Sen. Leland Yee: PUC's New Energy Bill

Earlier this month, Assembly Bill 1969, a renewable energy bill which I authored as a member of the state Assembly in 2006, was unanimously voted on and implemented into law by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

The law will significantly increase production of the state's renewable energy sources and improve the environment through a reduction in greenhouse gases.

In 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 1969 to allow water and wastewater agencies to sell environmentally-friendly energy to electrical companies, such as small hydro, solar and biogas produced by their treatment and delivery facilities. The result is up to 250 new megawatts of energy being put into the state's grid.  

The PUC approved full implementation of the bill and also created a companion program, which will expand the opportunity to produce renewable energy for all businesses and customers in California. In essence, this increases the amount of potential energy going to the state's grid to nearly 500 new megawatts, or enough energy to power approximately 500,000 Bay Area homes. 

 I am thrilled to see AB 1969 being expanded and offered to a broader audience of customers. It will significantly help the state meet our renewable energy goals and improve the environment through a reduction in greenhouse gases.  

Prior to AB 1969, hydroelectric energy was unable to be captured at small- and medium-sized water agencies simply because existing programs didn't allow them the opportunity to sell that resource. But AB 1969 removed obstacles to such production and encouraged the full potential of renewable energy generation by the state's water and wastewater agencies.

Specifically, AB 1969 required electrical corporations, such as PG&E;, to create standard contracts, or "feed-in tariffs," for the purchase of qualifying renewable energy from public water and wastewater agencies.  The law provides new renewable energy generation resources that otherwise would not have been developed; helps electrical companies meet its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goals and resource adequacy requirements (20 percent by 2010); improves the environment through a reduction in greenhouse gases; offsets rising energy demand; and decreases water treatment and delivery costs.

California has a promising opportunity to increase energy production while also helping our environment. As the demand for water and energy grows, it is imperative that all businesses be able to offset their increased needs through the sale of energy being generated at their plants and buildings, which will also result in significant savings for residents.

The rising cost of energy directly impacts consumers, both for their own energy consumption and for their water and wastewater service. The production, conveyance, treatment and transportation of water and wastewater accounts for nearly 20 percent of the state's overall electricity consumption. 

Electricity demand by water and wastewater agencies is also growing in California as treatment requirements increase and agencies turn to more energy intensive sources, such as desalination and recycling. As such, it is vital that we seek out new means to expand our energy supplies in an environmentally-conscious manner. 

I thank the PUC for taking this step towards energy independence and a cleaner environment.

Leland Yee is a senator in the California Senate.