New legislation by State Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) that would provide significant savings to Merced Irrigation District ratepayers today received bipartisan support from the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. SB 591 changes the requirements of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to include Merced Irrigation District’s New Exchequer Dam, built in 1967, as an RPS qualified energy source. The bill, which is co-authored by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), passed the committee on an 8 to 1 vote.
“SB 591 will provide substantial savings to Merced Irrigation District electric ratepayers without reducing the state’s environmental goals. Hydroelectric power is every bit as clean as the power generated by wind or the sun,” said Senator Cannella. “I am pleased my colleagues understand the immense pressure the RPS program put on the district and are willing to allow common-sense to prevail.”
The Merced Irrigation District (MID) will be meeting their full energy needs 60% of the time with their greenhouse gas-free energy from hydroelectric power. Though the power is generated from water flowing downstream and produces zero carbon emissions, it is not eligible to be counted towards the RPS requirements as currently defined, because it produces more than 30 megawatts of power. In order to meet the established RPS requirements, MID will be required to purchase 33% of its energy needs from other sources at a much higher cost than what they would pay should their hydroelectric power be considered RPS qualified.
"Senator Cannella's steadfast commitment to protect the ratepayers and community served by Merced Irrigation District is greatly appreciated," said MID General Manager John Sweigard. "For more than two years he has remained relentless in his efforts on this issue. This is a great step forward for our community, and I applaud his effort."
Following today’s Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee vote, the bill will be referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee.