Assembly Utilities & Energy Committee has a new chair, Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). He is a big advocate of lithium extraction from geothermal brine at plants in the Salton Sea in his struggling district for the use in batteries placed in large and small cars and energy storage. Garcia takes over from Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), who chaired the Committee for the last five years. Holden is now the chief of the Assembly Appropriations Committee while he remains on the Utilities & Energy Committee.
Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) continues as the Utilities & Energy Committee vice president.
Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) remains chair of the Senate Energy Utilities and Communications Committee.
Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), who was a Utilities & Energy Committee member through 2019, resigned from the Assembly Jan. 3. She said in her Assembly floor announcement that she will head the powerful California Labor Federation.
Gonzalez pushed controversial legislation that failed last year that would have lowered the payments made to owners of rooftop solar for power they send to the grid to eliminate cost shifts to those without solar installations, particularly low income. Her AB 1139 was being debated while the California Public Utilities Commission was developing similar action in a proceeding. The CPUC released its hotly-contested net metering proposal last month. Like Gonzalez’s bill, the proposed decision cuts payments for exported power and adds considerable monthly fees on owners of home and small business solar systems.
AB 1139’s main advocates were the California State Association of Electrical Workers and Coalition of California Utility Employees. It faced intense opposition from solar and storage advocates and businesses. It failed passage because of the CPUC’s upcoming NEM decision.
Legislation being baked
One bill reintroduced Jan. 4 is a community microgrid measure by Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa). SB 833 (previously SB 99) seeks to slow the expansion of polluting diesel backup generation by leveraging the huge investments in clean energy approved by the California Energy Commission.
“I want to prioritize development of clean energy sources, especially in low-income communities, so we minimize the environmental threat and keep the lights on for everyone,” Dodd said in a Jan. 4 statement.
SB 833 would create a grant and technical assistance program at the CEC to help local entities design and install clean microgrids in optimal locations.
SB 99 swept to a 40-0 unanimous win on the Senate Floor last session but was nevertheless held by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. No reason was publicly given for the hold, but the CPUC has been slogging through a proceeding required by legislation to advance clean microgrids. Part of the 2021-22 budget surplus directed to climate resilience includes up to $420 million for microgrids as part of the effort to create “transformative” community and regional climate centers.
Also expected to advance is last year’s SB 67 by Sen. Josh Becker (D-San Mateo) that now aims to ensure the increasing renewable portfolio standard provides clean energy seven days a week, around the clock. Becker’s other two-year bill in play is SB 778 that seeks to slash emissions from the production of cement.
SB 778 in its current form is a “Buy Clean” bill requiring bidders on construction projects to disclose the carbon intensity of the concrete they use and gives cleaner bids a preference. It follows up on Becker’s enacted SB 596 directing the California Air Resources Board to determine the 2019 emissions of cement-making (measured in carbon dioxide per ton) and reduce that by 40% by the end of 2035. Cement is a key ingredient in concrete. In California, it is the second-largest source of industrial carbon pollution after oil and gas production.
Speaker of the Assembly, Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) is expected to introduce a bill that would establish a climate change curriculum in California grade schools.
Rumored to be under debate are a clean energy package by the Senate and a measure to lower the 46 million metric tons of greenhouse gas cap at the end of the decade set by the California Public Utilities Commission so it jibes with the California Air Resources Board’s 2022 scoping plan. The higher cap set in the Commission’s Integrated Resource Plan also is part of the grid operator’s 2020-21 Transmission Planning Process while the Air Board scoping plan sets emissions between 30 MMT and zero by 2030, which is backed by many clean energy advocates.
Several lawmakers are evaluating what bills to introduce and reintroduce.
Proposed legislation must be received by the Legislative Counsel by Jan. 18. The last day to introduce bills into the legislature is Jan. 31.