The state Senate's Democratic leader pitched an energy plan December 1 that would increase efficiency and renewable supplies to stave off another crisis this decade. Senator Don Perata urged the creation of an Office of Renewable Energy Development and a phase-out of coal-fired electricity imports by investor-owned and public utilities. He also called for fast-tracking green power projects, setting efficiency requirements for gas-fired power plants, and increasing assistance to cash-strapped ratepayers this winter. "It is time for an aggressive and comprehensive strategy to transition from the current fossil fuel-based economy to a new energy economy that keeps jobs and economic activity here in the state that promotes energy security and reliability," Perata (D-Oakland) stated. He warned of the high costs of natural gas and the dearth of transmission and infrastructure investments. Under Perata's plan, a single state agency would handle transmission planning. It would establish a "Clean Energy Transmission Plan" to ensure that wind and other renewables projects get built. The planning agency would also give preference to clean energy when tackling congestion problems. If put into law, the plan to give transmission authority to one agency would obviate current arguments over agency turf (see story at page 4). The California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission have been at loggerheads for a year over the best entity to handle the transmission siting job. Joe Desmond, chair of the Energy Commission, called the plan "consistent with what agencies are working on." Perata's energy proposal would also have the state adopt a zero-emissions standard for coal power. He urges requiring munis to meet the same energy-efficiency standards as investor-owned utilities. Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), chair of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, will be introducing legislation that mandates efficiency standards for public power agencies, said Edward Randolph, committee consultant. Perata also suggests accelerating renewable power projects. A program to replace inefficient residential and business heating and cooling systems was also pitched. A call to the governor's office seeking comment was not returned by press time. Perata's Back to the Basics: A New Energy Economy for California proposal also includes: ?\tReauthorizing funding for ratepayer-financed renewables programs in 2006 and examining the program to ensure that investments are made in projects that reduce fossil fuel use. ?\tRequiring the California Independent System Operator to evaluate the efficiency of natural gas-fired plants. ?\tAdopting average efficiency requirements for natural gas-fired plants. ?\tMandating that gas utilities allow low-income customers to amortize their bills over 12 months, and increasing the number of ratepayers covered by the California Alternate Rates for Energy Program.