(Last update – July 2, 2020)
This year’s session is halfway through, in a dramatically scaled down version with much of the concern having been on the budget for the state due to lack of tax revenue due to economic downturn and lack of support from the federal government for the effects of COVID on the economy. Only a few bills that legislators started the year with have been allowed to go forward. “Clean energy” per se is not being focused on this year, or, for that matter, climate related bills in general. Legislators were told, after COVID hit in March, that only bills on homelessness, the pandemic/economic side issues, and wildfire mitigation will be dealt with and none that are controversial. It appears that all bills we had planned to track related to clean energy on the Assembly side are not going forward this year and only one, SB 1215 related to microgrids, on the Senate side has. That one, which 350 Bay Area Action supported, did pass the Senate, though it is not as strong as when it started. It is partly moving forward because it is focused on critical high fire areas. We are hoping it can be strengthened as it moves through the Assembly in the next seven weeks. We think some bills may show up suddenly taking the place of what had been associated with another bill number. SB 350, a bill from last year, is one that just changed on May 13th into a bill about how the state could take over PG&E if it fails to achieve what it is required to do after it comes out of bankruptcy. That bill, after it changed, rather quickly went through the steps it needed to and went to the Governor on June 29th and he quickly signed it into law the next day. The 350 Bay Area Action Legislative Team sent in Letters of Support for both SB 1215 and SB 350. We will continue to focus on getting the strongest possible SB 1215 through to the Governor.
Last year in the state legislature there were a few bills that this campaign had been watching closely and taking positions on that were important for the future of Clean Energy in the state and locally. They were mostly bills that affect Community Choice Energy and had gone through a process of being amended and required close monitoring. Our campaign’s discussion of bills occurred mostly in regular meetings of 350 Bay Area Action’s Legislative Committee where you can see quite a few other bills that 350 Bay Area Action had worked on. Supporting legislation to raise the threshold for how much electricity in California must come from renewable sources and stopping legislation that tries to hamper Community Choice Energy, a very effective way to increase the pace of development of local, renewable energy, are high priorities of this campaign and complements our work on similar issues in rule-makings at the CPUC.
So, a key one last year was AB 56 which called for the establishment of a central buying authority for energy. It passed on the Assembly Floor by one vote. In its first hearing on the Senate side, though, thanks in part to 350 BAA Legislative Team efforts and those of many groups, the bill did not get enough votes in that hearing to move forward. Muratsuchi’s AB 3014 was a solution this year (It was not allowed to go forward) despite the CPUC proposing in a much contested and protested against decision that PG&E and SoCalEdison will be the central buyer in 2021 -2023. The vote on this at the CPUC was on May 28th at the CPUC, but our efforts to demand a delay and an Alternate Proposed Decision failed and we have another poor decision from the CPUC allowing barely functioning PG&E and SCE in the role of purchasing energy for resource adequacy that Community Choice Energy programs were previously in the role of finding and purchasing or creating.
Again, last year, there were a variety of bills we supported 350BAA opposing that, each, in one way or another, infringes on the Community Choice Energy build-out that has happened in the Bay Area and is now expanding to other parts of the state, Among those are SB 155. While it eventually passed 350BAA was able to get it amended to the point of having almost no effect on CCA’s), SB 350 (the author pulled the bill July 8th and it died that year) we supported its being opposed by 350BAA because it also pushed for a state centralized buying mechanism in some situations and would take choice away from Community Choice programs needlessly. We also opposed AB 1584 pushing for penalties on the public community energy programs was also amended, but it did pass and was signed into law and eventually signed by the Governor. We think it will have a negligible effect though partly because of the amendments that 350BAA opposition may have helped get. We had added another later in the year as 350BAA had capacity to track more, SB 520, which we Opposed because it looks past Community Choice Energy programs as being able to be Provider of Last Resort (POLR) while anointing the IOU’s for that task even though they are bankrupt or threatening to be. It also passed and was signed into law. That one was, sadly, one that we were not able to stop or change, but we expect it may end up being changed in the next couple of years as Community Choice Energy spreads and becomes the way energy is procured almost everywhere in the state and people see how reliable and secure these non-profits are.
There was a Solar Bill of Rights Bill that we supported which fit with our goal of supporting local, clean energy and our efforts to protect roof-top solar. It was allowed to be thoroughly gutted, so as not to say much of anything, behind closed doors by Senate leadership as it went through Appropriations and onto the Senate floor where most Senators voted for it, but the author turned it into another bill on a different subject on the Assembly side.. We expect or hope the concept will comes back in another bill next year. Another bill we had been engaged with was a bill that proposed a way to create and operate microgrids by Senator Stern, SB 774. We pushed for it to be made better, so we could support it. We felt it gave the investor-owned utilities too much control over them and they have not been very supportive of microgrids in the past. The author gave up on the bill on July 5th but may try to bring it back next year. With so much focus on the effects of PG&E’s bankruptcy there were not as many bills this last year related to clean energy as there were in previous years.. .
In 2018, of course, there was SB 100 (sets a goal for the state of reaching 100% clean energy for electricity by 2045) which was former President Pro Tem Senator Kevin De Leon’s bill from 2017. In late August of 2018, it passed the Assembly, barely, right at the end of the legislative session, which was all it needed to do at that point after having passed the Senate in 2017. And then just before the Global Climate Action Summit, Governor Brown signed it into law, making Hawaii and California the only two states with that goal signed into law. This bill was a high priority of the Legislative Team and many in 350 Bay Area Action worked hard on this. It was a focus of the Clean Energy/Clean Air Campaign of 350 Bay Area to educate people about it, but also of everyone in 350 Bay Area Action working on legislation. And there were so many other organizations also working on it. Here is the website where you can still see by clicking on “supporters” at the top and scrolling down, all the groups that were pushing for SB100 to pass: https://ca100.org/ .
AB 813 was back in 2018 as the grid regionalization bill that we were very concerned about previously. Here was our Letter of Opposition to the Bill. It was defeated right at the end of the legislative session by the new President Pro Tem, Toni Atkins, saying she would not bring it to the floor of the Senate for a vote. It appeared that our efforts in lobbying our State Senators in the Bay Area, and others around the state, worked. We urged people to take action on it HERE, where you can see our talking points and links to information about it, as well, which can help you see why we continue to be so concerned. It may be a bill that comes back this year.
Please consider getting involved with us this coming year by January to help with legislation in the next legislative session. If interested, send an email to Ken Jones at Ken@350BayArea.org.