In addition to the solar water heating rebate program (AB 1470), three other energy bills emerged before the California legislature adjourned its regular session Wednesday heading into a gubernatorial-called special session next week to deal with health care and some other specific issues. The three bills dealt with renewable energy and global climate change issues.

As a result, the winners appear to be utilities that now will be able to count eligible customer onsite kilowatt hours (kWh) produced from clean sources toward their renewable portfolio standard (RPS) goals (SB 451); hydroelectric facilities of 30 MW or less will be eligible for renewable status under the RPS program (AB 809); and combined heat/power (CHP) operators of onsite generation facilities will be able to sell excess power to local utilities under a mandate from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The latter bill is AB 1613.

SB 451 would require each power utility in the state to pay for customer-generated renewable-based electricity up to its share of an overall statewide 1,000 MW cap for distributed renewable power supplies. Every kilowatt hour of renewable power produced by a customer’s facilities, including power used by the customer to offset what it gets from the utility, would count toward the utility’s RPS goal.

Under AB 809, any hydroelectric generation of 30 MW or less that began operations after 2005 will be eligible as a renewable energy resource under the state’s RPS program. It further allows small hydro facilities that increase their output beyond 30 MW because of efficiency measures taken after Jan. 1 will remain eligible to be part of the RPS program.

AB 1613, the Waste Heat and Carbon Emissions Reduction Act, seeks to “dramatically advance the efficiency of the state’s use of natural gas” by capturing more waste heat for combined heat/power facilities — both customer- and utility-owned CHP. Electric utilities will now be required to purchase excess power from CHP operators that comply with certain size, efficiency and emission control requirements. The systems also would have to meet greenhouse gas emissions limits.

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