Legislation to Boost Water Production, Lower Energy Costs Passes Committee

SB 919 will help the state avoid wasting renewable energy generation, while lowering the cost of water production

April 5, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, to use surplus energy to make local water recycling less expensive was passed today by the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee.

SB 919 requires the state to better coordinate its power by directing excess renewable energy that can occur during the middle of the day toward water agencies that recycle or purify water.

“California is in the fortunate position of frequently generating excess power with all the renewable energy production that has come online,” Hertzberg said. “SB 919 helps avoid wasting that energy by directing it toward to those who are recycling water or making it drinkable.”

When the state has excess renewable energy, prices for electricity fall; this can provide an economic benefit to energy-intensive operations, like water suppliers, who can absorb that excess supply.

Specifically, SB 919 requires the Public Utilities Commission to use the excess renewable energy to develop a special economic benefit for entities that augment local water supply through recycling, desalination or brackish desalting, which is cleaning water that is too salty to drink. In addition, the bill directs the PUC to adopt other policies to reduce power oversupply.

California’s push to increase renewable energy production – SB 350 passed last year established a goal of generating half the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2030 – has created periods of oversupply that are expected to grow in coming years.

While grid operators can control when to produce man-made electricity, they can’t control when the sun shines or the wind blows, the primary sources for renewable energy. When electricity demand is lower in the spring and fall, oversupply increasingly occurs, and that forces grid operators to route the power to other states or turn off renewable energy generating facilities.

Instead, SB 919 aims to take advantage of the surplus by providing it to water producers at a lower price than they can buy it when power is in higher demand. This helps accomplish two of California’s top priorities: Encourage water recycling and avoid wasting renewable power generation.   

The process of recycling or purifying water requires substantial energy, and up to one-third the cost of the process can come from the energy bill. By letting water suppliers know when there is an oversupply of energy, regulators can take advantage of the low or negative pricing to reduce the cost of making water locally. That, in turn, will help the power grid operate more efficiently and save money for ratepayers.

SB 919 passed on a bipartisan 9-0 vote and goes next to the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee.


Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/district.  After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg.

Communications Director
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-4018

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