Yolo County Partners with SMUD – A New Model of Community Choice Development?

As Community Choice agencies spring up around the state, they are experimenting with various new business models. As they do, they are functioning as innovation incubators.

Valley Clean Energy Alliance (VCEA), a new Community Choice agency comprised of the Cities of Davis and Woodland and unincorporated Yolo County, is using an approach not previously tried in California. Rather that contracting with a private electric service provider, VCEA is contracting with their neighbor SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Utility District) to provide these and other services.

According to VCEA board member and Yolo Supervisor Don Saylor, the relationship with SMUD began ten years ago when Yolo County tried through a ballot measure to be served by SMUD. The measure, fiercely opposed by PG&E to the tune of over $9M, was defeated. Even so, through the campaign SMUD professionals and Yolo County elected officials and staff developed a healthy appreciation for each other.

Saylor said that VCEA did not start out with a plan to partner with SMUD. VCEA put out a request for proposals (RFP) for an array of services including energy procurement, technical service, a call center, and community outreach. At the same time, they started conversations with SMUD and encouraged them to respond to the RFP.

The costs of going with SMUD versus other private contractors that bid on the RFP were comparable. But Saylor said that the comprehensive nature of the services that SMUD provided created efficiencies that were attractive to the board. SMUD’s work in the public interest and their transparency and accountability were also seen as beneficial by VCEA’s board. The vote to move forward with SMUD was unanimous among the 15 voting elected officials. On October 12, VCEA approved the implementation plan and the master service agreement with SMUD. VCEA’s proposed launch date is June 2018.

Saylor foresees that the partnership with SMUD will give VCEA on day one capacities in energy procurement and related services that other Community Choice agencies must develop over time. VCEA plans to hire a general manager and three to five staff, mostly for contract management. The staffing plan is still under development. He emphasized that VCEA would retain governance, rate setting and policy functions, as well as accountability to customers. VCEA has also contracted with Circlepoint to handle community outreach and maintain some independence from SMUD.

When asked how the relationship with SMUD and VCEA’s staff would impact the development of local resources, Saylor responded that the relationship would actually accelerate their deployment. He pointed out that Yolo County already has a strong track record of developing local resources, and argued that if VCEA has a solid administrative and operational foundation with SMUD, it will free up board and staff time to develop local projects.

Saylor noted that VCEA has participated as an affiliate member of CalCCA, the Community Choice trade association, and that he anticipates they will be a full member after launch.  Having SMUD as a contract partner should enhance Community Choice agencies’ standing in Sacramento with the legislature because of the respect SMUD enjoys with state policymakers. This could prove important going forward. Proposed state legislation this year would have severely harmed Community Choice. This legislation didn’t pass, but will likely return in 2018.

Mitch Sears, interim General Manager for VCEA, agrees that SMUD’s experience, capabilities, and orientation toward advanced energy solutions will “give them a jump start” in local resource deployment. Sears felt that “this kind of partnership with a public utility seems like a natural fit, because of the alignment around public service. It might be a useful approach for others to consider.” He also sees potential not only in partnering with SMUD, but also with the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center and other municipal partners.

Gerry Braun, a member of the VCEA Advisory Committee and founder of the nonprofit Integrated Renewable Energy Systems Network that supports the development of local clean energy resources, was more measured in his assessment of the potential for SMUD to accelerate the development of local energy resources. He said that although SMUD has done quite a bit of research and development regarding local energy resources, they have actually implemented less per capita than Davis and Woodland have.

Braun explained that strong local energy management capacity is the key ingredient for developing local energy resources. He is skeptical that a vertically integrated utility like SMUD has both experience and motivation to perform well on local resource development. He said the partnership was “an opportunity to do really well and stay focused on the core CCA business, but maybe not develop the full transformative potential of the enterprise.”

Although SMUD has tremendous capacity as an electric service provider, they may not be as experienced as other contractors in dealing with PG&E and particularly that utility’s complicated rate setting and billing system.

The future will show whether VCEA’s partnership with SMUD enhances their capacity to develop local programs and resources, and is a model to emulate.

Yolo County Partners with SMUD – A New Model of Community Choice Development?, by Barry Vesser, Center for Climate Protection, October 18, 2017.

 

 

Nonprofit Moves Forward on New ‘Net Energy’ Housing in Woodland

For local nonprofit Mutual Housing California, the recent allocation of nearly $10.8 million in tax credits means that the organization can move forward on the positive net energy phase of Mutual Housing at Spring Lake in Woodland.

Like the first phase, the second phase of the community on Farmers Central Road will be built as year-round affordable housing for agricultural workers and their families, according to Dell Richards of Dell Richards Publicity.

The recent funding from California State Treasurer John Chiang’s office is the last piece of the financing puzzle that the Sacramento-based developer has been waiting for.

“Securing funding for affordable housing is extremely challenging,” said Rachel Iskow, Mutual Housing California chief executive officer. “We are relieved that funding has come through and that we can start construction on the positive net energy phase of the community.”

Mutual Housing received $3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $1.5 million from the city of Woodland for the development.

“Financial commitments from the City of Woodland and the USDA made it possible for us to obtain tax credits in this highly competitive program,” stated Iskow.

Few other rental developments nationwide use solar and achieve zero-net energy, much less positive net energy.

“Positive Net Energy” means that the community will create more energy than it uses through high-efficiency building methods and materials, solar panels, energy-saving appliances and technology in each home as well as resident participation in an energy-saving lifestyle, stated Richards.

Known as Mutual Housing at Spring Lake, the initial 61 apartments and town homes were the first multifamily rental development certified as zero-net energy in the nation by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The development also was the first LEED Platinum-certified homes for multifamily housing in Woodland.

In 2002, Mutual Housing became the first developer to install solar photovoltaic systems at a multi-family rental development in Sacramento County. All of its new developments produce solar energy.

Mutual Housing currently has solar energy on 12 of its 19 communities in Woodland, Sacramento and Davis.

The nonprofit also has used green building techniques while designing and constructing new developments and renovating all older ones.

In the process, they have tested and worked with new technology as part of the sustainable vision that is the core of its mission, Richards stated.

Construction on the second phase of Mutual Housing at Spring Lake should start early next year and be completed by early 2019.

Founded in 1988, Mutual Housing California develops, operates and advocates for sustainable housing for the diversity of the region’s households.

A member of NeighborWorks America — a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization that supports community development nationwide — Mutual Housing has more than 3,200 residents, nearly half of whom are children.

Nonprofit Moves Forward on New ‘Net Energy’ Housing in Woodland, by Democrat staff, Woodland Daily Democrat, October 5, 2017.

Wells Fargo Commits Funding to UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center

UC Davis’ Energy Efficiency Center announced early Wednesday that Wells Fargo has renewed its support with a commitment of $500,000 over the next four years.

Funds will support operational and programmatic needs of the center, including its new Energy Graduate Group program.

“The EEC is working hard to find innovative, sustainable solutions to key energy and environmental issues of the 21st century and beyond,” said Barry Neal, co-head of Wells Fargo’s Renewable Energy and Environmental Finance Group and member of center’s board of advisers. “We are thrilled to support the EEC’s efforts to solve critical energy challenges, improve energy use, and to train future leaders in energy. Their work fills a critical need within the energy industry in California and around the world.”

“We are grateful to Wells Fargo for its sponsorship and support over the past five years and are honored and delighted to have its renewed commitment,” expressed Benjamin Finkelor, executive director of the center. “In fact, Wells Fargo is the first of our leadership sponsors to renew its support as we transition from a center to an Institute and launch what is poised to be a world-leading graduate program in energy systems.”

Critical to the center’s success has been its relationship with and support from key leadership sponsors, like Wells Fargo, Finkelor stated. Leadership sponsors are vital to the center as they enable the Center to fulfill its mission to bring together the world’s best minds to realize sustainable energy solutions through the support of key research, education, and outreach initiatives.

Leadership sponsors also serve as members of the center’s board of advisers, providing insight and advice on research and engagement opportunities and funding strategies.

One of the programs benefiting from Wells Fargo’s $500,000 commitment is the center’s new Energy Graduate Group which next month will welcome its inaugural class of 16 students working toward an master of science or doctorate in energy systems.

The Energy Graduate Group will provide students the interdisciplinary training required to address the pressing energy, environmental, economic, policy and social challenges facing California, the U.S., and the world.

This latest commitment brings Wells Fargo’s overall support of UC Davis to more than $1.7 million, supporting important programs and initiatives in agriculture, food, the environment, arts/culture, health and community development.

Wells Fargo Commits Funding to UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center, by Democrat staff, Daily Democrat, September 6, 2017.

Sacramento Airport Adds Electric Buses and an On-Site Solar Farm

Sacramento International Airport took another step this month in its effort to transition its operations to clean energy use, winning a federal grant for a fleet of electric shuttle buses.

The $2 million grant will pay half the cost of five shuttle buses and charging stations. The Proterra buses will go into operation next year, taking fliers between parking lots, terminals and car rental facilities.

The airport also plans to open a large on-site solar farm this year which will produce up to one-third of the facility’s electrical needs, officials said.

The buses and solar facility will reduce airport costs and lighten the airport’s environmental footprint, officials said. The solar farm is expected to save $850,000 year.

The new buses will supplement the airport’s existing fleet, which runs on compressed natural gas. “In the long run, it is much more economical to run electric vehicles, and at the same time we are not contributing to greenhouse gas emissions,” spokeswoman Laurie Slothower said.

Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui said the move is part of a bigger effort in Sacramento to build infrastructure that also protects the environment.

“This is part of ongoing efforts at the airport and across our entire community to invest in clean transportation and make Sacramento a hub of travel and commerce,” Matsui said in an emailed statement to The Bee. “ I commend the airport for working to implement next-generation technology and embracing innovative transportation solutions in our region.”

Sacramento Airport Adds Electric Buses and an On-Site Solar Farm, by Tony Bizjak, The Sacramento Bee, September 18, 2017.

Electric Vehicle Owners Join up to Advocate, Share Info

There’s a new group in town — the Davis Electric Vehicle Association!

As an affiliated sub-group of the Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association (SacEV), a chapter of the national nonprofit Electric Auto Association, DEVA advocates for electric vehicle adoption and supports the development of EV infrastructure regionally.

DEVA is a special kind of car club made up of electric vehicle owners, prospective owners and enthusiasts from the Davis and Sacramento area and is a working group of Cool Davis.

DEVA held its first meeting, hosted by members of SacEv and Cool Davis, on Aug. 27, when 24 members gathered to share stories and enthusiasm for alternative fuel vehicles.

At upcoming DEVA events, community members can experience EVs from behind the wheel. Johan Verink/Courtesy photo

“I can do anything I need to do around town (in my Volt), and I don’t need gas,” said member Katrina Sutton, a program analyst for the Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center at UC Davis. “It’s just awesome!”

Sutton said she joined DEVA because she likes to talk to people “who are on the fence” about EVs, while encouraging EV adoption and sharing stories with fellow EV owners. She sees DEVA as an opportunity to “encourage people to reduce emissions and join the community in a fun way.”

DEVA meetings will host guest speakers presenting on various EV topics. The group’s first meeting featured Robert Haran’s presentation on vehicle-to-grid technology, a potential way for plug-in EVs to transfer energy back and forth to the grid.

Members discussed future meeting guest speakers (possibly from Tesla) and topics such as EV market updates, the Valley Clean Energy Alliance, EV charging and battery care, PG&E EV charging station rollouts and EV travel stories.

The group also proposed fun events like a Davis EV parade and field trips to the California Independent System Operator and the Wind Farm.

First up is an EV Show & Tell from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, on Fourth Street between C and D streets, adjacent to the Farmers Market. The event will feature ride-and-drive opportunities with dealer vehicles and several workshops, including “EV 101 — What EV is Right For Me?,” “Charging Levels, Power and Your Electricity Bill,” “EV/PV Driving on Sunshine!” and “EV Future — New Tech, Battery Backup and Autonomous Vehicles.”

Ride-and-drive vehicles will include Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt and Volt, Honda Clarity, BMW i3, Ford Focus, Ford Cmax and Ford Fusion.

Show-and-tell vehicles will include Fiat 500e, Honda Clarity, Kia Soul, Tesla S and X, Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Rav 4.

DEVA also plans to host an EV/PV Home Tour on Sunday, Oct. 22. Details will be forthcoming.

DEVA plans to meet every other month; the next meeting will be in October, with the date, time and location to be announced. For more information, email deva@cooldavis.org.

More resources:

* National Drive Electric Week: https://driveelectricweek.org
* Sacramento Electric Vehicle Association: https://www.saceva.org/cars

Electric Vehicle Owners Join up to Advocate, Share Info, by Jessica Driver, The Davis Enterprise, September 14, 2017.

Where Is Community Energy Going?

Yolo County’s new community choice energy agency recently approved negotiation with SMUD for a set of technical services designed to get the agency online by June next year.

The Valley Clean Energy Alliance’s current staff consists of city and county employees borrowed from local sustainability programs, essentially a zero-sum game that may limit rather than facilitate local clean energy resource development.

The borrowed team would retain local managerial control, in theory, but it would be increasingly dependent on the advice and expertise of the SMUD team.

We can be encouraged that the VCEA board has finally taken a decisive step after a primarily political process that has taken too long. It spent 18 months organizing a joint power authority comprising the cities of Davis and Woodland as well as Yolo County. According to the technical study commissioned by Davis and presented to the Davis City Council in early 2016, the process from that point to serving customers could have taken six to nine months.

Now, a year and a half later, according to information presented at the Aug. 31 VCEA board meeting, the target date for serving customers is still 10 months in the future. One apparent reason for the lengthy delay is that VCEA has yet to appoint a permanent chief executive officer or recruit for any other managerial positions. VCEA interviewed CEO candidates but for unexplained reasons abandoned the effort without choosing anyone.

A similar agency involving many more participating jurisdictions and customers, East Bay Community Energy serving Alameda County, had a CEO in place within three months. East Bay is accepting applications for a chief operating officer and other permanent positions.

Again, for unexplained reasons, VCEA set up a citizen advisory committee including local energy sector experts, but did not call a meeting until last week, after the SMUD proposal had already been chosen by staff and consultants to recommend to the board.

One of the VCEA directors admitted to me that the SMUD deal will allow the agency to operate indefinitely without a permanent CEO. But how well has this worked so far? Is it a good idea going forward?

In summary, Davis and Yolo County have become enmeshed in a political process rather than the business planning process any private-sector startup would have in place before engaging contractors. VCEA will be committing resources without a plan and without appropriately experienced management in place.

With this easy-going approach, will we get what we want from our community energy agency? For example, will we get 100 percent locally produced renewable energy in the county as soon as possible? Such transformational outcomes are what make VCEA worth doing. Achieving them is a tall order that will require exemplary and aggressive planning and management.

Community Choice is a competitive public business that must be managed as such. VCEA should recognize the need for an accountable, permanent management team to be in place while the contract with SMUD is negotiated.

Then, the VCEA management team can turn its attention to other requirements of the Community Choice formation process, including development of a proper business plan.

— Mark Braly and Alan Pryor are members of the city’s Natural Resources Commission and of its advisory committee, which recommended a community energy agency.

Where Is Community Energy Going?, by Mark Braly and Alan Pryor, The Davis Enterprise, September 10, 2017.

Valley Clean Energy Alliance Selects SMUD to Provide Energy Services

Sacramento Municipal Utility District has been selected to negotiate a services agreement to provide Valley Clean Energy Alliance with technical and energy services, data management/call center services, wholesale energy services, credit support services and up to five years of business operations support.

VCEA—a new community choice aggregation joint powers agency—is set to begin serving electricity customers located within the cities of Davis and Woodland and unincorporated areas of Yolo County in the summer of 2018. VCEA’s mission is to deliver cost-competitive clean electricity, price stability, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reductions.

This is SMUD’s first services agreement in the fast-growing CCA market.

“We’re excited that VCEA has chosen SMUD to help launch and operate the first CCA in our region,” said SMUD CEO and General Manager Arlen Orchard. “We have the operational knowledge and technical expertise to help VCEA hit the ground running on day one and be successful over the long term.”

“VCEA was fortunate to have a number of very capable service providers to choose from,” said Don Saylor, Yolo County Supervisor and VCEA Board Chair.  “However, with their depth of expertise, cost competitive proposal, and close alignment with VCEA’s Mission, the exceptional value of SMUD’s proposal was clear. We’re eager to get started.”

CCAs are a means for cities, counties and some special districts to buy power for their communities. Also known as Community Choice Energy, the ability to form them was created with state legislation in 2002.

They can be formed only in the service territories of Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric. By the end of 2017, approximately 13 CCAs will be operating in California. More than 20 additional communities are considering CCAs.

All customers are enrolled in their CCA unless they opt-out. The CCA purchases the power for their customers and typically offers renewable energy choices such as solar and wind power. The IOU still delivers the power over its transmission and distribution systems and is responsible for providing customers with a single electric bill.

CCAs typically contract with third parties to handle most of the activities required to launch and operate.

SMUD is entering the CCA services market because it wants to support organizations with values closely aligned with its own. These values include local decision making, affordable rates, greenhouse gas reduction, energy efficiency and a not-for-profit, public-power business model, among others.

The revenue SMUD earns from providing services to VCEA will help SMUD invest in building out a modern energy grid that can successfully integrate more distributed and renewable energy sources and meet evolving customer needs, as well as improve the technology that SMUD customers use to monitor and manage their energy use.

Valley Clean Energy Alliance Selects SMUD to Provide Energy Services, by Staff, Electric Light & Power, September 1, 2017.

Yolo’s New Energy Initiative Gets Some Expert Support

A regional giant in the energy industry, the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, is set to give a hand to Yolo County’s up-and-coming community choice energy program, the Valley Clean Energy Alliance, after a partnership between the two was solidified Thursday.

With a seal approval from VCEA’s board of directors, SMUD was selected to provide technical and energy services, data management, call center and credit support services, and up to five years of business operations support as VCEA launches.

Plans for VCEA have been gaining momentum since the Davis City Council voted to launch the program in March 2016. The new program will roll out a locally controlled energy program to distribute at least 50 percent renewable energy to residences and businesses.

VCEA will operate as a nonprofit that will manage service rates and leverage the city and county’s purchasing power to acquire renewable energy.

SMUD is the nation’s sixth largest community-owned electric service provider, serving 1.4 million customers across a 900-square-mile service area. SMUD has been servicing Sacramento County as well as parts of Yolo and Placer counties for the past 65 years.

“VCEA was fortunate to have a number of very capable service providers to choose from,” said Don Saylor, a Yolo County supervisor and VCEA board chair. “With their depth of expertise, cost-competitive proposal and close alignment with VCEA’s mission, the exceptional value of SMUD’s proposal was clear. We’re eager to get started.”

Responded Arlen Orchard, SMUD’s CEO and general manager, “We have the operational knowledge and experience to help VCEA hit the ground running from day one, and we’re going to work very hard to help them be successful.”

The SMUD partnership is aimed at helping VCEA get off the ground during its first few years. VCEA will be focused on the energy generation and local rates for energy, where SMUD will be helping with back-office work and power purchasing.

“The fundamental difference is that SMUD is a contractor for these services. … This is not part of annexation, to be very clear,” said Mitch Sears, sustainability manager for the city of Davis.

Meanwhile, the new electricity will flow through infrastructure owned by PG&E, which will continue its distribution and billing services.

As the local energy program gears up for a summer 2018 launch, locals can expect outreach efforts leading up to the initial energy deliveries. All residents will be automatically enrolled in the program, but will have ample opportunity to opt out and remain with PG&E if they wish to do so.

Yolo’s New Energy Initiative Gets Some Expert Support, by Felicia Alvarez, The Davis Enterprise, September 3, 2017.

More Than 150 Homes Made More Energy and Water Efficient

When the Yolo County Board of Supervisors voted to approve Property Assessed Clean Energy financing, the goal was to help local homeowners make energy- and water-efficiency, and renewable-energy upgrades that can lower utility bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create local jobs.

To date, through the state’s largest PACE provider, HERO, 151 homeowners in Yolo County have made 320 energy efficiency, water efficiency or solar power improvements to their homes. HERO is just one of several PACE providers in the area.

PACE enables homeowners to make energy and efficiency improvements and to pay for them over time at a fixed interest rate through an additional line item on their property taxes.

The resources saved through PACE-financed efficiency upgrades are significant. In Yolo County, HERO-financed home upgrades are on track to save homeowners $6.6 million in utility bills over the expected useful life of the products installed.

The county’s homeowners are also projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 6,600 tons, which is the equivalent of taking more than 1,390 passenger vehicles off the road for a year. HERO water conservation improvements are projected to save 7.4 million gallons of water.

“In addition to making their homes more comfortable, Yolo County homeowners are saving energy and water, and creating jobs in the local economy through this public policy success,” said Robert Bendorf, market development manager at Renovate America, the company that administers HERO. “With summer temperatures and rising utility bills upon us, now is a practical time for homeowners to make their homes more energy and water efficient.”

Since PACE became available in 2015, Yolo County has experienced a boost to the local economy. HERO-funded home improvements have generated $6.4 million in new economic activity. By stimulating home renovations, PACE increases demand for local contractor services. As a result, HERO financing is now supporting an estimated 31 regional jobs through this boost. Many of these jobs, like those in the local construction sector, cannot be automated or outsourced.

In Woodland, renovation and efficiency projects have been completed in more than 50 homes with the help of HERO financing.

Because of the public-private nature of this financing option, PACE offers consumer safeguards that go beyond those found with other forms of home-improvement financing. All residential PACE providers in California must provide homeowners with written disclosures modeled on the federal “Know-Before-You-Owe” forms for mortgage lending. HERO financing also requires that all customers confirm that they understand their financing terms in a recorded phone call with a HERO representative. In addition, all contractors who make PACE-financed improvements must have an active license and be in good standing with relevant state licensing boards – as well as maintain insurance and an ability to meet bonding requirements. A new data-driven contractor quality rating system tracks customer satisfaction and removes contractors that don’t maintain good ratings to ensure consumers receive top-quality service and fair market pricing.

Yolo County and other California homeowners pay 41 percent more for electricity, on average, than homeowners nationwide. In May of this year, local homeowners were paying, on average, 18.3 cents per kWh, compared to just 13 cents nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Collectively, HERO homeowners in the Northern California Region will save $91 million on their energy bills over the lifetime of their installed products.

The program launched the clean energy program in October 2015.

HERO PACE financing enables homeowners to make energy- and water-efficiency improvements and pay for them through their property tax bill. Property owners repay the assessment over 5- to 20 years while obtaining immediate savings on utility bills. Residents of Davis, West Sacramento and Woodland, and of the unincorporated areas of Yolo County, may now submit applications for HERO financing.

Given the State of California’s newly adopted regulations aimed at reducing urban water consumption by 25 percent, PACE financing is becoming a particularly appealing option for homeowners looking to conserve water in their yards and homes.

The city of Winters launched the HERO Program in June 2015. All told, this financing program is now available to more than 75,000 households in Yolo County.

A wide variety of energy-saving products are available through HERO as well, including solar panel installations, whole-home heating and cooling systems, energy-saving windows and doors, roofing and insulation.

More Than 150 Homes Made More Energy and Water Efficient, by Staff, Daily Democrat, August 17, 2017.

Valley Clean Energy Alliance Powering up an Aggressive Schedule

Editor’s note: Elements of this story originally published on Thursday, July 27 were in error. This updated story corrects and clarifies those errors.

By Hans Peter

hpeter@dailydemocrat.com @WDD_Hans on Twitter

In an effort to source cleaner energy for local customers, Woodland officially took part in their third meeting of the Valley Clean Energy Alliance this week.

The VCEA originally derived from the city of Davis and Yolo County in December 2016. Woodland joined the organization in June, adding mayor Angel Barajas and Councilman Tom Stallard to the board.

Joining means Woodland has plugged into Community Choice Energy. Under this system, involved customers — homeowners and business — may choose to opt “in” or “out” in regards to sourcing their electricity from a variety of companies, including wind and solar providers. The county would continue to use Pacific Gas & Electric infrastructure (transmission, billing services), but the power running through the lines to each individual home could be sourced from more renewable sources.

Should the VCEA favor some power sources over others, excess rate payer money will go toward expanding that power source locally.

The Alliance’s joint powers authority — which is made up of members from the county along with Davis and Woodland — laid out an aggressive timeline last year. Tuesday’s meeting was designed as a public hearings and information exchanged on where the program is headed.

Board members have yet to hire a chief executive officer, though that search has progressed recently, according to a staff update.

The light-speed schedule has encountered some issues, but board members, advisers and the general public alike agreed that additional public outreach needed to get underway before any large steps be taken.

“I have a lot of people who are skeptical already,” said Yolo District 5 Supervisor Duane Chamberlain, an acting member of the VCEA board. “I want to see some numbers.”

Chamberlain said most of the calls he’s received have come from those in unincorporated communities like Esparto, who have had less involvement in the setup of the project and less information regarding rates.

Granted, rates are subject to the market; projected energy rates could change between now and the “flip of the switch” June of next year. The VCEA must buy power contracts before implementing prices.

According to VCEA Chairman Don Saylor, recent projections suggest CCE contracted rates could be lower than existing PG&E rates. Moreover, customers may be able to choose from perhaps three different “packages” with different mixes of renewable and non-renewable energy; this could result in a more expensive bill, but some customers may pay extra to reflect their own priorities by choosing a 100 percent renewably-sourced package, for example. Granted, the VCEA has not formed such package options as of yet.

“We have to be priced competitively,” Saylor said. “Some (customers) will be making their decision solely on pricing.”

A company called “Circlepoint” will be in charge of outreach, creating the VCEA image that will reach the mailboxes of residents and ultimately, their power grids.

Before implementation, customers — all residents and businesses managed under the agreement — will be sent notification letters. Those letters allow residents to opt out of the agreement, meaning their power supply would continue normally.

“We do need to engage the people themselves,” said Saylor.

The VCEA is also working with public advisers, who are acting as sounding boards for public concerns.

Each element of the JPA appointed those individuals with hopes of creating a spread of experience and community voices in Davis, Woodland and countywide.

Those nine people also act as representatives for the affected communities.

At Tuesday’s meeting, some of those public representatives seemed concerned that without understanding the pricing and dates of the “switch,” residents will opt out instead of opting in.

Robb Davis, mayor of Davis, said the advisers would be key to the agreement’s success.

“I think the purpose of the advisory committee … is right on,” he said. “(They are a) critical accountability and transparency layer.”

Contact Hans Peter at 530-406-6238.

Valley Clean Energy Alliance Powering up an Aggressive Schedule, by Hans Peter, Woodland Daily Democrat, July 27, 2017.