2017 Legislative Session Heats Up: Bills to Watch, and a Call to Action!

The Center for Climate Protection is tracking about 15 energy-related bills this legislative session, about half of which relate directly or indirectly to Community Choice Energy.

Among them is one of particular concern, SB 618, authored by none other than Steven Bradford, the southern California Senator who in 2014 introduced the most threatening legislation for Community Choice ever to emerge in Sacramento, AB 2145.

AB 2145 aimed to crush Community Choice by denying default service status to the local not-for-profit Community Choice agencies and returning that status to the for-profit large distribution utility. That battle, ultimately successful for Community Choice, was one of the milestones in catapulting Community Choice onto the radar of local governments throughout the state. Enter SB 618 in 2017. What does it do, where is it now, and what will it mean to Community Choice whether it is enacted or not?

What is does.

The main provision in SB 618 that affects Community Choice is that it empowers the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to “approve” Community Choice Integrated Resource Plans. One of the hallmarks of Community Choice is that it grants decision-making authority about a host of energy service elements such as energy sources, rates, programs, policy, projects, and more. Removing that authority and delivering it to the distant and impenetrable CPUC is a huge step backward in the emerging advance toward energy democracy represented by Community Choice Energy.

Where it is.

SB 618 is currently scheduled to be heard in the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee on April 4. Senator Ben Hueso chairs that Committee. The full committee roster is included below. We urge Community Choice advocates throughout California to write to the Chair and the whole Committee urging them to reject this latest attempt to undermine one of the best things going for communities, local economies, and clean energy.

What does it mean?

If SB 618 makes it through the legislative process with this core provision about removing local control intact, it means an erosion of the whole point of Community Choice, as established in the original AB 117 law, and would set a bad precedent for a future legislative or regulatory whittling away of Community Choice agency autonomy. Whether it is enacted or not, SB 618, and perhaps some other pending legislation, may once again galvanize the Community Choice advocacy community and strengthen us for future endeavors.

Read about the legislation here. You can also subscribe to it to track it yourself: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB618

The Senate Energy Committee Roster:

Senator Ben Hueso (Chair)
Senator Mike Morrell (Vice Chair)
Senator Steven Bradford
Senator Anthony Cannella
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Senator Jerry Hill
Senator Mike McGuire
Senator Nancy Skinner
Senator Henry I. Stern
Senator Andy Vidak
Senator Scott D. Wiener

Letters should be addressed to:

[Legislator]

State Capitol, Room 4035
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Committee staff phone number is: (916) 651-4107

To find your California State representatives click here.

The full list of bills we are monitoring is here. Stay tuned to CPX E-News for future updates.

Community Choice Baby Boom

To address the climate crisis, the Center for Climate Protection advances models that bring multiple benefits to communities, including greenhouse gas reductions. We identified Community Choice as a promising model in 2005, and began pursing in 2008 what became Sonoma Clean Power in 2014. Since then we’ve helped spread and optimize Community Choice in California.

In the next six weeks three new Community Choice services will start serving customers: Silicon Valley Clean Energy (April 3), Redwood Coast Energy Authority (April 22) and Apple Valley Choice Energy (May 1). Plus Mendocino County will become the newest jurisdictional member of Sonoma Clean Power.

Later in 2017 several more services may commence including the city of Davis and Yolo County’s Valley Clean Energy Alliance, and Placer County’s Sierra Valley Energy Authority.

Many more emerging agencies are expected to launch in 2018, likely to be the single biggest year for Community Choice yet – a veritable Community Choice baby boom!

  • Alameda County
  • Contra Costa County
  • Los Angeles County and its many cities
  • Monterey County, San Benito County, and Santa Cruz County (All part of Monterey Bay Community Power)
  • San Jose
  • San Luis Obispo County, Santa Barbara County, and Ventura County (All part of Central Coast Power)

Launching later in 2018 or perhaps in 2019 or 2020 are emerging efforts in:

  • Butte County
  • Cities and counties of the Central Valley
  • Cities within San Diego County
  • Lake County
  • Riverside County
  • San Bernardino County

Here is how our interactive map will look by the end of April. Lots more green!

Keep track of the growth of Community Choice Energy right here at the Clean Power Exchange’s unique interactive map of every city and county in the state and sign up for CPX E-News in your region. We welcome your contributions and suggestions.

More Power Applied to Community Choice Energy Program

Woodland is stepping up its effort toward providing cheaper power for the people.

Now under the chairmanship of Tom Flynn, the city’s Community Choice Energy Advisory Committee is working to finish a report with recommendations that will most likely lead to linking with an agency under development by Yolo County and the city of Davis.

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Woodland’s Community Choice Energy Advisory Committee Chairman Tom Flynn updated the City Council Tuesday night on progress made toward joining a local energy cooperative between Yolo County and the city of Davis. Jim Smith — Daily Democrat

If implemented over the next year, city energy users could see rates drop between 4 percent and 8 percent compared to those of PG&E.

Flynn, a storage and distributed energy resource policy manager for the state’s Independent System Operator with nearly 30 years of experience in California electricity policy, updated the council Tuesday on progress made toward linking up with the Valley Clean Energy Alliance, the county-Davis consortium.

No action was required of the council, which has previously expressed a willingness to consider joining the Energy Alliance, as long as it had sufficient information before making a final commitment.

In his briefing, Flynn said the concept behind “community choice energy” is that a local entity procures and supplies the power which is then delivered by PG&E.

Flynn said “CCEs provide more competitive rates and allow communities the opportunity to have more local control over energy supply and their energy future.” For example, that could mean buying more solar power than hydroelectric power, thereby lessening the city’s overall carbon footprint.

This, Flynn implied allows cities such as Woodland to help meet conservation goals such as has been developed for Woodland’s 2035 General Plan under its Climate Action Plan, which calls for increasing conservation measures.

Further, said Flynn, any surplus revenues that originate from conservation can be reinvested in the community rather than lost to PG&E.

“With or without Woodland, Community Choice Energy is growing by leaps and bounds throughout California,” he told the council, citing operations that exist — or will soon exist — in Marin County and elsewhere.

Concerning Valley Clean Energy Alliance, Flynn said the group is planning a 2018 launch and has welcomed Woodland’s inclusion. But that puts a strain on the city to get the paperwork in place to meet an April 18 deadline for a presentation to the council in hopes it can render a decision by the end of June.

Woodland would need to submit a final implementation plan by August to link up with the Energy Alliance.

At present, Flynn said the choices narrow down to three:

•Retain the status quo with no change in how Woodlanders receive their power.

•Join the Valley Energy Alliance and be included in its February 2018 launch.

•Join the Valley Energy Alliance after its February 2018 launch.

The only other option looked at was to join a similar cooperative based elsewhere such as Marin County. However, that idea was rejected because it was felt those groups were too geographically distant.

The city created the ad hoc advisory committee in November 2016. Among its 14 members are Woodland Mayor Angel Barajas and Councilman Skip Davies. However, acting Tuesday night, Davies stepped down from the panel and was replaced by Councilman Tom Stallard, who has previously pushed for more sustainable energy sources within the city.

Stallard has put a number of solar panels on property he owns in downtown Woodland and as the former mayor pushed for creating the Woodland Tree Campaign as a way of increasing the city’s urban forest to provide shade and cut back on energy use.

More Power Applied to Community Choice Energy Program, by Jim Smith, Woodland Daily Democrat, March 22, 2017.

Sonoma Clean Power to Provide Electricity to Mendocino County in June

Sonoma Clean Power has scheduled
the following public meetings
to learn more about services and
options in Mendocino County:

Wednesday, 6-8 p.m.
Coast Community Library
225 Main St., Point Arena

Monday, March 27, 6-9 p.m.
Mendocino Community Center
998 School St., Mendocino

Wednesday, April 5, noon-1 p.m.
Point Arena City Hall
24000 S. Highway 1, Point Arena

Monday, April 17, 6-7 p.m.
Willits City Hall
111 E. Commercial St., Willits

As many as 30,000 Mendocino County households are slated to automatically switch electricity providers in June, when Sonoma Clean Power becomes their default provider.

Sonoma Clean Power promises to provide greener electric power to customers than Pacific Gas & Electric Co. for about 1 percent less. Sonoma Clean Power’s basic energy supply is 36 percent renewable compared with PG&E’s North Bay and North Coast California production supply, which is 33 percent renewable, according to the two agencies. Renewable energy includes solar, wind, steam power, biomass and small hydroelectric plants.

People who want to totally commit to renewable energy and are willing to pay extra for it can sign up for Sonoma Clean Power’s EverGreen program, which offers 100 percent local, renewable energy.

Unless electric utility customers in the county and three of its cities — Fort Bragg, Willits and Point Arena — contact Sonoma Clean Power and opt out of the new service, they automatically will be enrolled. Ukiah electric customers are not included because the city has its own municipal electric utility.

Current PG&E customers will continue to be billed through the company, which also will continue to provide and repair electric utility infrastructure.

The new program is a good deal for Mendocino County residents, said Supervisor Dan Hamburg, a member of the Sonoma Clean Power board.

“I think they will have more say over the kind of energy they use,” he said. And the price of that energy could decrease further if a challenge to the fees PG&E is allowed to collect in compensation for the loss of customers is successful, Hamburg said.

Sonoma Clean Power is part of a movement nationally toward local control of utilities through what is called “community choice aggregation” agencies. Such agencies were authorized by state law in 2002. Marin County launched the first of its kind in California in 2008.

There currently are eight agencies operating in California, said Sonoma Clean Power spokeswoman Kate Kelly.

Sonoma Clean Power will be making several community presentations throughout the county beginning Wednesday at the Point Arena library from 6 to 8 p.m.

Sonoma Clean Power to Provide Electricity to Mendocino County in June, by Glenda Anderson, The Press Democrat, March 20, 2017.

 

Wind Energy Is Far Too Important to Let It Stall

As wind energy achieves a historic milestone – surpassing the total capacity of hydropower dams to become the nation’s largest renewable energy resource – many of California’s pioneer wind projects are in danger of shutting down.

Instead, California should promote the revival of these projects with state-of-the-art technology.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s first administration in the 1970s spawned the initial wave of utility-scale renewable energy, which launched the wind power industry globally. It is a testament to the early technology that most of the wind turbines installed in the 1980s were still in operation some 25 years later, withstanding conditions so tough that new turbine designs are often tested alongside.

Yet these new turbines convert wind into electricity twice as efficiently as the early turbines. Modern wind turbines are also 30 times larger in size and capacity, meaning that a single new one can replace approximately 30 older ones. At the Vasco project in Altamont Pass, 432 older turbines were replaced with just 34 new ones, tripling energy generation and dramatically reducing visual impact.

In addition, considerable technological enhancements since the early 1980s have made wind energy one of the most cost-competitive sources of electricity generation today. Wind energy now supplies more than 8 percent of the state’s power supply.

Ironically, circumstances could spell the demise of many of California’s earliest wind energy projects rather than spur their replacement with new ones.

The power purchase contracts that the state’s investor-owned utilities signed 30 years ago are now expiring when the utilities have no near-term demand for renewable electricity, despite the state’s long-term commitment to obtaining 50 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

The utilities bought more energy from new renewable energy plants than they needed to meet their pre-2020 targets, and they are increasingly losing customers to cities and counties that are buying power through “community choice aggregation” programs.

As a result, many landmark wind projects, primarily in the Palm Springs and Tehachapi Pass areas – which comprise about one-sixth of California’s total – are at risk of shutting down because short-term electricity prices are insufficient to keep them in good repair, much less repower them with modern technology. If forced to cease operations, they could lose transmission rights, making resurrecting the projects later far more difficult.

Letting this situation continue would be shortsighted. These projects were built in California’s prime wind resource areas and could double their electricity production with new technology, which can help power California’s fast-growing fleet of electric vehicles.

Development of new projects elsewhere in California would not be as good for ratepayers or the environment. As importantly, repowering these pioneer projects would sustain a local, specialized labor force, equipment suppliers and contractors while continuing to provide local and state tax revenue and other economic benefits.

While solar is now the fastest growing renewable resource in California, we need wind energy to diversify electricity generation. While solar generation peaks at midday, wind generates primarily in other hours. Together, these clean technologies can reduce our reliance on polluting fossil fuels. But ensuring the revitalization of California’s pioneer wind projects will require the state’s utilities and city and county power purchasers to act now.

Wind Energy Is Far Too Important to Let It Stall, by David Hochschild and Nancy Rader, Sacramento Bee, March 20, 2017.

San Jose Council Weighs Locally Controlled Clean Energy Plan

As part of a sweeping transformation in California’s energy market, Silicon Valley cities are forming locally controlled agencies that offer ratepayers a higher mix of renewable energy at a slightly lower cost.

On Tuesday, San Jose’s City Council will discuss a plan for shifting authority to buy and sell power from investor-owned utilities to a public model called “community choice aggregation.” While Pacific Gas & Electric—the state’s largest utility company—offers about 30 percent renewable power, the proposed community choice model could potentially provide much more.

Source: E&E News

Source: E&E News

San Jose would offer two pricing tiers, a default rate anywhere from 35 percent to half renewables or up to 100 percent for a premium.

Several other Bay Area cities have already adopted a similar program, setting a trend for the rest of the state. Residents from 12 local communities have signed on to Silicon Valley Clean Energy, the nonprofit tasked with running the energy agency.

As of this month, there are five operational community choice programs in California with another seven poised to launch this year. Within five years, says Kerrie Romanow, the city’s director of Environmental Services, about half the state’s power load could be served by these new local agencies.

A little more than a year ago, San Jose’s council directed city staff to put out a call for bids to develop, finance, launch and run a community choice program, tentatively titled San Jose Clean Energy.

Instead of signing on with other jurisdictions, the city plans to form its own community choice entity, with plans to get off the ground later this spring. PG&E would continue to deliver energy, but the city would decide which power plants to buy from.

PG&E customers would automatically get enrolled in the new energy program unless they opt out, Romanow says. The city would not only choose which sources and ratios of renewables to buy, but it would also set slightly lower rates. PG&E would keep charging the same rates for delivery.

Mary Collins, head of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, urged the city to include more specifics in its community choice plan about how it would add more green power to the grid. In a letter to the council, the league asked city officials to specify how it would offer discounted rates to lower-income households. The letter also stressed the importance of telling people about the program ahead of time so they aren’t caught off guard when they’re automatically enrolled later this year.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for March 21, 2017:

  • Our City Forest, the city-funded nonprofit that plants and cares for trees throughout San Jose, ended last year with a surplus but faces ongoing financial challenges, according to a new audit.
  • The city needs to spend about $259 million on public parks to bring them up to standard. But with funding shortfalls and a park maintenance staffing vacancy of 14 percent, meeting that need will remain a challenge.
  • Developers may soon have the option of paying into the St. James Park Management District, which would collect fees to pay for improvements and events to the city’s flagship park.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

San Jose Council Weighs Locally Controlled Clean Energy Plan, by Jennifer Wadsworth, San Jose Inside, March 20, 2017.

East Bay Community Energy Seeks Chief Executive Officer

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will report to the Board of Directors of East Bay Community Energy and will provide strategic leadership and direct all activities within the organization.

The CEO will coordinate all aspects of launching and operating the Community Choice program, and building it into an innovative enterprise that benefits Alameda County residents and businesses.

The CEO will have responsibility over the functional areas of power procurement, integrated resource planning, energy infrastructure development, internal operations, marketing, customer service, community stakeholder relations, finance, and regulatory and legislative affairs.

The CEO will work with numerous stakeholders including County residents, businesses, labor representatives, community groups, government officials, other CCA programs, regulatory bodies, and energy and utility experts. The CEO will utilize a combination of EBCE staff and contractor support, as may be needed to perform the required functions of EBCE.

The complete job notice is downloadable here.

PG&E Withdraws Proposal to Charge Community Choice Agencies for Diablo Canyon Closure Costs

In an email sent by PG&E to Parties to the Proceeding on February 27, PG&E announced that it is withdrawing its proposal to charge Community Choice Energy customers for the energy efficiency and renewable energy that they want to replace Diablo Nuclear Power Plant generation with. This is very good news for California’s Community Choice agencies and their customers.

In September 2016 the Center for Climate Protection submitted a formal protest letter that opposed charging Community Choice customers for replacing Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power with an alternative. Community Choice customers already pay a small fee for nuclear decommissioning. On top of the decommissioning fee, they also pay a Power Charge Indifference Adjustment fee that covers costs for already-purchased electricity that is no longer needed because the customers now receive their electricity from their Community Choice agency.

PG&E’s email states that “after careful review of the important feedback provided by parties in their January 27, 2017, opening testimony… PG&E is withdrawing… the proposal to implement the Clean Energy Charge…” The Clean Energy Charge was the proposed fee that would have been charged to all customers, including Community Choice customers, for future PG&E procurement costs.

The original proposal was initiated in the summer of 2016 by PG&E, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, Environment California, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, and the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility (the “Joint Parties”).

PG&E’s withdrawal will change only a part of the Joint Parties’ original proposal. The overall Application for closure is still in place, including the plan to procure 2,000 gigawatt-hours of energy efficiency to replace Diablo power.

When a community forms a Community Choice agency, one of its main purposes is to take local control of decision-making about energy sources for electricity. This proposal for Diablo Canyon would have undermined that purpose by re-introducing PG&E as a procurer of energy for them.

For information about Community Choice Energy development around the state visit www.cleanpowerexchange.org

For information on Diablo closure activities as they proceed, see CPUC docket A. 16-08-006.

For information on the Integrated Resource Planning see CPUC Rulemaking 16-02-007.

PG&E Narrows Scope of the CPUC Proceeding to Shut Down the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant by Unilaterally Withdrawing Its Procurement and Cost Allocation Requests

On February 27, 2017, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (“PG&E”) announced it is withdrawing several portions of its plan to close its 2.3 gigawatt Diablo Canyon Power Plant near San Luis Obispo by 2025. Specifically, PG&E has withdrawn its requests that the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) authorize PG&E to replace Diablo’s generation capacity with additional procurement of clean energy resources and to pass some of the costs of that procurement on to non-PG&E customers.

PG&E gave up on its procurement and cost allocation proposals because these proposals were widely criticized in opening testimony filed by intervening parties on January 27. But PG&E will very likely continue to pursue the same procurement and cost allocation proposals in different forums, in particular as part of the CPUC’s ongoing Integrated Resource Planning (“IRP”) Proceeding (R.16-02-007).

Background

As we detailed in a previous post, in June 2016, PG&E and several other parties, including some environmental groups and labor unions, sought CPUC approval of a Joint Proposal regarding the shutdown of Diablo Canyon. In the Joint Proposal, PG&E sought to offset the capacity lost from Diablo Canyon retirement through three replacement procurement steps, referred to as “tranches.”

Numerous parties opposed PG&E’s proposed three-tranche procurement approach. Among other things, the intervening parties argued that any replacement procurement necessary to replace Diablo Canyon (if any is needed at all) should be considered in connection with the ongoing IRP process. Many parties — particularly Community Choice Aggregators and Direct Access providers — also opposed PG&E’s proposed method of allocating the cost of replacement procurement through a new non-bypassable charge, which PG&E referred to as the “Clean Energy Charge.”

Based on widespread opposition, PG&E decided to withdraw its Tranche #2 proposal to procure a mix of energy efficiency and greenhouse gas (“GHG”)-free supply-side resources in 2025–2030 and its Tranche #3 proposal to procure GHG-free resources sufficient for PG&E to reach a 55% Renewables Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) target in 2031–2045. PG&E also withdrew its proposal to implement the Clean Energy Charge to recover the costs associated with Tranches #2 and #3.

As a result, the only procurement-related request that remains within the scope of the Diablo Canyon proceeding is PG&E’s Tranche #1 proposal to procure 2,000 GWh of energy efficiency resources by 2025 through a solicitation process beginning in June 2018.

Parties Will Continue to Address Procurement and Cost Allocation in the IRP and Other CPUC Proceedings 

In 2015, in Senate Bill 350, the California legislature mandated that the CPUC adopt an IRP process by 2017. The IRP process is intended to help optimize electric utilities’ long-term planning and procurement to achieve a variety of public policy goals, including a 50% RPS and a doubling of energy efficiency by 2030.

In its notice withdrawing portions of the Diablo Canyon application, PG&E called for the CPUC to “adopt a policy directive” in the Diablo application proceeding “that the output of Diablo Canyon be replaced with [GHG-]free resources, and that the responsibility for, definition of, and cost of these resources be addressed as a part of the IRP proceeding.” While such a “policy directive” would have limited practical effect, PG&E’s request underscores the importance of the ongoing IRP proceeding to the future procurement of renewables in California.

PG&E is also likely to continue to look for ways to pass on some of its procurement costs to other load serving entities through the implementation of “exit fees” or other non-bypassable charges. The importance of these non-bypassable charges (and the corresponding scrutiny of the methods used to develop such charges) only increases as more customers move from PG&E’s bundled service to alternatives such as community choice aggregation.

PG&E Narrows Scope of the CPUC Proceeding to Shut Down the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant by Unilaterally Withdrawing Its Procurement and Cost Allocation Requests, by Patrick J. Ferguson, Vidhya Prabhakaran and Emily P. Sangi, Lexology, February 28, 2017.

Exclusive: California’s Top Regulator Says It’s Time to Consider Full Retail Electricity Choice

As if California’s electric grid isn’t already changing fast enough, the state’s leading regulator says it’s probably time to change even faster.

In an interview on this week’s Interchange podcast, Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said that he believes the state should consider liberalizing its retail electricity market in order to broaden customer choice.

California electricity consumers are already facing more options than ever before as rooftop solar, community choice aggregation, community solar and demand response offerings spread. But the system is balkanized. Why not develop a cohesive market structure allowing consumers to more easily choose their energy retailer?

“The electric system is becoming increasingly variable. Both power and demand are no longer static,” said Picker, speaking on the podcast. “This gives people an enormous flexibility across a range of choices. Since we see this happening, the question is are there advantages to people to open it up to further choice and more third parties selling different kinds of convergent products?”

Picker has not developed a formal plan, or even a rough proposal. He is simply trying to start a conversation. This spring, the commission will hold a workshop about retail choice with utilities, community choice aggregators, third-party energy providers and consumer choice advocates. One of the themes, according to a draft agenda: “Towards a unified theory of customer choice.”

Picker expects the state’s utilities to have concerns. But he’s eager to hear their proposals: “I think they see the same thing I’m seeing, and they know something has to happen.”

So what would be the consequences of liberalizing California’s retail electricity market? And what can California learn from the 14 other states that have opened up retail choice?

Listen to the conversation by using the link below.

Wait! While listening, make sure to sign up for GTM’s event, California’s Distributed Energy Future on March 8-9 in San Francisco. Commissioner Picker will be there to elaborate more on retail choice. We’ll also dig deeper into how California’s grid rules and distributed energy business models are shaping up. And guess what? Interchange listeners get a 15 percent discount. Just use the promo code INTERCHANGE when checking out.

Exclusive: California’s Top Regulator Says It’s Time to Consider Full Retail Electricity Choice, by Stephen Lacey, GTM Squared, March 1, 2017.