New Legislation Seeks to Boost Water Production, Lower Energy Costs

Hertzberg introduces SB 919 to better manage California’s renewable energy resources

January 28, 2016

SACRAMENTO – In an effort to maximize water supply during California’s historic drought, Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, has introduced legislation that encourages local water recycling by reducing the cost of the power used in processes to purify or reuse the water. 

SB 919 requires the Public Utilities Commission to better coordinate its power supply, avoiding oversupply that can occur during the middle of the day, and use that to reduce the price for water agencies forced to recycle or purify water when power is at its highest demand and most expensive.

“This bill is one logical step in California’s march to better manage its resources, cope with the drought and get the most out of the water and power we have,” Hertzberg said. “To punish those who must recycle water in the middle of the day with high power costs makes no sense whatsoever, when California desperately needs the water and has a surplus of energy.”

Specifically, SB 919 requires the PUC to develop a special time-of-use rate 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.

According to wastewater agencies, most of the demand for recycled water is for irrigation, and due to nighttime watering rules, there is no way to avoid daytime production when the cost of retail electricity is highest. 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.

There is a solution to this mismatch in demand for power at water facilities in the daytime and cost of electricity. Due to California’s successful renewable energy programs, regulators have identified an “oversupply” of power at certain times during the day.

The result is negative wholesale prices for renewable energy – a growing trend – that is not reflected in retail energy prices. Oversupply increases costs to ratepayers and represents a failure of the regulatory system to operate properly, with appropriate supply-and-demand signals.

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.


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  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

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


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