Public to Get First Look at Community Choice Energy Proposal

A public information session has been scheduled for Woodland’s planned participation in a Community Choice Energy program.

The 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, meeting at the Woodland Community & Senior Center is designed to explain how Community Choice Energy works, why local governments are forming their own CCE’s, and how residents and businesses will be affected.

Members of the city’s Community Choice Energy Advisory Committee are inviting all interested residents to this informational meeting and hear about the options being considered by the city as a means of not only reducing power bills but also the dependence on Pacific Gas & Electric.

It was only this past Tuesday that Committee Chairman Tom Flynn, briefed the City Council on the progress made toward having the city link up with Yolo County and the city of Davis as part of their Valley Clean Energy Alliance program.

In his briefing, Flynn said the concept behind “community choice energy” is basically that local groups buy and supply power independently of PG&E, and then PG&E delivers that power to customers.

This permits the local group to negotiate for so-called “cleaner” energy, which in turn can reduce the carbon footprint of a community. As well, any profits made through the purchase and sale of the energy stays in the community. It’s been estimated that Woodland residents could see a drop in their power rates ranging from 4 to 8 percent under a Community Choice Energy system.

PG&E, meanwhile, partners with a CCE to operate and maintain the distribution and transmission system, read meters, bill the customers, and provide outage response.

“The aims of CCEs are to increase local decision-making in energy supply and programs while providing electricity with a high percentage of renewable energy content at electric rates that are competitive with those of the utility,” according to city officials.

At the public meeting, members of the City Council-appointed CCE Advisory Committee will provide an overview of CCEs and discuss the committee’s ongoing efforts to evaluate the pros and cons of joining Valley Clean Energy Alliance.

Following the presentation, committee members, city staff, and City Council members will be available for informal question and answer session. Attendees are encouraged to bring questions and ideas to help ensure that the committee is considering all issues of relevance to the community before presenting its report and recommendation to the council on April 18.

Concerning Valley Clean Energy Alliance, Flynn told the council the group is planning a 2018 launch and has welcomed Woodland’s inclusion. Woodland has until April 18 to get its report ready so a final decision can be made 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 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 city created the ad hoc advisory committee in November 2016. Among its 14 members are Woodland Mayor Angel Barajas and Councilman Tom Stallard.

Public to Get First Look at Community Choice Energy Proposal, by Jim Smith, Woodland Daily Democrat, March 23, 2017.

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.

Woodland Community Choice Energy Technical Advisory Committee Meeting

The city of Woodland continues to evaluate Community Choice Energy and will hold a meeting of their Technical Advisory Committee on Wednesday, March 29. The city of Davis and Yolo County currently form the Valley Clean Energy Alliance, Woodland would be the third jurisdiction to join the Joint Powers Authority.

Wednesday, March 29: 6:30 p.m. The city of Woodland and Community Choice Energy Technical Advisory Committee invite community members to attend a presentation and Q&A opportunity at a public meeting on CCE and the ongoing evaluation of Woodland’s potential participation in a CCE program. The meeting will be held in Meeting Room 2, Woodland Community & Senior Center, 2001 East Street. For more information, please contact Reyna Piñon at 661-2063 or visit www.cityofwoodland.org/cce.

Environmental update: April brings Greener Davis workshops

April 22 marks the 47th anniversary of the first Earth Day! In celebration of this occasion, please join us for a series of environmental classes that promise to be nothing short of literary masterpieces (or at least educational and entertaining).

All classes will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Game Room at the Veterans Memorial Center, 203 E. 14th St., and will last an hour to 90 minutes.

April 5: CCE Spot Run!
The city is looking at Community Choice Energy as a practical way — without forming a public utility — to localize energy decisions, deliver cleaner electricity at competitive rates, and give consumers more choices about the price of their electricity and how it’s produced. Join Sustainability Manager Mitch Sears to learn about CCE and participate in this Q&A focused presentation.

Click the link below to find the rest of the events happening in Davis throughout the month of April.

Environmental update: April brings Greener Davis workshops, by Jennifer Gilbert, The Davis Enterprise, March 8, 2017.

California Public Utilities Commission will meet at UC Davis

The California Public Utilities Commission will hold its March 2 voting meeting at UC Davis, beginning at 9:30 a.m. in King Hall’s Appellate Courtroom, 400 Mrak Hall Drive.

The voting meeting begins with public comment, and members of the public are welcome.

“We have scheduled a number of voting meetings around the state this year in order to get into the communities we serve,” said CPUC President Michael Picker. “Holding this meeting at UC Davis is of particular interest to me because it allows us to build a direct pipeline to students and let them know about the varied and important work that the CPUC does, how they can get involved, and how they can join our team when they graduate.”

Commissioners will discuss and vote on proposed policies, and staff will make a brief presentation on the implementation of an all-services area code overlay approved by the CPUC to resolve the shortage of numbers in the 916 area code region.

Those intending to make public comment can sign up to speak in person before the meeting starts, or can sign up online in advance at www.cpuc.ca.gov/Commission_Meeting. The CPUC’s rules for public comment, the voting meeting agenda, a list of items that will be held over to a different meeting, presentations, remote access and other information will be available on that web page.

The CPUC typically holds voting meetings twice a month at its headquarters in San Francisco, and also schedules them in other cities throughout the state. In addition, the CPUC holds many public-participation hearings and other events statewide in order to reach out to consumers.

To receive electronic updates on CPUC proceedings, sign up at http://subscribecpuc.cpuc.ca.gov.

The CPUC regulates privately owned electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit and passenger transportation companies.

For more information, visit www.cpuc.ca.gov.

California Public Utilities Commission will meet at UC Davis, by Enterprise Staff, The Davis Enterprise, February 15, 2017.

Californians Pay a High Price for Electricity Glut

To cover the cost of new plants whose power isn’t needed, residents and businesses are paying billions more a year to switch on the lights

YUBA CITY, Calif. — The bucolic orchards of Sutter County north of Sacramento had never seen anything like it: a visiting governor and a media swarm — all to christen the first major natural gas power plant in California in more than a decade.

At its 2001 launch, the Sutter Energy Center was hailed as the nation’s cleanest power plant. It generated electricity while using less water and natural gas than older designs.

A year ago, however, the $300-million plant closed indefinitely, just 15 years into an expected 30- to 40-year lifespan. The power it produces is no longer needed — in large part because state regulators approved the construction of a plant just 40 miles away in Colusa that opened in 2010.

Two other large and efficient power plants in California also are facing closure decades ahead of schedule. Like Sutter, there is little need for their electricity.

California has a big — and growing — glut of power, an investigation by the Los Angeles Times has found. The state’s power plants are on track to be able to produce at least 21% more electricity than it needs by 2020, based on official estimates. And that doesn’t even count the soaring production of electricity by rooftop solar panels that has added to the surplus.

To cover the expense of new plants whose power isn’t needed — Colusa, for example, has operated far below capacity since opening — Californians are paying a higher premium to switch on lights or turn on electric stoves. In recent years, the gap between what Californians pay versus the rest of the country has nearly doubled, to about 50%.

This translates into a staggering bill. Although California uses 2.6% less electricity annually from the power grid now than in 2008, residential and business customers together pay $6.8 billion more for power than they did then. The added cost to customers will total many billions of dollars over the next two decades, because regulators have approved higher rates for years to come so utilities can recoup the expense of building and maintaining the new plants, transmission lines and related equipment, even if their power isn’t needed.

How this came about is a tale of what critics call misguided and inept decision-making by state utility regulators, who have ignored repeated warnings going back a decade about a looming power glut.

“In California, we’re blinding ourselves to the facts,” said Loretta Lynch, a former president of the California Public Utilities Commission, who along with consumer advocacy groups has fought to stop building plants. “We’re awash in power at a premium price.”

California regulators have for years allowed power companies to go on a building spree, vastly expanding the potential electricity supply in the state. Indeed, even as electricity demand has fallen since 2008, California’s new plants have boosted capacity enough to power all of the homes in a city the size of Los Angeles — six times over. Additional plants approved by regulators will begin producing more electricity in the next few years.

The missteps of regulators have been compounded by the self-interest of California utilities, Lynch and other critics contend. Utilities are typically guaranteed a rate of return of about 10.5% for the cost of each new plant, regardless of need. This creates a major incentive to keep construction going: Utilities can make more money building new plants than by buying and reselling readily available electricity from existing plants run by competitors.

Regulators acknowledge the state has too much power but say they are being prudent. The investment, they maintain, is needed in case of an emergency — like a power plant going down unexpectedly, a heat wave blanketing the region or a wildfire taking down part of the transmission network.

“We overbuilt the system because that was the way we provided that degree of reliability,” explained Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission. “Redundancy is important to reliability.”

Some of the excess capacity, he noted, is in preparation for the retirement of older, inefficient power plants over the next several years. The state is building many new plants to try to meet California’s environmental standards requiring 50% clean energy by 2030, he said.

In addition, he said, some municipalities — such as the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power — want to maintain their own separate systems, which leads to inefficiencies and redundancies. “These are all issues that people are willing to pay for,” Picker said.

Critics agree that some excess capacity is needed. And, in fact, state regulations require a 15% cushion. California surpasses that mark and is on pace to exceed it by 6 percentage points in the next three years, according to the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, which tracks capacity and reliability. In the past, the group has estimated the surplus would be even higher.

Even the 15% goal is “pretty rich,” said Robert McCullough of Oregon-based McCullough Research, who has studied California’s excess electric capacity for both utilities and regulators. “Traditionally, 10% is just fine. Below 7% is white knuckle. We are a long way from white-knuckle time” in California.

Contrary to Picker’s assertion, critics say, customers aren’t aware that too much capacity means higher rates. “The winners are the energy companies,” Lynch said. “The losers are businesses and families.”

The overabundance of electricity can be traced to poorly designed deregulation of the industry, which set the stage for blackouts during the energy crisis of 2000-2001.

Lawmakers opened the state’s power business to competition in 1998, so individual utilities would no longer enjoy a monopoly on producing and selling electricity. The goal was to keep prices lower while ensuring adequate supply. Utilities and their customers were allowed to buy electricity from new, unregulated operators called independent power producers.

The law created a new exchange where electricity could be bought and sold, like other commodities such as oil or wheat.

Everyone would benefit, or so the thinking went.

In reality, instead of lowering electricity costs and spurring innovation, market manipulation by Enron Corp. and other energy traders helped send electricity prices soaring.

That put utilities in a bind, because they had sold virtually all their natural gas plants. No longer able to produce as much of their own electricity, they ran up huge debts buying power that customers needed. Blackouts spread across the state.

State leaders, regulators and the utilities vowed never to be in that position again, prompting an all-out push to build more plants, both utility-owned and independent.

“They were not going to allow another energy crisis due to a lack of generation,” said Alex Makler, a senior vice president of Calpine, the independent power producer that owns the Sutter Energy plant not far from Sacramento.

But the landscape was starting to change. By the time new plants began generating electricity, usage had begun a decline, in part because of the economic slowdown caused by the recession but also because of greater energy efficiency.

The state went from having too little to having far too much power.

“California has this tradition of astonishingly bad decisions,” said McCullough, the energy consultant. “They build and charge the ratepayers. There’s nothing dishonest about it. There’s nothing complicated. It’s just bad planning.”

The saga of two plants — Sutter Energy and Colusa — helps explain in a microcosm how California came to have too much energy and is paying a high price for it.

Sutter was built in 2001 by Houston-based Calpine, which owns 81 power plants in 18 states.

Independents like Calpine don’t have a captive audience of residential customers like regulated utilities do. Instead, they sell their electricity under contract or into the electricity market, and make money only if they can find customers for their power.

Sutter had the capacity to produce enough electricity to power roughly 400,000 homes. Calpine operated Sutter at an average of 50% of capacity in its early years — enough to make a profit.

But then Pacific Gas & Electric Co., a regulated, investor-owned utility, came along with a proposal to build Colusa.

It was not long after a statewide heat wave, and PG&E argued in its 2007 request seeking PUC approval that it needed the ability to generate more power. Colusa — a plant almost identical in size and technology to Sutter — was the only large-scale project that could be finished quickly, PG&E said.

More than a half-dozen opponents, including representatives of independent power plants, a municipal utilities group and consumer advocates filed objections questioning the utility company. Wasn’t there a more economical alternative? Did California need the plant at all?

They expressed concern that Colusa could be very expensive long-term for customers if it turned out that its power wasn’t needed.

That’s because public utilities such as PG&E operate on a different model.

If electricity sales don’t cover the operating and construction costs of an independent power plant, it can’t continue to run for long. And if the independent plant closes, the owner — and not ratepayers — bears the burden of the cost.

In contrast, publicly regulated utilities such as PG&E operate under more accommodating rules. Most of their revenue comes from electric rates approved by regulators that are set at a level to guarantee the utility recovers all costs of operating the electric system as well as the cost of building or buying a power plant — plus their guaranteed profit.

Protesters argued that Colusa was unnecessary. The state’s excess production capacity by 2010, the year Colusa was slated to come online, was projected to be almost 25% — 10 percentage points higher than state regulatory requirements.

The looming oversupply, they asserted, meant that consumers would get stuck with much of the bill for Colusa no matter how little customers needed its power.

And the bill would be steep. Colusa would cost PG&E $673 million to build. To be paid off, the plant will have to operate until 2040. Over its lifetime, regulators calculated that PG&E will be allowed to charge more than $700 million to its customers to cover not just the construction cost but its operating costs and its profit.

The urgent push by PG&E “seems unwarranted and inappropriate, and potentially costly to ratepayers,” wrote Daniel Douglass, a lawyer for industry groups that represent independent power producers.

The California Municipal Utilities Assn. — whose members buy power from public utilities and then distribute that power to their customers — also complained in a filing that PG&E’s application appeared to avoid the issue of how Colusa’s cost would be shared if it ultimately sat idle. PG&E’s “application is confusing and contradicting as to whether or not PG&E proposes to have the issue of stranded cost recovery addressed,” wrote Scott Blaising, a lawyer representing the association. (“Stranded cost” is industry jargon for investment in an unneeded plant.)

The arguments over Colusa echoed warnings that had been made for years by Lynch, the former PUC commissioner.

A pro-consumer lawyer appointed PUC president in 2000 by Gov. Gray Davis, Lynch consistently argued as early as 2003 against building more power plants.

“I was like, ‘What the hell are we doing?’ ” recalled Lynch.

She often butted heads with other commissioners and utilities who pushed for more plants and more reserves. Midway though her term, the governor replaced her as president — with a former utility company executive.

One key battle was fought over how much reserve capacity was needed to guard against blackouts. Lynch sought to limit excess capacity to 9% of the state’s electricity needs. But in January 2004, over her objections, the PUC approved a gradual increase to 15% by 2008.

“We’ve created an extraordinarily complex system that gives you a carrot at every turn,” Lynch said. “I’m a harsh critic because this is intentionally complex to make money on the ratepayer’s back.”

With Lynch no longer on the PUC, the commissioners voted 5-0 in June 2008 to let PG&E build Colusa. The rationale: The plant was needed, notwithstanding arguments that there was a surplus of electricity being produced in the market.

PG&E began churning out power at Colusa in 2010. For the nearby Sutter plant, that marked the beginning of the end as its electricity sales plummeted.

In the years that followed, Sutter’s production slumped to about a quarter of its capacity, or just half the rate it had operated previously.

Calpine, Sutter’s owner, tried to drum up new business for the troubled plant, reaching out to shareholder-owned utilities such as PG&E and other potential buyers. Calpine even proposed spending $100 million to increase plant efficiency and output, according to a letter the company sent to the PUC in February 2012.

PG&E rejected the offer, Calpine said, “notwithstanding that Sutter may have been able to provide a lower cost.”

Asked for comment, PG&E said, “PG&E is dedicated to meeting the state’s clean energy goals in cost-effective ways for our customers. We use competitive bidding and negotiations to keep the cost and risk for our customers as low as possible.”

It declined to comment further about its decision to build Colusa or on its discussions with Calpine.

Without new contracts and with energy use overall on the decline, Calpine had little choice but to close Sutter.

During a 2012 hearing about Sutter’s distress, one PUC commissioner, Mike Florio, acknowledged that the plant’s troubles were “just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.”

He added, “Put simply, for the foreseeable future, we have more power plants than we need.”

Colusa, meanwhile, has operated at well below its generating capacity — just 47% in its first five years — much as its critics cautioned when PG&E sought approval to build it.

Sutter isn’t alone. Other natural gas plants once heralded as the saviors of California’s energy troubles have found themselves victims of the power glut. Independent power producers have announced plans to sell or close the 14-year-old Moss Landing power plant at Monterey Bay and the 13-year-old La Paloma facility in Kern County.

Robert Flexon, chief executive of independent power producer Dynegy Inc., which owns Moss Landing, said California energy policy makes it difficult for normal market competition. Independent plants are closing early, he said, because regulators favor utility companies over other power producers.

“It’s not a game we can win,” Flexon said.

Since 2008 alone — when consumption began falling — about 30 new power plants approved by California regulators have started producing electricity. These plants account for the vast majority of the 17% increase in the potential electricity supply in the state during that period.

Hundreds of other small power plants, with production capacities too low to require the same level of review by state regulators, have opened as well.

Most of the big new plants that regulators approved also operate at below 50% of their generating capacity.

So that California utilities can foot the bill for these plants, the amount they are allowed by regulators to charge ratepayers has increased to $40 billion annually from $33.5 billion, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This has tacked on an additional $60 a year to the average residential power bill, adjusted for inflation.

Another way of looking at the impact on consumers: The average cost of electricity in the state is now 15.42 cents a kilowatt hour versus 10.41 cents for users in the rest of the U.S. The rate in California, adjusted for inflation, has increased 12% since 2008, while prices have declined nearly 3% elsewhere in the country.

California utilities are “constantly crying wolf that we’re always short of power and have all this need,” said Bill Powers, a San Diego-based engineer and consumer advocate who has filed repeated objections with regulators to try to stop the approval of new plants. They are needlessly trying to attain a level of reliability that is a worst-case “act of God standard,” he said.

Even with the growing glut of electricity, consumer critics have found that it is difficult to block the PUC from approving new ones.

In 2010, regulators considered a request by PG&E to build a $1.15-billion power plant in Contra Costa County east of San Francisco, over objections that there wasn’t sufficient demand for its power.

One skeptic was PUC commissioner Dian Grueneich. She warned that the plant wasn’t needed and its construction would lead to higher electricity rates for consumers — on top of the 28% increase the PUC had allowed for PG&E over the previous five years.

The PUC was caught in a “time warp,” she argued, in approving new plants as electricity use fell. “Our obligation is to ensure that our decisions have a legitimate factual basis and that ratepayers’ interest are protected.”

Her protests were ignored. By a 4-to-1 vote, with Grueneich the lone dissenter, the commissioners approved the building of the plant.

Consumer advocates then went to court to stop the project, resulting in a rare victory against the PUC. In February 2014, the California Court of Appeals overturned the commission, ruling there was no evidence the plant was needed.

Recent efforts to get courts to block several other PUC-approved plants have failed, however, so the projects are moving forward.

Californians Pay a High Price for Electricity Glut, by Ivan Penn and Ryan Menezes, Los Angeles Times, February 5, 2017.

Valley Clean Energy Alliance Launch: Board of Directors Hold Inaugural Meeting

On December 14, 2016, I attended the first Board of Directors meeting for the Valley Clean Energy Alliance (VCEA). The VCEA is a new joint powers agency between Yolo County and the City of Davis, with the purpose of providing electric generation services to its residents under Community Choice Energy (CCE). Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a key element of the mission of VCEA.[1]

Attendees included city and county staff, energy industry representatives, and interested members of the public. In addition to formally approving VCEA’s name, the VCEA Board unanimously voted to appoint Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor as Chair of VCEA and Davis City Council member Lucas Frerichs as Vice Chair, making the four member VCEA Board equally represented between Davis City Council and Yolo County Board of Supervisors members. The Board plans to meet twice a month during the start-up phase.

“I’m delighted the Davis City Council and Yolo County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to jointly launch the Valley Clean Energy Alliance,” said Supervisor Don Saylor, Chair of the Valley Clean Energy Alliance. “I look forward to delivering cost-competitive clean electricity, product choice, price stability, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emission reductions to the residents of the unincorporated areas of Yolo County and the City of Davis, with hopes that other jurisdictions might join us in the future.”

The Board laid out an aggressive timeline, reflecting their desire to begin providing services as soon as possible. The anticipated launch date is October 2017, just a year after VCEA was formed in October 2016. To meet this goal, the Board has set quarterly milestones beginning in January 2017.

VCEA LAUNCH TIMELINE

Quarters

Milestones

Quarter 1: January – March 2017 Vendor Selection
Quarter 2: April – June 2017 Implementation Plan Certification (by June)
Quarter 3: July – September 2017 Initial Rate Set
Quarter 4: October – December 2017 Service Begins; Opt out Notifications Sent; NEM and FiT solved

 

The Board has already taken steps to start the process. An RFP (request for proposals) was issued on December 5th and an evaluation of bidders is expected to take place in February or March of 2017.

In addition to this timeline, the city of Davis and Yolo County agreed to share VCEA responsibilities equally. Yolo County will be responsible for treasury and auditing services, CEO recruitment, and outreach to customers. Davis will handle project management, technical and energy services, and coordination of the community advisory committee.

The advisory committee will be comprised of three members from each jurisdiction that VCEA serves. Its purpose is to help guide VCEA’s general policy (including portfolio mix and rate setting), assist with community outreach, provide a forum for community discussions on energy related issues, and potentially assist VCEA staff with monitoring legislative and regulatory activities.[2]

Woodland and other cities in Yolo County have expressed considerable interest in joining VCEA in the near future.

To stay up to date on developments at VCEA, sign up for the Sacramento Valley e-news in the Clean Power Exchange, and visit the VCEA pages for the City of Davis and Yolo County.

 

[1] http://cityofdavis.org/city-hall/commissions-and-committees/valley-clean-energy-alliance

[2] http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/Default/Documents/PDF/CityCouncil/Valley-Clean-Energy-Alliance/Agendas/2016-12-13-Packet/Item%2013%20-%20%20Establishment%20of%20VCEA%20Advisory%20Committee.pdf

Per Capita Davis: The Paradigm Shift Must Be Now

I was a member of the Davis Planning Commission for several years back in the early 1980s. I left the commission in 1986, in part because I was burned out on late-night meetings that often went into the early morning, but there was more to it than that. I would have stayed on longer except it was my perception that land-use policy was stuck in a rut and was unlikely to change.

I remember being asked by Mike Fitch, then an enterprising reporter with The Davis Enterprise, why I was resigning, and replying that it was because I thought that a rut also can be viewed as a groove, and in either case, when the rut or groove got deep enough it was very difficult to change course.

I told him that I thought at some time in the future there would be a set of circumstances that would result in a paradigm shift, and that this would create a community consensus for the urgency of exploring a new direction, but for now (then), the commission would be adjudicating lot line disputes, variances and other relatively minor issues.

Back then, I don’t think I had even heard the term “climate change,” and the paradigm shift that I guessed was coming in the future and that would usher in a new set of planning principles was related only to an undefined sense that current practice was unsustainable.

Stepping back just a second, please don’t get me wrong. The Planning Commission does much more than deal with minor issues, and it is because of the folks who have volunteered their time and expertise, with the addition of a very committed City Council, that Davis has been and remains a leader in environmental and land-use policy.

Davis has adopted a substantive Climate Action Plan with aggressive policies for energy efficiency and development of renewable energy that — in combination with the recent decision to pursue Community Choice Energy — make it possible to reach a goal of producing as much electrical energy as we consume. As we all know, Davis also encourages, through policy and smart planning, non-fossil fuel transportation options.

We are doing pretty well. I hate to start the year on a sour note, but “pretty well” isn’t good enough. The circumstances that should create a paradigm shift in planning are upon us.

Recent reports from scientists combine to give us all a shot of adrenaline when it comes to what we can do as individuals and collectively as a city to respond to climate change.

First, the oceans are heating up, with an estimated 90 percent of the excess heat in the atmosphere created by greenhouse-gas emissions absorbed into the oceans.

And who says scientists can’t communicate in a language all of us can understand? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, energy gained in the atmosphere between 1971 and 2010 is equivalent to “the power required to run 140 billion hair dryers” over that same period.

Second, one result of increased ocean temperature is that warmer sea water is flowing under the Totten glacier in East Antarctica, eroding the glacier’s floating ice shelf, causing the shelf to lose somewhere in the range of 75 billion tons of its mass each year. Or, put another way, about 30 feet of its mass is melting away into the ocean annually. It has quite a ways to go, but if the whole thing goes, the world’s oceans rise nearly a dozen feet. This is also taking place in West Antarctica.

So, the bottom of the planet is, so to speak, a canary in a coal mine; an early sign of big trouble. What’s happening at the other pole? The answer is more bad news.

Air temperatures in the Arctic last October and November were, at times, recorded at “an unheard of 60 degrees higher than normal” over most of the Arctic Ocean. We are not talking about 2 or 3 degrees, even 10. The result is that at a time of year when sea ice should be forming, it is actually vanishing, and at an accelerating rate.

Sea ice reflects about 80 percent of sunlight while open ocean absorbs about 90 percent, so the Arctic Ocean has entered what appears to be an irreversible feedback loop, has crossed over a “tipping point” where less ice means more heat absorbed means less ice means more heat absorbed, etc.

This melting is calculated to increase global warming by 25 percent over what is caused just by greenhouse-gas emissions.

The bottom line for this gloomy first-of-the-year column is that the canary has, for all intents and purposes, stopped singing and the paradigm for actions at both the local and global levels needs to shift as well.

The election results don’t bode well for action at the national level but there’s a lot that can be done here in Davis. Buildings downtown need to be higher, proposals for hotels that manage zero net electrical energy need to be taken very seriously, and the city should plan on doubling down on energy efficiency and renewables through operation of the Valley Clean Energy Alliance.

Per Capita Davis: The Paradigm Shift Must Be Now, by John Mott-Smith, The Davis Enterprise, January 4, 2017.

Woodland’s Community Choice Panel to Get New Members

Unlike the intent of its mission — which is to limit the use of conventional power sources — Woodland’s Community Choice Energy Advisory Committee is growing by expanding its membership.

There won’t be any economic jolt to the city by the action, which earlier anticipated the size of the group might have to get bigger to accommodate a variety of individual backgrounds and expertise.

In fact, the more research done could lead to cheaper electric rates for Woodland utility customers.

Community Choice Energy enables local governments to buy or 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 at least 50 percent renewable energy content at electric rates that are competitive with those of an investor-owned utility, such as PG&E.

Davis and Yolo County have already formed a Joint Powers Agency to jointly develop a local Community Choice program under the name Valley Clean Energy Alliance, with the aim of beginning operations in 2017.

City staff have noted previously that Davis and Yolo County have encouraged Woodland to join the VCEA, and a City Council sub-committee — consisting of Skip Davies and Angel Barajas — was designated earlier this year to evaluate possible participation.

Recognizing that the evaluation can be accelerated and enhanced with the assistance of a community-based ad hoc advisory committee, the City Council on Nov. 1 approved the formation of such a committee.

On Nov. 15, the council formally establishing the committee purpose, membership, and operation and appointed six community members to serve on the committee.

However, while adopting the resolution, Council members also suggested increasing the maximum size of the committee as stated in the resolution and expanding the membership to include several representatives of local industries and other larger power users.

Named to the panel on Nov. 15 were Mark Aulman, Kevin Cowan, Tom Flynn, Phil Hogan, Bill Marcus, and Christine Shewmaker. Bill Marcus subsequently asked to be removed due to conflict of interest.

Staff is now recommending that the Council increase the membership to 11.

Recommended and approved were:

•Maria Armstrong: Superintendent of the Woodland Joint Unified School District.

•Jim Gillette: Finance director of Yolo County Housing and a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

•Mark James: Dignity Health director of facilities.

•Elisabeth Robbins: Retired family therapist, community participant on City Council Sustainability Committee.

•Ralph Solorio: Facility manager of the Rite Aid Distribution Center.

•Erick Watkins: Pacific Coast Producers, of its Environmental Health and Safety division.

Woodland council members in the past have expressed interest in joining the local Energy Alliance, but have urged a go-slow approach to find out how much it would cost the city versus how much money would be saved. It has been suggested by city staff that power bills could be lowered between 4 percent and 8 percent should the city join the program.

However, no one yet knows for sure.

“Participation in a CCE program has the potential to provide substantial economic benefits through the provision of favorable electricity rates and incentive programs tailored to local needs,” according to the Roberta Childers, the city’s environmental sustainability manager. “All IOU customers are automatically enrolled in a CCE program but any may opt out of the program at any time. Several CCE programs are already established in California. Additional background information on CCE programs is provided in staff reports presented at the September 20, 2016 and November 1, 2016 City Council meetings.”

Previously, no council member had any problems with expanding the panel’s membership, although then vice-mayor Barajas said he wanted to see more women on the group in the interests of diversity.

Woodland’s Community Choice Panel to Get New Members, by Jim Smith, Woodland Daily Democrat, December 21, 2016.

What Is the Valley Clean Energy Alliance?

Function

The Valley Clean Energy Alliance (VCEA) has been formed by the City of Davis and Yolo County to implement a local Community Choice Energy (CCE) program, otherwise known as Community Choice Aggregation.  VCEA is a joint powers agency designed to serve electricity customers located within the participating jurisdictions.  The mission of VCEA is to deliver cost-competitive clean electricity, product choice, price stability, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emission reductions to its customers.

Staff Liaison

Mitch Sears, City of Davis Community Development & Sustainability, 530-757-5610

Board Members

Lucas Frerichs, City of Davis

Duane Chamberlain, Yolo County

Robb Davis, City of Davis

Don Saylor, Yolo County

Regular Meeting Time & Place

To be determined.

Additional Information

City of Davis Establishing Resolution – Resolution 16-153 Establishing the Valley Clean Energy Alliance

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Valley Clean Energy AllianceCity of Davis, December, 2016.