On June 30, IBEW 1245’s high-priority legislation, AB 205, was passed by the California Legislature, and promptly signed by the Governor. AB 205 is a multi-faceted energy reliability plan intended to help keep the power flowing in California — and as we enter the season of peak energy demand in what scientists predict to be among the top 10 hottest years on record, this new law comes not a moment too soon.
Safe and reliable power is absolutely essential for all Californians, and many of the provisions in AB 205 that support energy reliability will, by nature, support job reliability for IBEW 1245 members. The biggest benefit of AB 205 concerns the future of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP), and funding to potentially extend operations of DCPP. This bill supports our members at DCPP and, by extension, all our members at PG&E, by establishing an “Electricity Supply Strategic Reliability Reserve Program” and the funding to facilitate these efforts.
Under this fund, the State of California can procure and generate electricity to help ensure adequate resources are on the grid, and AB 205 also authorizes the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to buy and generate electricity on behalf of California, and specifically notes this can come by “extension of the operating life of existing generating facilities planned for retirement.” The value to 1245 PG&E members at Diablo Canyon is clear – funding to keep the plant open. In addition, DWR can also purchase DCPP power to ensure grid reliability and benefit the State. Such agreements would be key to continued operations. More broadly, keeping Californians reliably in power over the hottest months, following years contentious and difficult public safety power shutoff (PSPS) events, is a benefit to all of our members working at PG&E, as well as the communities they serve.
AB 205 also provides over one billion dollars in financial assistance to cover energy bill arrearages for residential electric and gas customers in California. This is on top of the $900,000,000 under LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) which has already been appropriated by the Federal Government in the most recent COVID relief bill. It is estimated that there is more than $2.5 billion in arrearages on residential customers energy bills in California today (rumor is that PG&E alone is owed more than $750,000,000 in outstanding bills by their customers). The apportionment includes $957,000,000 for residential customers of PG&E, SCE and SDG&E; and $239,400,000 for residential customers of public agencies like SMUD, City of Alameda and Modesto Irrigation District.
For 1245 members working for these utilities, or contractors hired by the utilities, this financial assistance provides the capital needed to ensure that our employers can continue to serve their customers and employ ALL our members, as the funding in AB 205 will go a long way to making these employers ‘whole’ regarding past due bill payments.
Finally, this bill provides two hundred million dollars ($200,000,000) in funding for the California Energy Commission to establish new distributive energy resources investments and demand response programs, along with explicit prevailing wage and ‘skilled and trained’ language that ensure this work will be done union. Under similar programs at the CPUC, the work has mostly been non-union, and failed to produce results reducing demand or increased generation from DER resources to offset high-load periods.
This bill is one of the bigger wins for 1245 over the last four years, and exemplifies precisely why it is so important to be politically active as a union. When it comes to energy policies that impact our members, IBEW 1245 has been and will be among the loudest voices in any room where decisions are being made. But the work doesn’t stop when the law passes. Part of our commitment to our members involves ensuring that the implementation of these provisions provide the jobs, wages, benefits and conditions that our members expect and deserve.
The effort to extend operations at Diablo Canyon will take much more work, and we will provide more details on that complicated pathway shortly.
For today, let’s celebrate this important victory, and express our appreciation to Gov. Gavin Newsom and our friends in the State Legislature who stood with us on this vital bill.
–Bob Dean, IBEW 1245 Business Manager and Hunter Stern, IBEW 1245 Assistant Business Manager