Senate Bill 1185 - Back Up Natural Gas Generators

March 16, 2020

Summary:

Senate Bill 1185 would allow businesses and homeowners to install, maintain and use a back-up natural gas generator onsite for use in the event of a public safety power shut-off (PSPS) event. Specifically, this bill would prohibit an air district or the California Air Resources Board (CARB) from adopting or maintaining regulations that limit the use of a federally compliant natural gas powered generator during a PSPS event. The bill additionally stipulates that any use of a natural gas generator during a PSPS event would not count toward any time limitation included in the permit issued for that generator.

Issue Background:

Current law limits air pollution from a variety of vehicular and non-vehicular sources, including natural gas generators. Local air quality districts and CARB are responsible for crafting regulations and issuing permits for such devices.

In recent years, California has faced catastrophic wildfires of unprecedented proportion. As a response to increased liability for wildfires and as a precautionary measure, California’s utilities have begun the practice of shutting off electrical service in certain areas during peak wildfire risk times to mitigate the potential for a utility line to spark a wildfire. During these PSPS events, natural gas service remains in place and functional. This presents the opportunity for natural gas generators hooked up to the existing natural gas distribution infrastructure, to serve as a vital energy source during PSPS events.

While local air districts and CARB have provided some latitude for backup generation in PSPS events, many generator owners still run the risk of facing hefty fines and compliance issues when utilizing natural gas generators in a PSPS event.

This bill would clear those obstacles and allow natural gas generation to be a viable and reliable alternative energy source during PSPS events.