October 24, 2014

Governor signs energy bills

The governor took action on energy bills this morning, and we got some good news. He signed many bills we supported and vetoed one we strongly opposed.

First, the governor signed SB 1222 by Senator Mark Leno. SB 1222 will cap excessive permit fees charged by local governments for residential and commercial rooftop solar systems. SB 1222 was a Sierra Club California priority bill. Starting in 2005, the Loma Prieta Chapter surveyed the cost of solar permitting fees for both residential and commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) systems up and down the state of California. These surveys have found that these fees vary widely for no reason, increasing processing costs for Californians who wish to go solar. SB 1222 is the result of the experience and knowledge of volunteer Kurt Newick, who worked with myself, the sponsor SunRun, and the author’s office on the establishment of appropriate cap levels.

The governor vetoed AB 976 by Assemblymember Hall, which we opposed. AB 976 would have hampered the ability of local governments to form community-choice-aggregation programs. Community-choice programs allow local governments to provide energy services and serve as competition against investor-owned utilities. Sierra Club California strongly supports the expansion of community-choice programs. The Bay Chapter has worked intensively to set up such programs in Marin County and San Francisco.

Also signed was SB 594 by Sen. Lois Wolk. SB 594 encourages the use of small solar and wind energy for agricultural purposes by allowing agricultural energy users to combine their multiple accounts to participate in California’s net energy-metering program. This will allow agricultural users to take part in net energy-metering.

Another bill signed was SB 1066 by Sen.Ted Lieu. SB 1066 authorizes the California Coastal Conservancy to address the impacts and potential impacts of climate change on coastal resources and to award grants to public agencies and nonprofit organizations for this purpose.

Gov. Brown, however, did sign into law a bill that we opposed. AB 2514 by Assemblymember Bradford. When AB 2514 was introduced last February, it called for a study of the benefits and costs of net-metering. That’s something both the utilities and the Sierra Club could support. The bill, however, was amended to insert provisions that would paint a distorted picture on the economics of net metering. The bill requires the study to consider lower utility bills from solar customers as a “cost”. Why should the efforts of Californians to save money on electric bills and produce more clean energy be considered a negative?

Other bills signed that we supported include AB 2249 (Buchanan–the Solar Water Heating and Efficiency Act of 2007), AB 2339 (Williams) on geothermal technologies, and SB 1332 (Negrete-McLeod) on renewable-energy resources and electric utilities.

Jim Metropulos, Sierra Club California

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