Real-World Experience

Based on the Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) law passed by the state Legislature in 2002, Community Choice Energy programs started taking off in 2010 and are now rapidly proliferating. Community Choice programs have empowered local communities to decide where their electricity comes from and enhanced the economic vitality of the regions where they have been established. There is not much question about where power generation in California is heading: away from centralized investor-owned utilities and toward Community Choice and its ability to offer communities local control, more renewable energy at competitive rates, and the investment of revenue generated to benefit local residents and businesses.

Central Coast Power, a consortium of local governments in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties, formed in 2015 to explore the feasibility of a Community Choice program. The consortium commissioned a tri-county feasibility study from consulting firms Willdan Financial Services and EnerNex. The study examined eight different geographical scenarios for the region with energy mix scenarios for 33 percent, 50 percent, and 75 percent renewable energy, comparing likely CCA costs with the rates of the two utilities serving the three counties.

On Sept. 12, the Willdan/EnerNex study was released. It concluded, in every scenario, that a CCA program is not economically feasible and would cost ratepayers more than utility-provided power.

MRW & Associates, contracted to conduct a peer review of the study, pointed to half a dozen “areas where the draft study was potentially overly conservative or made questionable assumptions that might explain why its conclusion was negative while others have been affirmative.” These red flags ranged from the fact that the study failed to “reflect the most recently reported contract prices for renewable energy and does not reflect the general downward trend in renewable prices seen over the past few years” to a failure to “account for the proposed dramatic uncontested reductions” in the fees utilities charge CCA programs for billing services.

Energy experts elsewhere have elaborated on the study’s fatal error: using old data on the cost of renewable energy to project future renewable energy costs for Community Choice programs. The report pegs those costs at 8.8 cents per kWh (kilowatt hour). But recent utility contract prices have been averaging about 6 cents per kWh. That’s a 47 percent difference.

The report’s price projections relied on a chart by the California Public Utilities Commission listing average energy contract prices over the years. “Every year of price data going back to 2005 in that chart drags this long tail of all the contract prices from earlier years, rather than the price only for contracts signed in each year,” says energy consultant Robert Freehling. “By creating this cumulative snowball of past prices for each year of data, the CPUC creates what in financial analysis is called a ‘lagging indicator’—in this case an extreme lagging indicator—where each year in the chart actually reflects prices from years earlier.”

This error by itself would be enough to lead to the conclusion that a Community Choice program is uneconomical.

On Oct. 3, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted to do a more in-depth peer review of the study that re-examines some of its fundamental assumptions.

Beyond the realm of clashing consultants, reality has already refuted the study’s “not economically feasible” conclusion. As the peer reviewers note, the study’s conclusions contradict other recent CCA technical studies, but Community Choice has already made its own case for itself in the real world, via MCE Clean Energy, launched in 2010 in Marin County; Sonoma Clean Power, launched in 2014 serving Sonoma and Mendocino counties; and many more programs now established or coming online including Redwood Coast Energy Authority, Apple Valley, and Silicon Valley Clean Power.

“Community Choice has proven to be cost-effective in both PG&E and SCE territories,” said Samuel Golding, president of Community Choice Partners. “Willdan and EnerNex insist it’s wildly more expensive. Which is more likely to be wrong: a consultant’s spreadsheet or real-world experience?”

Golding is candid in his assessment of where the study went wrong. “Beyond the outdated renewable power cost assumptions or the failure to understand the basic rules for how the agency would be charged for electricity on the wholesale market, their model is missing half the math. It doesn’t capture the key regulations that impact Community Choice energy agencies in the real world or how the utilities’ rates should be forecasted. This study is a poster child for all the reasons why we strongly advise communities to avoid relying on consultants for this sort of modeling. Redwood Coast CCA bypassed the consultants, brought in a nonprofit owned by public power utilities, and launched a successful CCA in less time than this study took to get it all wrong. Staff should reject this study, call up Redwood Coast for advice, start relying on proven experts, and get on with it.”

For SLO County and northern Santa Barbara County, here’s the most important correction made by the MRW peer review, analyzing a “middle of the road” (50 percent renewable energy) Community Choice scenario: A corrected model with revised assumptions resulted in lower rates and a cleaner energy mix than PG&E.

San Luis Obispo County’s Board of Supervisors and city councils shortly will be presented with the Willdan study—and, one hopes, the MRW peer review of that study—as they ponder the answer to the question, “Should we proceed with a Community Choice program?”

Their answer should be yes.

Real-World Experience, by Andrew Christie and Katie Davis, New Times San Luis Obispo, October 12, 2017.

Seize the Future

Opinion

By now, you may have heard about Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs. CCE programs offer residents and businesses a choice of who they purchase their electricity from. CCE programs also empower local governments to control electricity purchasing decisions for the benefit of their communities rather than ceding that control to the state’s investor-owned utilities. There are eight CCE programs currently operating in California (Sonoma Clean Power, Monterey Bay Community Power, Silicon Valley Clean Energy, Lancaster Choice Energy, and others), with 10 more launching in 2018, and at least 17 additional jurisdictions exploring and/or in the planning stages.

You may have also heard that San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties are exploring the possibility of creating our own Tri-County CCE program. Over the last few years, we conducted a feasibility study to evaluate many scenarios to inform the best way forward. The results of the study, which were released in early September (see “Power down?” Sept. 21), determined that a program across the three counties was unfavorable since it would have to cross two different utility companies’ territories. However, the results of the study showed that a program in San Luis Obispo County had potential.

I think Community Choice Energy is an opportunity worthy of continued exploration. Here’s why:

Economic benefits: The economics of solar, batteries, and electric vehicles are improving rapidly, putting us on course in the next few years to replace the fossil fuels currently powering our homes, businesses, and transportation with renewably sourced electricity. By working in partnership with our neighboring communities, a CCE program can act as an economic engine to speed up the renewable energy transition and help to bolster our economy post-Diablo Canyon. Furthermore, CCE is an opportunity for us to reimagine our partnership with PG&E, who will be a critical ally helping us build the smart grid necessary to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity.

Environmental benefits: CCEs enable local governments to leverage the purchasing power of its residents and businesses to both purchase and generate electricity for the community from clean sources such as wind and solar. A higher percentage of renewable electricity means we are reducing our impact on the environment from fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, helping to combat the harmful effects of climate change.

Community benefits: CCEs have been proven to offer electricity at competitive rates with more renewable energy. Sonoma Clean Power, serving Sonoma County communities, has reported cheaper rates and higher renewable energy content than the investor-owned utilities, saving customers more than $50 million since its start in May 2014. Additionally, revenues generated from the sale of electricity can be invested back into the community to support our net-zero vision and values. For example, we can fund energy efficiency to make our homes and businesses more comfortable and affordable, incentivize electric vehicles and build charging stations, and install local solar. These investments translate into good paying jobs that support our communities and strengthen our economy.

Speaking of jobs and the economy, on Oct. 19, the SLO Chamber of Commerce is hosting a forum to talk about becoming a net-zero community. This event will feature leadership from the Republican-led city of Lancaster located in Southern California. Lancaster is trailblazing the way to net-zero energy all while saving money and driving economic development. At the center of their achievements are innovative community development policies and Lancaster Choice Energy, their own CCE program.

The City Council will consider the potential benefits of a CCE program for SLO and potential paths forward at a hearing on Dec. 5. I encourage you to get engaged in this conversation—come to the chamber’s Becoming a Net-Zero Community event; give the City Council feedback.

With a forward-thinking council, supportive staff, an engaged community, and perfect weather, we are well set up to be a leader in the renewable energy future. We can create the jobs we need and the future our children demand while being fiscally responsible. Now is the time. It wasn’t too long ago that many would have suggested that a 100 percent clean energy future was impossible. Now we can make the impossible the inevitable.

Seize the Future, by Heidi Harmon, New Times San Luis Obispo, October 5, 2017.   

Is An Alternative Energy Choice Too Expensive for Santa Barbara?

A study on the prospect of government-run energy in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties found the program would not be economically feasible. “We’re different,” Jen Cregar, project supervisor with Energy & Sustainability Initiatives, told the Santa Barbara County supervisors. “We are not the same as everyone else.”

Though the so-called Community Choice Energy program would result in lower greenhouse-gas emissions, Santa Barbara customers could expect their electricity bills to be $16-$23 more every month, the study found. Part of the problem, Cregar explained, is that the region has two electricity providers, Southern California Edison and PG&E, each with different rates and billing systems. But the majority of the supervisors were not convinced and voted for additional analysis. “I am disappointed like many of you are,” Wolf said. “[But] I’m not giving up on this.”

Simply put, Community Choice Energy seeks to allow local governments to purchase bundled energy and sell it to customers while at the same time creating renewable energy. “This is happening everywhere. We should not be left behind,” charged environmental activist Katie Davis, adding that many real-world examples contradict the study’s conclusions. In fact, nine programs are already up and running in California. Nine speakers echoed Davis’s optimism and asked for more thorough review of the 2,000-page report. “Rarely do I stand before you and ask you to slow down,” added Sigrid Wright, president of the Community Environmental Council.

The study found that in North County, where PG&E provides power, Community Choice Energy could be feasible. But, Cregar explained, state law mandates that the county offer Community Choice Energy to all residents or not at all. Ironically, conservative North County supervisors Steve Lavagnino and Peter Adam both voted against more review. Adam joked he almost wanted to vote for more exploration so he could watch the effort fail.

Is An Alternative Energy Choice Too Expensive for Santa Barbara?, by Kelsey Brugger, The Santa Barbara Independent, October 5, 2017.

Puente Alternatives Cheaper Than Gas Power Plant

Renewable energy alternatives are technically and economically superior to the proposed gas Puente Power Project in Oxnard.

The Ventura County Taxpayers Association’s guest commentary supporting the Puente gas plant in the Sept. 8 issue of the Business Times contained inaccurate and misleading information.

It’s true that a recent California Independent System Operator (CAISO) study concluded that alternatives to both the Puente gas plant and the nearby Ellwood gas plant would be costly, but CAISO was using 2014 prices for energy storage, which has come down more than 10 percent per year since then. By 2018, storage is expected cost less than half of what it did in 2014.

In addition, CAISO did not model a solar+storage solution, which would bring the price down even further and allow the project to benefit from the 30 percent Investment Tax Credit. CAISO overestimated costs for demand response, too.

The Clean Coalition recently released its own study and model, reflecting up-to-date costs and showing that the Puente and Ellwood gas plants could be replaced far more cost-effectively by using solar+storage.

Specifically, the Clean Coalition found that upfront costs to install a solar+storage solution would be $267 million compared to $299 million for the Puente gas plant. Solar+storage, the Clean Coalition found, could replace both Puente and Ellwood for approximately $406 million in upfront costs — less than half CAISO’s $1.1 billion figure.

Further, the costs of operations, maintenance and fuel would add over $870 million to Puente’s price tag over 30 years. For solar+storage, powered predominantly by the sun, comparable costs would be $462 million. These numbers don’t account for the human and environmental health costs of polluting gas plants like Puente.

The CAISO study did determine that a solar+storage solution can cost-effectively meet the grid reliability needs in the Moorpark sub area, in lieu of the proposed Puente gas plant. The CAISO study is deficient, however, in its cost assumptions and analyses for the clean alternative to the Puente gas plant.

Because of CAISO’s shortcomings, the Taxpayers Association’s commentary referred to significantly erroneous figures associated with renewables-driven alternatives to gas plants.

Furthermore, the Taxpayers Association harped on the fact that Puente would create jobs while failing to mention this is also true of clean energy alternatives. Solar and wind industries are creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. A solar+storage project to replace Puente would mean good local jobs.

The Taxpayers Association’s commentary was also misleading in its dismissal of “yet-to-be-developed battery storage.” Projects are in place today that are taking advantage of current storage technology.

Tesla’s 17 megawatt (MW) solar + 52 megawatt-hour (MWh) storage facility on Kauai can store enough solar energy to power 4,500 homes through the night, making solar dispatchable when it is needed rather than only when the sun is shining.

AES’ scalable 28 MW solar + 100 MWh storage facility, also on Kauai, will provide 11 percent of the island’s electricity needs starting next year, at a game-changing 11 cents per kilowatt-hour for dispatchable solar.

Hence, the proposed Puente gas plant is primed to be obviated with a far more cost-effective solar+storage approach.

Another benefit of a solar+storage solution is that it could be brought online more quickly than the Puente gas plant. The Clean Coalition has designed a game-changing feed-in tariff (FIT) that includes a market responsive pricing mechanism to ensure best value for ratepayers, along with dispatchability to incentivize energy storage.

This innovative FIT is designed to procure and deploy cost-effective renewables+storage much more quickly than auction processes, which are burdened by excessive preparation requirements, transaction costs and failure rates. A well-designed FIT would bring solar+storage online far faster than the Puente gas plant could be built and well ahead of the 2020 need for these resources.

Solar+storage is already providing reliable, clean and affordable energy in communities around the country. It creates jobs and stimulates the economy, while protecting human and environmental health.

Let’s take this opportunity to move the Oxnard community into the clean energy future — which is here already.

• Carmen Ramirez is mayor pro tem of Oxnard. Craig Lewis is executive director of the Clean Coalition.

Puente Alternatives Cheaper Than Gas Power Plant, by Carmen Ramirez and Craig Lewis, Pacific Coast Business Times, September 29, 2017.

A 100 Percent Clean-Energy Future Is Possible for SLO

Harmon

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon (Tribune file)

By now, you may have heard about Community Choice Energy programs.

CCE programs allow residents and businesses to choose their electricity provider, and they empower local governments to control electricity purchasing decisions for the benefit of their communities, rather than ceding that control to the state’s investor-owned utilities.

There are eight CCE programs operating in California (including Sonoma Clean Power, Monterey Bay Community Power, Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Lancaster Choice Energy), with 10 more launching in 2018, and at least 17 additional jurisdictions exploring and/or in the planning stages.

You may have heard that San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties were exploring the possibility of creating a tri-county CCE program. Over the past few years, we conducted a feasibility study to evaluate many scenarios to inform the best way forward. The results of the study, which were released in early September, determined that a program across the three counties was unfavorable since it would have to cross two different utility company territories. However, the study showed that a program in San Luis Obispo County had potential.

I think Community Choice Energy is an opportunity worthy of continued exploration. Here’s why:

Economic benefits

The economics of solar, batteries and electric vehicles are improving rapidly, putting us on course in the next few years to replace fossil fuels currently powering our homes, businesses and transportation with renewably sourced electricity. By working in partnership with our neighboring communities, a Community Choice Energy program can act as an economic engine to speed up the renewable energy transition and help to bolster our economy post Diablo Canyon. Furthermore, CCE is an opportunity for us to reimagine our partnership with PG&E, who will be a critical ally helping us build the smart grid necessary to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity.

Environmental benefits

CCEs enable local governments to leverage the purchasing power of residents and businesses to both purchase and generate electricity for the community from clean sources such as wind and solar. Higher percentage of renewable electricity means we are reducing our impact on the environment from fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions, helping to combat the harmful effects of climate change.

Community benefits

CCEs have been proven to offer electricity at competitive rates with more renewable energy. Sonoma Clean Power, serving Sonoma County communities, has reported cheaper rates and higher renewable energy content than the investor-owned utility, saving customers over $50 million since its start in May 2014. Additionally, revenues generated from the sale of electricity can be invested back into the community to support our net zero vision and values. For example, we can fund energy efficiency to make our homes and businesses more comfortable and affordable, incentivize electric vehicles and build EV charging stations, and install local solar. These investments translate into good paying jobs that support our communities and strengthen our economy.

Speaking of jobs and the economy, on Oct. 19, the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce is hosting a forum, Becoming a Net Zero Community. This event will feature leadership from the Republican-led city of Lancaster located in Southern California. The city of Lancaster is trailblazing the way to net zero energy while saving money and driving economic development. At the center of the city’s achievements are innovative community development policies and Lancaster Choice Energy.

The San Luis Obispo City Council will consider potential benefits of a CCE program and potential paths forward at a hearing on Dec. 5.

I encourage you to get engaged in this conversation. Come to the chamber’s Becoming a Net Zero Community event on Oct. 19, and give the council feedback on Dec. 5.

With a forward-thinking council, supportive staff, an engaged community and perfect weather, we are well set up to be a leader in the renewable energy future. We can create the jobs we need and the future our children demand while being fiscally responsible.

Now is the time. It wasn’t too long ago that many would have suggested that a 100 percent clean energy future was impossible. Now we can make the impossible the inevitable.

Heidi Harmon is mayor of San Luis Obispo.

A 100 Percent Clean-Energy Future Is Possible for SLO, by Heidi Harmon, The Tribune, September 28, 2017.

New CCA Jobs in the Monterey Bay Area

Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) is currently seeking highly motivated people to fill several positions. Please click on each job title below for a detailed job description:

–  Finance Manager
–  Key Accounts Manager
–  Board Clerk / Executive Assistant
–  Community Events & Outreach Coordinator

The employment application and job descriptions can also be found here under “Job Opportunities”.

With a planned launch date of March 2018, MBCP expects to serve approximately 270,000 accounts (at full program integration) and includes the counties of Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito, as well as the cities of Santa Cruz, Watsonville, Salinas, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, Seaside, Marina, Sand City, Soledad, Greenfield, Gonzales, Hollister, San Juan Bautista, Scotts Valley, and Capitola.

MBCP is looking for permanent office space in the Monterey Bay region. These positions will initially be based in Watsonville, California and will likely remain in that general vicinity once permanent office space is located.

These positions are open until filled with initial screenings beginning in October (please refer to each job listing for specific dates).

Feel free to share this email with anyone you think may be interested.

For questions and inquiries, please contact:
Shellie Anderson
Bryce Consulting, Inc.
3436 American River Drive, Ste. 7A
Sacramento, CA 95864
Tel: 916-974-0199 Fax: 916-974-0224
Email: sanderson@bryceconsulting.com

Bills Seen as Threat to Monterey Bay Community Power Stall in Legislature

Two state bills seen as putting a local power initiative in jeopardy stalled this week after a surge of opposition from local leaders and environmental groups.

And with the threat of increased and uncertain fees now stymied, leaders say local energy project Monterey Bay Community Power is moving ahead.

“We’re relieved and we’re going to be moving on with business as usual,” said 5th district county supervisor Bruce McPherson, who chairs the project. McPherson said he had spent the past five days on the phone with politicians and staffers in Sacramento advocating against the bills.

“A lot of people made an effort to express their concerns, not only from our tri-county but from across the state,” McPherson said.

The pair of bills, Assembly Bill 813 and Assembly Bill 726, were supported by Gov. Jerry Brown and would have created a framework for sharing electricity beyond state lines.

Both fell under harsh criticism from advocates for Monterey Bay Community Power, a project to bring local government control of electricity to the counties of Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito.

McPherson had said the bills would have forced locally owned energy providers to purchase renewable energy through the major investor-owned utilities such as PG&E. That, together with a provision mandating green energy cost sharing, could have been enough to sink the project, McPherson said.

Assemblyman Chris Holden confirmed the bills will not move forward in a statement Wednesday, following a “constructive dialogue” that would need to be considered in future efforts.

Benjamin Eichert, director of nonprofit Romero Institute’s Greenpower initiative, said legislators had spoken of “overwhelming opposition” to the bills that were introduced at the end of legislative calendar on Friday — timing that itself had drawn criticism.

“This skirmish embodies the debate between two different visions of how we reach a clean energy future,” Eichert said in statement to the Sentinel. “Do we want a centralized, regional approach or local choice and control?”

Monterey Bay Community Power is a partnership between the counties of Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito and 18 cities, including Santa Cruz, that aims to provide local control and clean energy to residents at rates comparable to PG&E. The project follows a model called “Community Choice Energy” first implemented in Marin County in 2010.

Monterey Bay Community Power is on track to begin selling to businesses in March of 2018, and to consumers in July, according to CEO Tom Habashi.

Bills Seen as Threat to Monterey Bay Community Power Stall in Legislature, by Nicholas Ibarra, Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 14, 2017.

Last-Minute Legislation Could Pull Plug on Monterey Bay Community Power

Supporters of an effort to take local control of electricity scrambled over the weekend to push back against last-minute legislation that put the future of such projects in jeopardy and had advocates crying foul.

Near-identical state assembly bills 813 and 726 were heavily amended Friday evening to include provisions that advocates say would freeze new community power projects by forcing local providers to purchase renewable energy through major, investor-owned utilities such as Pacific Gas & Electric Company. And the bills would mandate that the big utility companies’ green energy costs be shared by consumers who had left in favor of locally-owned alternatives.

That, said Supervisor Bruce McPherson, could be enough to stop the Monterey Bay Community Powerproject in its tracks just as it nears the finish line. Monterey Bay Community Power is a partnership between the counties of Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito and 18 cities, including Santa Cruz, that aims to provide local control and clean energy to residents at rates comparable to PG&E. Budding community power programs in Alameda County and San Jose could be similarly affected, McPherson said.

“It would be a double hit on us and would make community choice energy agencies nonexistent,” said McPherson, who chairs the local utility project.

McPherson said he spent the weekend calling legislators and staff in Sacramento to make a case against the changes, advocating particularly to change a date in the legislation to allow Monterey Bay Community Power to slip through before the new rules take effect.

As of Monday afternoon, McPherson said he was optimistic that at least the date change would be made before the bill comes to a vote. But any changes would need to be made by Tuesday afternoon to meet the required 72-hour window.

Dawn Weisz, who heads the California Community Choice Association which represents locally-owned electricity providers, said she has spoken to concerned officials from across the state.

“This is the exact opposite of due process and it really undermines the efforts these local governments have made,” Weisz said.

“Dirty energy is trying to put a stop to the movement for local control over energy production,” said Benjamin Eichert, director of the Romero Institute’s Greenpower initiative, a nonprofit that advocates for sustainable energy and local control. “These are the hallmarks of deceptive legislation.”

Eichert said the legislation is linked the lobbying on behalf of PG&E, San Diego Gas & Electric and energy provider PacifiCorp.

A spokeswoman for PG&E declined to comment on whether the utility company’s lobbyists had advocated for the changes to the legislation.

A.B. 813 is authored by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, the chair of the assembly committee on utilities and energy who counts electric utility companies, including PG&E, among his largest backers.

A spokesman for Assemblyman Holden declined to comment on the last-minute revisions and was unable to provide a statement as of press time.

Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, said he is working to address the impact of Friday’s legislative revisions.

“I am working to ensure that nothing interferes with the successful local implementation of this important program, including the last-minute changes to this bill,” Stone said.

If not stymied by the state legislation, the new joint-powers authority is set to begin selling to businesses in March, and to consumers in July.

Last-Minute Legislation Could Pull Plug on Monterey Bay Community Power, by Nicholas Ibarra, Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 11, 2017.

Clean Energy Initiative Launches in Santa Barbara

The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) is launching the Santa Barbara hub of Energize California, an initiative designed to strengthen the region’s clean energy economy, 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 6, at The Sandbox Santa Barbara. 414 Olive St.

Title of the launch is From Policy to Technology: Charting Santa Barbara’s Clean Energy Future. It will showcase local and regional advancements in clean energy technology, policy, and implementation, and foster discussion about the next steps that need to be taken.

Featured speakers include: April Price of Community Environmental Council, Gary Barsley of Southern California Edison, Kelly Ferguson from the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, and Jeff Horowitz of NEXT Energy Technologies.

The event is cohosted with StartupSB, a local networking organization for entrepreneurs. More details on the event can be found at https://goo.gl/VmKfe8.

The event will introduce LACI’s Energize California Innovators Program, which aims to assist new clean energy start-ups. Qualified applicants will get access to a system of support services and referrals to accelerators, incubators, pilot programs, and facilities for testing and prototyping facilities.

The Energize California initiative will host regular events in the area to facilitate networking opportunities with industry thought-leaders, funding sources, and strategic partners. The online application can be found at http://reic.wpengine.com/energizeca-innovators-application.

“The first goal of the program is to speed up the time it takes for clean energy technologies to get to market,” said Ferguson, Energize California’s director for Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

 “The Innovators Program is a crucial component of our work, and we hope the launch raises awareness about this opportunity for local entrepreneurs in the clean energy space,” Ferguson said.

Funded through a six-year, $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission, Energize California is part of the commission’s statewide initiative to meet increasing demand for innovation in the energy sector.

Clean energy technologies can include renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy storage, microgrid controllers, demand response, and EV infrastructure.

As one of four similar programs in the state, Energize California’s regional focus is on Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange counties.

In addition to supporting entrepreneurial ventures, Energize California will work to flesh out the network that allows start-ups to source pilots, access funding, and find needed technical and industry support.

This includes helping identify, connect and convene organizations, businesses and other groups dedicated to building a clean-energy future.

Locally, Community Environmental Council is acting as the regional hub, supporting with grant writing and networking, and also housing Ferguson.

“With Santa Barbara city’s recent commitment to 100 percent renewables by 2030, and a decision on Community Choice Energy on the horizon, the area is poised to rapidly reshape its energy future,” Ferguson said.

“It has all of the pieces — cutting-edge research institutions; a deep community of business mentors; a vast network of business services, co-working spaces, and progressive institutions; and a strong culture of advocacy and environmentalism,” she said.

To for about the Energize California network, visit www.energize-ca.org.

— Nicole Wald for Community Environmental Council.

Clean Energy Initiative Launches in Santa Barbara, by Nicole Wald, Noozhawk, August 31, 2017.

Energy Needs Can Be Met without New Oxnard Power Plant, Study Shows

A new state commissioned study has revealed that alternative energy sources can generate enough electricity for the region without the need for a new gas-fired power plant in Oxnard.

The study from the California Independent System Operator, the agency tasked with maintaining the state’s power grid, shows that renewable alternatives primarily consisting of battery storage can meet the needs identified in the coastal power plant proposal.

NRG Energy Inc. is proposing to build a new power plant at its existing Mandalay Generating Station on Harbor Boulevard at the beach. The plan, called the Puente Power Project, calls for the new plant to replace two existing facilities that are required by state law to discontinue by 2020.

The California Energy Commission has the ultimate authority in allowing the new power plant to be built. A final decision was expected by now but it was postponed because a committee of two commissioners responsible for releasing a preliminary opinion, requested additional information.

Some of the new information includes the California Independent System Operator report, a narrowly focused study that only addresses whether alternative energy resources can meet the need. The study does not address whether these alternatives are feasible.

According to the study, battery storage coupled with solar power and conservation efforts could meet the power needs of a region that stretches from Santa Barbara to Ventura counties.

Environmental groups, the city of Oxnard and others opposing a fossil fuel plan see the latest study released last week as an affirmation that the time to build a new gas-fired power plant has passed.

“The big takeaway is the Puente Project is not needed,” said Ellison Folk, an attorney representing Oxnard, an intervenor of the project.

Read more:

According to NRG, the study did not address whether the alternatives are feasible or when they would be available.

“The study finds that it may be possible to meet the reliability needs through alternative technologies, although at significantly higher costs to ratepayers, assuming that procurement and deployment of those technologies was feasible and could be accomplished within the required timeframe,” said NRG spokesman David Knox in a statement. “While we find the results of the CAISO study interesting from a theoretical standpoint, the results do not present any feasible alternatives to Puente that would ensure the same level of reliability as Puente.”

Knox added that the study does not change the fact that the Puente Power Project is the “best and only viable way” to ensure reliable power for the region.

The study gives a higher price tag to the renewable alternatives. While NRG’s proposal is estimated to cost $299 million, the alternatives could cost between $309 million to $1.1 billion.

Folk said the estimated costs cited in the study, which is based on publicly available information, may not be accurate. In general, the cost of renewables are competitive with the cost of gas-fired turbines or cheaper, she said. And the example of the Porter Ranch gas leak of 2015 shows that renewable energy can be brought online very quickly, Folk added.

“We’re confident we can put together a package that will meet the (local capacity requirement) need that does not need a gas-powered plant,” Folk said. “We’ll be providing evidence at the hearing.”

On Sept. 14, a committee of the energy commission is expected to host a public hearing on the latest study. A final decision on the power plant could come by the end of the year.

Energy Needs Can Be Met without New Oxnard Power Plant, Study Shows, by Wendy Leung, Ventura County Star, August 21, 2017.