Major Energy Bills Stall in Sacramento

9 Aug 2018

Legislation that would make major changes to the state’s electricity industry failed to advance this week as lawmakers began to count down the remaining days in this year’s legislative session.

One bill stalled on the Assembly floor and two were delayed in legislative appropriations committees where they face an Aug. 17 deadline for approval or likely will die.

A bill to require the power industry to become 100 percent carbon-free by 2045 was slated for action on the Assembly floor Aug. 9. But, lawmakers adjourned until Aug. 13 without acting on SB 100 by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).

SB 100 would both increase and accelerate the state’s renewable portfolio standard. It would require power providers to reach 44 percent renewable power by 2024 instead of just 40 percent. It then would require 52 percent renewable energy by 2027, up from today’s benchmark of 45 percent and finally 60 percent by 2030 instead of just the 50 percent now required under state law.

The remaining 40 percent of power would have to come from carbon-free resources like large hydropower dams and nuclear plants.

SB 100, which was scheduled for a floor vote Aug. 9, was not called up. It could be up for a vote next week, according to an Assembly spokesperson.

De León amended the measure Aug. 6 to remove objections from natural gas advocates and others over a provision that would have encouraged converting buildings and ports to run strictly on electricity, instead of both power and natural gas.

Despite widespread support from environmental organizations, public health advocates, and many businesses, utilities oppose SB 100 based on concerns that it’s vague and does not adequately deal with grid reliability concerns.

A bill to regionalize the grid, AB 813 by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), also failed to advance this week even after being amended Aug. 7 aimed to address critic’s concerns.

It was scheduled for action Aug. 7 in the Senate Appropriations Committee but was held until the committee’s next meeting on Aug. 13, according to a panel spokesperson.

Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada-Flintridge), who chairs the panel, is known for his support of organized labor and faces mounting pressure from unions, environmentalists, and ratepayer advocates to hold the bill. Critics claim it would allow new power plants that could be built in California to be built out-of-state, eliminating future job prospects here.

Municipal utilities are worried about how the cost of new transmission lines to bring renewable power into the state would be allocated. Others are concerned that any multistate grid would be governed by a multistate board, including representatives from western coal states, which would dilute California’s ability to decarbonize its power.

Many too warn that President Trump’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would gain more say over power supplies and costs in California if a multistate grid was formed.

Meanwhile, a measure to open up direct access to all non-residential customers bogged down.

SB 237 by Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) was to be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee Aug. 8. But, it was placed in the panel’s suspense file.

The panel has slated an Aug. 16 meeting to consider bills in its suspense file, a spokesperson said.

Hertzberg’s measure marks a last minute effort by the Los Angeles Democrat. He gutted and amended SB 237 in June to open up direct access, which is capped and oversubscribed. Initially, the bill dealt with transportation when it passed the Senate last year.

His gut and amend strategy has been met stiff opposition from community choice aggregators, who fear the bill would drive away their business customers.

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn by midnight Aug. 31.

—William J. Kelly

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