California Energy Bill Passes, Awaits Gov. Brown's Signature

Lawmakers in the California state legislature granted their final approval to a package of energy legislation. The bill, AB 327, will now head to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. It passed the state Senate September 9 with a vote of 33-5 after passing the Assembly in May by wide margins.

The bill's centerpiece would essentially remove the "cap" from California's renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS), which is already one of the most aggressive in the nation.

California state law requires power companies to generate 33 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. AB 327, once signed into law, will empower the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to raise that percentage without the need for legislative action.

"This is a banner day in California. Once again, state lawmakers have set the bar high when it comes to the adoption of renewable energy.  AB 327 provides a clear pathway for the continued growth of solar generation in California, which ranks No. 1 in the nation in total installed solar capacity with 3,761 MW," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The bill allows for adjustments to the state's net metering program, which lets customers who generate their own electricity via rooftop solar to be compensated for energy that flows back onto the grid from such distributed generation sources.

The bill would allow the CPUC to redesign utility billing rates, potentially cutting monthly bills for end users living in the hotter interior parts of California. Large investor-owned utilities, such as Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) would collectively bargain among themselves for sought-after billing changes.

The assembly also passed SB 4, a law that would require energy companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in hydraulic fracking, as well as require permits for fracking as well as acidizing — techniques used to extract oil from shale rock deposits like California's Montgomery Shale reserves.

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