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California’s shared clean energy bill wins pivotal vote

A field of solar panels.
A field of solar panels.
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

SB 843, the proposed California legislation slated to expand renewable energy access to all residents took a big step forward yesterday when it passed the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee in a landslide victory with a vote margin of 9-2.

“I was the guy at the table testifying and trying to answer questions,” explained Tom Price of solar investment firm CleanPath Ventures about the hearing when reached by phone. He sat alongside Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis), the author of the bill. “It went incredibly well. We had a line through the back door of people wanting to support it, ranging from the Department of Defense to churches and schools. The opposing side was all utilities. But I don’t think we’re really all that far apart.”

As we reported earlier this year, if passed, the legislation would allow California residents to purchase up 100 percent renewable energy from large-scale community facilities and receiving credit on the corresponding bills from the state’s major utilities, including PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. Potentially, the credits could offset those bills completely.

“The vote yesterday was more than just another step closer, but the most important one,” Price continued. “This is a committee of experts who care the most, know the most and worry the most about these issues. They had a chance to take a good, long look at the bill, and they liked what they saw, obviously. The vote was a blowout.

“What’s important and transformative about this bill is that for the first time, it allows everybody in California, regardless of income or home ownership status, to choose to buy renewable energy,” Price concluded, confident that it will eventually be signed by Governor Brown. “Considering that 75 percent of residents and businesses in this state currently don’t have that option, imagine what kind of impact we’ll see.”