Woodland Moving Ahead to Team up with ‘Energy Alliance’

In science circles, an erg is a unit of energy and work that by some definitions is the equivalent of one house fly performing one “push up.”

JIM SMITH-DAILY DEMOCRATCommunity Choice Advisory Committee Chairman Tom Flynn briefs the Woodland City Council on the advantages of joining the Valley Clean Energy Alliance recently.

Community Choice Advisory Committee Chairman Tom Flynn briefs the Woodland City Council on the advantages of joining the Valley Clean Energy Alliance recently. (JIM SMITH-DAILY DEMOCRAT)

By that standard, perhaps millions of ergs have been expended to prepare a report that recommends Woodland join the Valley Clean Energy Alliance to purchase power more cheaply and without going through Pacific Gas & Electric.

If all goes according to plan, the City Council was told this past week, Woodland could team up with the city of Davis and Yolo County within the next several months in preparation of for the February 2018 launch of the combined agency.

Last Tuesday, the council received a report from its Tom Flynn, chairman of the city’s Community Choice Energy Technical Advisory Committee, that made the recommendation after months of research and study.

If implemented, city energy users could see rates drop between 4 percent and 8 percent compared to those of PG&E. For the city of Woodland — which also buys its power from PG&E — the savings could be reinvested back into additional energy conservation programs or used for other purposes.

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 which took no formal action but is expected to do so in early May.

Roberta Childers, the city’s environmental sustainability manager, has indicated that if the city acts quickly it could have one or more seats on the board of directors for the Energy Alliance.

If the council decides to participate in a energy program, the City would need to commit funds toward program administrative costs and energy contracts. The City’s initial start-up investment is estimated to be in the range of $500,000, with the expectation of recovering those expenses over time through the customers’ payments for electricity. General Fund reserves represent the most likely funding source.

Under a Community Choice system local governments can buy develop power on behalf of their public facilities, residents, and businesses. The aims are to increase local choice in energy supply and provide electricity with high renewable energy content at electric rates that are competitive with those of the incumbent investor-owned utility, such as PG&E.

While a Community Choice system determines the sources of its power supply, sets customer rates, and develops programs and incentives, the utility continues to deliver the energy, maintain infrastructure, read meters, and bill the customers. Individual customers would have the ability to “opt out” of the program.

Participation has the potential to provide substantial economic benefits through the provision of favorable electricity rates and incentive programs tailored to local needs and could accelerate progress toward the Woodland’s Climate Action Plan targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

If the Council agrees joining the Energy Alliance it would need to complete a number of administrative steps by July 2017. Specifically, by May the city would need to notify Davis and Yolo County of its desire to be on the agency so those groups could grant approval.

Woodland Moving Ahead to Team up with ‘Energy Alliance’, by Jim Smith, Woodland Daily Democrat, April 23, 2017.

California Community Choice Association Quarterly Update Published

The April edition of Cal-CCA’s Quarterly update was released just as we were putting together this week’s e-news!

Cal-CCA is the official association of the 8+ Community Choice agencies in the state that work together to represent the interests of California’s Community Choice electricity providers and their customers.  Most of Cal-CCA’s work happens in the state legislature and at the relevant regulatory agencies, including the California Public Utilities Commission, California Energy Commission and California Air Resources Board.

The update includes highlights of activity since the last update was published in January, including news about the newest agencies: Apple Valley Choice Energy, Silicon Valley Clean Energy, and the Redwood Coast Energy Authority.

Download the Update HERE.

To make sure you don’t miss the next Update, click HERE.

 

Senate Bill 618 Amended

Threat removed for now, but vigilance required

At the request of Cal-CCA, SB 618, the bill that would have granted the CPUC greater regulatory authority over Community Choice agencies, was amended in the Senate Energy Committee on April 18 removing the most harmful element. Cal-CCA removed its opposition and the bill was approved in the committee unanimously. If the bill becomes a threat in the future we will post an action alert on our home page and in our e-news “News & Views.”

To learn more about the bill and to subscribe to official updates, click HERE.

 

 

Joint PCIA Working Group Releases Report April 5

Community Choice Agencies and Delivery Utilities also Issue Joint Petition to CPUC

In previous posts we have addressed the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA) and efforts to remedy some of the more troublesome aspects of it like volatility, longevity, and transparency. For background, our original paper on what the PCIA is can be downloaded here.

Over the past six months a Working Group led by representatives from Sonoma Clean Power and Southern California Edison met about once per month to examine the existing PCIA and to see if there may be a way forward on reforming the PCIA in a way that is equitable for all parties.

A full report of the activities of the Working Group and of the issues they discussed was published on April 5. Although much progress was made in participants’ understanding of the issues, no agreement was reached on any firm recommendations for PCIA reform or replacement.

Outcomes of the effort include:

  • A comprehensive list of issues related to the current PCIA
  • A list of ideas to improve transparency, data access, consistency, and predictability of the PCIA
  • A list of sources of publicly available data and a proposal to create a central database
  • A Joint Petition for Modification to develop a standardized format for IOUs to use when submitting PCIA filings

Also, several ideas for replacing the PCIA were discussed but not agreed upon as recommendations:

  • A portfolio allocation methodology to allocate share and cost between IOUs and CCAs
  • Lump-sum buy-out
  • Assignment of specific contracts to CCAs

The next steps in the process are that the CPUC will consider the Joint Petition for Modification. If they approve it as written, then going forward, IOUs will present their PCIA data as recommended in the Appendix of the Petition. They will present this in their future PCIA filings. It is likely that the CPUC will approve the Joint Petition due to the fact that they asked the joint parties to file a recommendation, it is supported by all three IOUs and four CCAs, and it is not controversial. It is not clear at this time what the next steps are regarding any further changes of substance to the PCIA.

PCIA matters are addressed within the Energy Resource Recovery Account proceeding at the CPUC. We will continue to post occasional updates here at the Clean Power Exchange.

MCE and Cenergy Announce Local and Union Labor Plan for New Solar Construction

Subcontractors Shortlisted to Provide Jobs to Build MCE Solar One

RICHMOND, CA – MCE has partnered with solar developer Cenergy Power to build the largest publicly-owned solar project in the Bay Area, MCE Solar One. The 49.5 acre, 10.5 MW ground mounted solar farm in Richmond will support 341 jobs and provide power for 3,417 homes per year.

The City of Richmond and MCE committed to a 50% local hire requirement to build MCE Solar One, guaranteeing local benefits through clean energy job creation. Representatives from the City of Richmond, MCE, Cenergy and RichmondBUILD met last week to announce the local labor plan.

The following subcontractors have been formally shortlisted to work on the MCE Solar One project, expected to employ workers for an estimated 69,000 man hours with 60% or more expected to be provided through union labor and 50% or more through local labor.

Contractor

Location

Union

Overaa Construction

Richmond

UBC (Local 152) and Laborers Union

Net Electric

Richmond

IBEW (Local 302) and Laborers Union (Local 324)

Newtron Group, Inc.

Martinez

IBEW (Local 302), Laborer’s Union (Local 324) and Lineman’s Union (Local 1245)

Contra Costa Electric

Martinez

Laborers Union (Local 324), IBEW (Local 302), Linemen’s Union (Local 1245) as well as the Steamfitters and Pipefitters Unions

Goebel Construction

Richmond

Laborers Union (Local 324), Operating Engineers (Local 3) and Steamfitters (Local 342)

Russel Pacific

Monterey

N/A

MCE also funds programs that provide local, working class residents with green collar job opportunities beyond the minimum wage economy that pay living wages and provide benefits. One such program that MCE partners with, RichmondBUILD, will train and hire local residents to provide labor for MCE Solar One.

“In today’s economic climate where many struggle with the rising cost of living in the Bay Area, MCE is committed to helping retain the diversity of our community by supporting the development and training of our local talent,” said MCE CEO Dawn Weisz. ”The Bay Area has a rich history of industrial labor and we believe those jobs can continue to thrive as they evolve into the cornerstone of California’s new, green economy.”

Cenergy Power’s CEO, William Pham, echoed similar sentiments. “The Solar One project will be a showcase of MCE’s commitment to local communities in its service area, and we are looking forward to working with the City of Richmond and our local workforce on this project.”

Beyond MCE’s local efforts, the 2,800 in-state jobs and 1.2 million union labor hours provided by its 24 new California renewable energy projects have built the structures that will help the state reach its ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals. The increased demand for non-polluting, renewable resources that MCE and its sister agencies are creating not only impact our environment for the better, it truly changes lives every day.

###

AboutMCE: MCEisanot-for-profit,publicelectricityproviderthatgivescustomersthechoiceof having 50% to 100% of their electricity supplied from clean, renewable sources such as solar, wind, bioenergy, geothermal and hydroelectric at competitive rates. MCE provides service to 255,000 California customers in Marin County, Napa County and the cities of Benicia, El Cerrito, Lafayette, Richmond, San Pablo, and Walnut Creek. By choosing MCE, customers help support new in-state and local renewable energy projects and jobs. For more information, visit www.mcecleanenergy.org

About Cenergy: Cenergy Power is a leading solar developer focused on the utility, agriculture and commercial markets throughout the United States. Cenergy is comprised of seasoned professionals in the areas of engineering, construction management and project financing. Solar Power World, a leading industry publication, has consistently ranked Cenergy among the top 10 commercial solar providers in the nation. For more information visit www.cenergypower.com

MCE and Cenergy Announce Local and Union Labor Plan for New Solar Construction, by Jamie Tuckey, MCE, April 17, 2017.

California Solar Spike Leads to Negative CAISO Real-Time Prices in March

Dive Brief:

  • Solar capacity on the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) system spiked last year, leading to negative prices at times when output is highest but demand is not.
  • According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, total solar capacity in California (including both distributed and utility-scale systems) grew from less than 1 GW in 2007 to nearly 14 GW by the end of last year.
  • The rapid growth has led to low power prices in March, when energy demand is relatively low and solar production is high. On one day last month, real-time CAISO prices dipped below $0/MWh for roughly six hours, EIA said.

Dive Insight:

There is more evidence that the rapid growth of renewable energy is causing upheavals in organized power markets.

Power prices in CAISO plummeted last month, at times going negative, compared with average prices from $14/MWh to $45/MWh during the same time periods in recent years.

EIA explains the negative prices materialize when generators with high shut-down or restart costs are forced to compete with other generators to avoid operating below equipment minimum ratings or shutting down completely.

“Large price spikes immediately before and after mid-day periods when both utility-scale and distributed solar generation reaches its peak level suggest a need for dispatchable generation sources to help cover ramping periods, when the need for power from the grid to meet load is rapidly changing,” EIA concluded.

While gas displacing coal-fired generation has become a familiar story, the growth of renewable power in some markets has begun to pressure gas generators as well. Last year the La Paloma gas plant in California filed for bankruptcy.

In Texas, inexpensive wind energy has been hurting independent power producers with gas-fired facilities. The state now gets more energy from wind farms than nuclear plants, and as the fuel-free resource is dispatched first it has driven down energy prices, cutting revenues for IPPs.

Utilities in CAISO last year reported 5.4 GW of net-metered distributed solar capacity at the end of last year. According to EIA, that capacity would have generated approximately 4 million kWh during the peak solar hours on March 11.

“This level of electricity reduced the metered demand on the grid by about the same amount, suggesting that the total solar share of gross demand probably exceeded 50% during the mid-day hours,” EIA concluded. But it also caused prices to drop into negative territory for hours:

Credit: EIA

Low and negative pricing in CAISO today could be a sign of things to come for the state. California utilities are under a legislative mandate to increase renewable energy to 50% of their power mix by 2030.

California Solar Spike Leads to Negative CAISO Real-Time Prices in March, by Robert Walton, Utility Dive, April 10, 2017.

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 SB 618 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. You can read the Center for Climate Protection’s opposition letter here.

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 at: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB618

The Senate Energy Committee Roster is below. Each name is hyperlinked to that Senator’s website. Call their office to register your opposition to SB 618.

Senator Ben Hueso (Chair)  (916) 651-4040
Senator Mike Morrell (Vice Chair)  916.651.4023
Senator Steven Bradford  (916) 651-4035
Senator Anthony Cannella  916.651.4012
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg  (916) 651-4018
Senator Jerry Hill  (916) 651-4013
Senator Mike McGuire  916-651-4002
Senator Nancy Skinner  (916) 651-4009
Senator Henry I. Stern  (916) 651-4027
Senator Andy Vidak  (916) 651-4014
Senator Scott D. Wiener  (916) 651-4011

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.