San Jose Approves Clean Energy Program

San Jose approved a program Tuesday to pool funds from residents to purchase energy from green sources, becoming the largest city in the country to do so.

Several other Bay Area communities have established such programs, known as Community Choice Energy programs. They are an alternative to purchasing power from the major state utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric in this case.

The City Council unanimously passed the program, which Mayor Sam Liccardo said would see San Jose purchase power from at least one alternative provider for “100 percent greenhouse gas-free” energy in the first two years.

San Jose began researching its program in 2011, a year after Marin County passed its pioneering clean energy program.

Other programs have started in the state since then in Sonoma County, San Francisco and San Mateo County. Silicon Valley Clean Energy, which covers 12 cities and unincorporated parts of Santa Clara County, began a program this year.

For San Jose, a city that produces 22.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the program was a win for environmental protection groups that have been lobbying for it.

“This is a really big deal,” said Center for Climate Protection deputy director Barry Vesser. “This is the largest city in California to adopt the program, and it’s going to change the energy landscape for the state as other counties come along.”

Alameda County, Davis and Yolo County, and Los Angeles County have also begun exploring their own community choice programs, according to a recent UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs report.

The center believes that by 2020, 60 percent of California’s energy market will be served by sources under community choice programs.

The programs, legally known as Community Choice Aggregation programs, allow utility customers to choose to buy their electricity from greener sources that are at times cheaper than PG&E. They can also choose to opt out of their community’s program and stick with PG&E.

PG&E said, “We respect the energy choices that are available to our customers, and will continue to cooperate with local governments as they consider pursuing (or) developing a CCA program.”

Nicholas Cheng is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: ncheng@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @nichocheng

Bay Area programs

Marin Clean Energy

Sonoma Clean Power

San Francisco

Peninsula Clean Energy

Silicon Valley Clean Energy

Sources: UCLA & Clean Power Exchange

San Jose Approves Clean Energy Program, by Nicholas Cheng, SFGATE, May 16, 2017.

San Jose City Council Approves New Community Choice Energy Plan, the Largest in California

SAN JOSE — San Jose on Tuesday became the largest California city to launch “community choice energy” — an alternative electricity provider that environmentalists say will save money and reduce pollution linked to climate change.

“While leaders in Washington continue to languish in a petroleum-fueled past, cities like San Jose will chart the path to a more sustainable future,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “Through our CCE program, we will significantly lower our greenhouse gas emissions and boost our renewable energy supply, while also providing cost-competitive electricity rates for our residents and businesses.”

The City Council unanimously approved the new utility program at Tuesday’s council meeting. The “CCE” program would begin next spring and would be among eight statewide that offer residents an alternative to traditional utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric.

But some elected leaders worry the new energy option — dubbed “San Jose Clean Energy” — may not save ratepayers money, is financially risky and could result in a strain to the city’s general fund.

Councilman Johnny Khamis, who ultimately voted in favor of the plan, said San Jose should require the new energy program to operate without support from the city’s general fund so that it doesn’t tap money needed for police, fire protection, roads and parks.

“Our residents are owed this security as we enter a new line of business and experience the risks and unknowns that naturally attend any new venture,” Khamis said.

PG&E spokeswoman Ari Vanrenen said the utility supported the legislation that allowed governments to launch community choice energy programs. PG&E will deliver energy to San Jose consumers enrolled in the CCE program through existing infrastructure and by providing meter readings, billing and maintenance services, Vanrenen said.

“For more than 100 years, it has been PG&E’s privilege to provide our customers clean, reliable and affordable energy, and we look forward to the opportunity to do so for many years to come,” Vanrenen said. “At the same time, we respect the energy choices that are available to our customers, and will continue to cooperate with local governments as they consider pursuing and/or developing a CCE program.”

The San Jose program is expected to cover its own costs, but would require $55 million in startup money, either from a line of credit, vendor funding or a loan.

Residents and businesses in San Jose today have only one electricity option — PG&E — which has been a national leader among utilities in promoting the use of renewable energy. The utility is ahead of schedule on its 2020 goal of having 33 percent of its energy provided by renewable sources. But it still trails the record of California counties that have already implemented CCEs.

Eight have been launched since 2010, including Peninsula Clean Energy, which involves all San Mateo County cities, and Silicon Valley Energy, which includes most Santa Clara County cities except San Jose. Another five CCEs are expected to begin service in the next year. All provide environmental benefits with either cheaper or comparable rates for customers.

San Jose leaders have explored the idea since 2011. Launching the program requires creating a new city department with an unknown number of staff members. Though the ongoing costs are unclear, Liccardo in 2016 pegged $300,000 in one-time funding to study the alternative energy choice.

All city residents automatically would be enrolled as customers in the new San Jose Clean Energy plan unless they opt out. They will receive at least four mailed notices before the launch.

Environmental Services Director Kerrie Romanow recommended offering at lease one “power mix option” with a rate equal to or less than PG&E’s rates, and to maintain low-income programs at the same level as PG&E.

“This is the biggest thing we can do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in the city,” Romanow said Tuesday. “We can provide a lot more renewable energy for about the same price. We all need to do more to reduce the impacts of climate change and this is a very affordable way to do that.”

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions at higher rates than PG&E, Romanow said the plan should offer power options with at least 10 percent more energy from renewable sources than PG&E.

The City Council approved creating a community advisory committee to oversee the program. San Jose leaders say the model allows the city to have “more direct control over rates and how any surplus revenues are reinvested in their communities.”

Khamis also was concerned about how the city would raise its electricity rates under the proposed plan, and recommended that any rate change require at least 8 votes from the City Council. But that idea did not win support.

City administrators are expected to bring back a detailed financing plan this summer. The utility program will require 18 to 19 employees once it’s operational. Romanow said officials will develop a plan that does not impact the general fund. That could be done, she said in a staff report, either by borrowing from another city fund or by issuing short-term debt.

San Jose City Council Approves New Community Choice Energy Plan, the Largest in California, by Ramona Giwargis, The Mercury News, May 16, 2017

Sonoma Clean Power, Utilities Face Battle over Energy Costs

The North Bay pioneered a new type of public energy program in California seven years ago that now appears poised to change who buys electricity for homes and businesses across large swaths of the state.

The programs, of which Sonoma Clean Power was an early leader, have expanded dramatically over the past several years.

Their growth is leading experts to examine how well the programs are boosting the use of renewable electricity compared to the private utilities that formerly served the same communities.

 The growth is also prompting a face-off between the public programs and California’s three biggest private utilities, including Pacific Gas & Electric. In the dispute, both sides have suggested their ratepayers are getting a bum deal in how the state has set the rules for this new era. For the public programs, the outcome has high-stakes implications because their customers could end up paying considerably more to offset the growing costs for excess power that the utilities contracted for but no longer need.

The public programs, typically known as Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, agencies, have grown to control about 5 percent of the state’s electricity market, a new study reports. But both utilities and other experts say that number will increase markedly as other communities join the trend.

“I think everyone who’s watching this thinks that there is going to be very rapid growth in the coming years,” said Matthew Freedman, an attorney in San Francisco with the Utility Reform Network, a ratepayer advocacy group known as TURN. Some utilities, he said, have predicted that half their customers could switch to the public programs within a decade.

Even so, experts say the jury remains out on exactly how beneficial the public programs will prove in accelerating a drop in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Some, including Freedman, suggested that in recent years a significant amount of renewable power has simply been shifted to the public programs from other electric utilities, which then make up any shortfall with fossil fuels, changing little.

“There is definitely some of that that has gone on,” said Severin Borenstein, a UC Berkeley business professor and energy researcher. “The question is how much.”

However, Geof Syphers, CEO for Sonoma Clean Power, maintained the public programs will prove a valuable tool in fighting climate change and in helping communities achieve local environmental and economic goals. Already the fledgling sector is gearing up to finance $2 billion in new renewable electricity production, he said, and a CCA program about 45 miles north of Los Angeles in the city of Lancaster has helped attract an electric bus and battery manufacturer to the community.

“We’ll usually be cheaper,” Syphers said of his program’s rates when compared to utilities. “We will always be cleaner and we will always be more responsive to local needs.”

His agency’s board this summer is slated to consider once more offering incentives to customers who buy electric cars. A similar program last fall offered $2,500 per car — or $5,000 for low-income residents — and resulted in the sale of 206 vehicles.

Beginning of clean power

Sonoma Clean Power launched in May 2014 and reports saving customers $70 million in energy costs over the past three years. The program provides electricity to 196,000 homes and businesses, or about 88 percent of those formerly served by PG&E.

As with other such programs, customers are automatically enrolled and must take action to switch back to the private utility. The utilities continue to distribute the power to all customers. Sonoma Clean Power customers still get billed from PG&E, with various added fees tacked on to the rates for the CCA program’s power.

The local program is overseen by a board of 11 elected city officials and county supervisors from both Sonoma and Mendocino County, where next month Sonoma Clean Power electricity will be offered to 38,000 more customers. Residents of Healdsburg and Ukiah have their own municipal power systems and are exempted from the CCA program’s service area.

Sonoma Clean Power was the second CCA program to operate in the state. The first also was from the North Bay, Marin Clean Energy, now known simply as MCE. It began in Marin County in 2010 and since has expanded to serve 250,000 customers there and in parts of Napa, Solano and Contra Costa counties.

California currently has eight such public programs in operation, according to a study released this month by UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs. A ninth in Los Angeles County recently won approval from the Board of Supervisors there, with programs in Alameda and Yolo counties also expected to launch this year.

Officials for various cities and counties are thinking about starting another 22 programs, the study reported.

The CCA programs are allowed by a 2002 state law, which experts said followed California’s first deregulation effort a quarter century ago, a time when the state’s electric rates were 50 percent higher than the rest of the U.S.

However, by the early 2000s the new system had produced a wrenching mix of soaring rates, brownouts and financial upheaval among the utilities.

“This all comes out of the California energy crisis,” said Borenstein. The era is often remembered for market manipulation and companies like Enron, a once high-flying energy supplier that crashed amid corruption charges and criminal indictments.

Instead of again using private companies to inject competition into the system, the state’s current attempt allows public power agencies to offer Californians a choice.

Similar programs occur in six other states, according to the UCLA study. Some, including in Illinois, were set up primarily to lower ratepayers bills, said Borenstein.

Some leaders pushing the state’s CCA programs also have touted rate savings, but that benefit likely will remain limited since electricity remains a widely traded commodity, said Michael Campbell, a program manager with the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, an independent advocacy group with the Public Utilities Commission.

Instead, for the efforts in California, “It’s really people interested in doing something about climate,” Campbell said.

Another unspoken offer to ratepayers seems to involve “striking a blow against big, evil corporate giants,” said Freedman of TURN.

“I think it’s also been driven by, ‘We hate the utilities,’” he said.

Impact of going green

Ask three experts and you’ll get three different ideas on how to evaluate the impact of the public programs on reducing greenhouse gases.

In the UCLA study, the authors report that “Sonoma Clean Power emits 61 percent less (greenhouse gas emissions) than PG&E.” Its authors calculated that the total reduction for all the state’s CCA programs in the past 12 months equals more than $7.5 million based on 2016 prices in the state’s carbon market.

“Sonoma is a great example,” Julien Gattaciecca, the study’s lead author, said of the local program. They’re among the best in class.”

However, Freedman and Borenstein said the question they want answered is how much new renewable energy the public programs are helping create.

Both pointed to the potential for electricity generated from natural gas or even coal to simply be shifted around to other localities in the western U.S., even as the public programs can buy renewable power cheaply today on the spot market.

Freedman noted that some public programs have used a strategy of buying inexpensive certificates known as “renewable energy credits” and linking them with electricity from fossil fuels to essentially declare, “Voila, I have green power.”

He also pointed to Sonoma Clean Power’s reliance on existing hydroelectric power. According to the UCLA study, hydro amounts to 44 percent of Sonoma’s portfolio, with another 36 percent from solar, wind and other “renewables.”

That hydro power, mostly from the Pacific Northwest, would be generated anyway, Freedman said, and bringing it down to California doesn’t result in new sources of renewable power or in a reduction of greenhouse gases.

“The CCAs need to be much better” at creating more renewable power, Freedman said, especially now when they can take advantage of historically low financing costs and federal tax incentives that are expected to diminish over time.

Syphers responded that Freedman’s focus primarily on building is wrongheaded and the bigger question is whether the programs are reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One way for that to occur is for residential and commercial energy suppliers to rely less on fossil fuels and to report the makeup of their power portfolio to their ratepayers.

“You have to take credit for what you buy,” he said.

Paying for excess energy

If the debate about cleaner energy seems academic, the struggle between the public programs and the utilities looks grounded in dollars and cents. It revolves around the fact that the shift of so many ratepayers to the CCA programs means the utilities increasingly have more power than they need.

The utilities purchased that energy in longterm contracts with state regulators’ approval as part of a strategy to make sure California never again winds up short of power. But with the coming of the public programs, the excess is getting too big, and the state must decide who pays for it.

By law, the California Public Utilities Commission is ordered to ensure that both the utility ratepayers and those of the CCA programs pay their fair share of the surplus power costs. Failure to do so can result in either utility ratepayers subsidizing the CCA programs or in unfair charges that makes the public programs’ rates considerably more expensive than those offered by the utilities.

One of the few things that both sides agree on is that the state’s current approach to dividing up those costs isn’t working.

Finding a solution

Last month PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric jointly proposed a new method. PG&E said in an announcement that the public program ratepayers were picking up only about 65 percent of their share of the costs, which meant its own ratepayers this year will subsidize the CCA agencies to the tune of $180 million.

The utility also estimated that the public programs will grow to serve 13 percent of the electricity consumed in its service area this year. That figure would increase to 38 percent by 2020.

The current approach has caused “a distortion” in the market and the utilities want to work with the public programs to find a better method “before it becomes an even bigger problem,” said Deborah Affonsa, PG&E’s vice president of customer service. Such efforts often take about two years of review and hearings before the commission, she said.

Another PG&E spokesman said the value of its excess contracts has dropped because of declining prices in today’s energy markets.

Sonoma Clean Power officials expressed skepticism that PG&E customers are subsidizing their program’s ratepayers. Also, they said the utilities haven’t revealed enough about their energy contracts and operations to be able to judge the financial implications of their joint proposal.

“Trying to tease out whether their numbers are fair or not is impossible,” said Erica Torgerson, Sonoma’s director of customer service.

Syphers said the public programs soon will offer their own proposal on the issue and “a major feature of it will be that we think we can lower everyone’s costs.”

Dawn Weisz, the CEO of MCE, formerly Marin Clean Energy, said finding a solution will involve the utilities selling off power contracts they no longer need and “maximizing the value of those contracts.”

How that happens will affect the bills of both utility ratepayers and those in the public programs, she said. If the utilities fail to wisely manage and dispose of those power contracts, “that’s not good for any customer.”

Sonoma Clean Power, Utilities Face Battle over Energy Costs, by Robert Digitale, The Press Democrat, May 14, 2017.

Writer, MCE manager, clarifies details on Community Choice Energy

Dear Editor:

My name is JR Killigrew and I’m a community development manager at MCE, the CCE which the County, Danville and Oakley recently joined. I have worked with the City of Antioch on their climate action plan in my previous role. I did want to follow up and thank you for following the CCE movement in Contra Costa County. MCE is always happy to serve as a resource to media to help provide accurate information. We recently saw May 4th article about community choice and the County’s decision to join MCE. We wanted to clarify a few items in the article.

1) Feeling the heat from environmentalists, residents, and politicians, Contra Costa County supervisors took the big step Tuesday of picking a solar power plant developer that could potentially help consumers on average cut monthly bills up to 55 percent.

MCE strives to keep its rates competitive with PG&E and MCE has lowered its rates twice in the last 12 months. Since MCE launch, MCE has been less expensive 70% of the time compared to PG&E. MCE’s actual generation rate is much lower than PG&E’s but with additional CCE fees that are collected by PG&E, MCE normally is around the same cost as PG&E.

2) Other supervisors were more impressed with MCE’s seven-year track record, financial stability and $25 million in reserves and capability of generating good paying union jobs.

MCE has $50 million in reserves.

3) Some 285,000 residents residing in unincorporated Contra Costa County could see electricity rates decline in comparison to PG&E rates.  For a large solar power project generating 5 megawatts per hour, the average monthly bills could potentially decline from $105 per Megawatt Hour (MWH) to $85 per MWH.

We believe the point that was trying to be addressed was the difference between PG&E’s Feed-In-Tariff rates and MCE Feed-in Tariff rates. MCE currently offers solar developers $115/MWh which we purchase the electricity from the developer. This program is an opportunity to catalyze the local solar market place to create local jobs and ensure energy resilience. There is no correlation with our Feed-In Tariff program and our customers’ rates.

I hope this is helpful and please let us know if you have any questions.

J.R. Killigrew

Community Development Manager, MCE

San Rafael

Writer, MCE manager, clarifies details on Community Choice Energy, by J.R. Killigrew, Antioch Herald, May 12, 2017.

Editorial: Community Choice Energy plan will be good for San Jose and consumers

San Jose can’t hope to meet the state’s mandate of getting 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2030 without aggressively pursuing the use of clean power.

So on Tuesday, the City Council should approve a Community Choice Energy (CCE) plan, giving residents and businesses the ability to choose their source of electricity. This is the most economical way for San Jose to pursue its green energy goals at little risk to the city budget and taxpayers.

PG&E is a national leader among utilities in promoting the use of renewable energy. It’s ahead of schedule on its 2020 goal of 33 percent renewables, but it still trails the record of California counties that have already implemented CCEs.

Marin County’s Clean Energy community choice program yielded an enviable 63 percent green energy record in 2014, for example. Marin, Sonoma Clean Power and Lancaster Choice Energy all have more than 85 percent of potential customers signed up, which means cost recovery is not a problem.

CCEs are spreading in California. Seven have been launched since 2010 including Peninsula Clean Energy, which involves all San Mateo County cities,and Silicon Valley Energy, which includes most Santa Clara County cities but not San Jose. Another five CCEs are expected to begin service in the next year. All provide environmental benefits with either cheaper or comparable rates for customers.

“We’re just not going to see leadership in fighting climate change from Washington, D.C.,” says San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “It’s incumbent on cities to offer that leadership.”

The city staff’s recommendation calls for at least one power mix option with a rate equal to or less than PG&E’s rates. It also would provide at least one option with 10 percent or more renewables than PG&E currently offers and establish a Community Advisory Committee for the program.

Residents could keep PG&E as their electricity provider. CCE rates can be lower, since once the initial investment in solar or wind facilities has been made, the facilities cost significantly less to maintain.

Liccardo and other CCE supporters in the city are committed to running the program without touching the city’s general fund for public safety, parks and other basics. The program is expected to cover its own costs.

It would require $55 million in startup costs that would be funded by a line of credit, vendor funding or a loan. That money would be repaid through customer rates within a few years. Liccardo also wants to build reserves to guard against fluctuation in the energy marketplace. Contracts with vendors will include opt-out provisions to minimize any losses if participation doesn’t hit anticipated levels.

This is an opportunity for San Jose to lower residents’ utility bills and increase the use of clean energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. No other viable project can achieve all of these goals. Go for it.

Editorial: Community Choice Energy plan will be good for San Jose and consumers, by Editorial Board, The Mercury News, May 12, 2017.

Liccardo: Let consumers choose to use clean energy and, by the way, save money

All too often, calls for environmental sustainability resemble a doctor’s advice — urging that we indulge less, sweat more and take bad-tasting medicine.

Fortunately, life sometimes gives us happier options.

The San Jose City Council faces such an option this May, when it can make San Jose greener by enabling our residents and businesses to choose the source of their electricity, through a Community Choice Energy (CCE) program.  By becoming the largest U.S. city to do so, we can save consumers money, boost our renewable energy supply and invest in energy efficiency projects.

For decades, San Jose consumers have purchased their electricity from an investor-owned utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). CCE programs offer a choice by providing an alternative source of wholesale energy purchases.

PG&E will continue distributing the electricity through its own power lines and handling all billing. But residents can choose to purchase their electricity from the local CCE or “opt out” to PG&E after comparing rates, environmental benefits, rebates and other criteria.

Several CCE programs have emerged in a handful of Bay Area counties in recent years with promising results.

CCEs routinely offer lower rates than PG&E, in part because they face lower borrowing costs and lack the obligation of investor-owned utilities to distribute profits to shareholders.

Even when accounting for the state-mandated fees charged to customers leaving PG&E service, the declining cost of solar and wind energy has enabled CCEs to find cheaper renewables in the open market and deliver better prices to customers.

For example, Peninsula Clean Energy’s standard rate package costs residents 2 percent less than PG&E’s, while also deriving its electricity from greener sources.

Environmental benefits have driven several communities to choose CCEs because they provide consumers the flexibility to purchase electricity from a higher share of renewable sources than PG&E.

Several Bay Area CCEs enable consumers to buy their power from 100 percent non-greenhouse-gas-emitting sources at prices competitive to PG&E. By offering consumers a choice of greener electricity, we will reduce our community’s carbon footprint and drive demand for local investments like solar arrays and energy storage.

The environmental benefits of CCEs may appear limited, since half of GHG emissions today come from automobiles.  Yet in the words of Yogi Berra, “the future ain’t what it used to be” – particularly as the electrification of our transportation infrastructure accelerates.

U.S. sales of plug-in vehicles have increased tenfold since 2012, and local transit agencies like VTA have begun to transform public transportation through investments in plug-in bus fleets and the electrification of CalTrain.  As a result, the battle against climate change will increasingly move to our electric grid, with CCEs serving as a potent weapon.

CCEs can also help support greener investments, particularly where costs pose a barrier to many of our low-income residents.  By investing net revenues from the CCE into local projects – such as rebates for multi-family apartments to install energy-efficient appliances or solar panels — CCEs broaden access and impact, while keeping ratepayer dollars, jobs, and energy savings within our own community.

Community Choice Energy is the single most powerful measure San Jose can take to lower our greenhouse gas emissions and chart a more sustainable future – but it’s just the first of several initiatives we’ll undertake in the years ahead.

With San Jose’s public sustainability planning underway, we look to engaging our residents in creating a plan that will enable broad participation and impact. Learn more about this ambitious initiative at http://www.sjenvironment.org/esp, and please join our efforts to make San Jose a model of sustainability for the rest of the world.

Sam Liccardo is mayor of San Jose. He wrote this for The Mercury News.

Liccardo: Let consumers choose to use clean energy and, by the way, save money, by Sam Liccardo, The Mercury News, April 28, 2017.

Abandoned California Quarry Becomes Site of Solar Farm

Reclamation of an old, abandoned quarry near the town of Novato, Calif., involved the placement of 6,000 solar panels to convert it into a solar farm capable of producing enough energy to power 300 homes, CBS SF Bay Area reports. The quarry was called a “brown site,” because asbestos in the rock made it unusable for most purposes, but Frank Gobar and Roy Phillips, co-owners of Cooley Quarry solar farm, found a way to turn the brown site “green.”

“It lends itself quite well. It has no trees. It’s an area that has no particular use because of the soil’s condition,” Gobar told the news agency, adding that the brand-new facility will contain more than 6,000 solar panels and generate about 1 megawatt of electricity when it goes online in approximately 30 days. And because it’s tucked out of sight and producing renewable energy, there haven’t been any complaints from Marin County residents.

According to the news agency, Marin Clean Energy, the local power utility, contracted for the power for its most environmentally conscious clients with a program called “Local Sol.” Marin Clean Energy’s director of public affairs Jamie Tuckey tells the news agency that, “Local Sol is the service option that customers can sign up for to get 100 percent of their energy from the Cooley Solar site.”

Gobar and Phillips are teaming up to create projects like this, which they believe will be the wave of the future. “Yeah, this is the pilot for many others…not just for us, but others as well…It’s starting here,” Phillips told the news agency.

Abandoned California Quarry Becomes Site of Solar Farm, by Kerry Clines, Aggregates Manager, May 5, 2017.

Oakley Moves to Join Marin Clean Energy

OAKLEY — The City Council backed a resolution Tuesday to join Marin Clean Energy and will bring the final application for approval on May 23.

Three council members voted to go with Marin Clean Energy, the first community choice energy program, as opposed to East Bay Community Energy, which is still being formed.

Councilmember Claire Alaura voiced her opposition to the choice, saying that she did not see the need to rush a decision.

“East Bay Community Energy isn’t up and running yet and this is a binding agreement,” Alaura said. “I don’t feel we are giving the city and the citizens the opportunity to know what EBCE could do for us. It’s true, we could wait a little longer, but some things are worth waiting for.”

Both entities are what is known as a Community Choice Energy program, which is a collaboration of local governments pooling energy demand for lower rates and greener energy.

Under community choice energy programs, if a household uses 500 megawatts of power, a provider such as MCE will then feed 500 megawatts of power in a customer’s chosen renewable mix.

MCE provides customers the option of having 50- to 100-percent of their electricity come from renewable sources. PG&E still delivers the power, maintains the power lines and handles customer billing.

To date, MCE has over 250,000 customers, with approximately 90,000 coming from Contra Costa County, including the cities of Walnut Creek, Lafayette and Richmond.

11 Alameda County cities, including Berkeley, Oakland and Fremont, joined together to form East Bay Community Energy.

“When we’re talking about size, sometimes having a big organization can be a liability,” said Dawn Weisz, chief executive officer of Marin Clean Energy. “… The projects we’ve been able to build are bigger. We’ve built more local projects than every CCA in California combined.”

The Contra Costa Board of Supervisors also voted May 2 to direct staff to seek membership in MCE.

Councilmember Randy Pope criticized MCE for a letter addressed to county board of supervisors that agreed to a seven-trade project labor agreement with the Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council.

“You’re agreeing to pay inflated wages. You’re agreeing to make it a jobs program rather than an energy supplier,” Pope said. “I would prefer MCE get the best clean energy for the most affordable prices for its ratepayers.”

Rates for MCE’s 50-percent renewable energy come out to $97.76 a month for an average home that uses approximately 445 kilowatt-hours. This breaks down to $54.25 for electric delivery and an added $13.25 in fees from PG&E. MCE’s 100-percent renewable plan amounts to $102.21 a month. A 30-percent renewable energy plan from PG&E would cost $98.03 a month for the same customer.

All energy customers in Oakley will be automatically enrolled in the MCE program. If customers want to stay with PG&E’s electricity generation, they must opt-out through MCE’s website at www.mcecleanenergy.org/opt-out/

The resolution will come back for final approval at the City Council’s meeting on May 23.

Oakley Moves to Join Marin Clean Energy, by Aaron Davis, The Mercury News, May 10, 2017.

Pittsburg Considers Community Choice Energy Program

On May 15, the Pittsburg City Council will consider joining an alternative energy program that uses more renewable energy than PG&E.

The Community Choice Energy (CCE) program allows local governments to authorize all public facilities, businesses and residents to be given a choice for their electricity generation provider.

During its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, the City Council will consider adoption of an ordinance to join the program offered by a new energy provider, known as MCE (formerly Marin Clean Energy.) Several cities in Contra Costa County have already signed on, including Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Walnut Creek and Lafayette.

Under the proposed program, residents and businesses would continue to receive their bills and customer service from PG&E. MCE would provide electricity with a higher level of renewable power, such as wind, solar and hydroelectric, at costs similar to what they would be when PG&E provides all services.

If Pittsburg joins MCE, all residents and businesses will have a choice for their electricity generation provider where now they have none. By state law, all Pittsburg residents would automatically be enrolled in the program. Customers can choose to return to full PG&E service at any time.

If approved, the program would take several months to implement. PG&E would continue to be responsible for transmitting and distributing electricity through the grid, maintaining infrastructure, billing customers, and customer service, but energy generation charges from MCE would be itemized separately on bills.

According to MCE, there would be no difference in the reliability of electric service.
Through its seven-year history, MCE has been able to offer rates which often result in a total electric bill that is slightly lower than PG&E.

Pittsburg residents can attend the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, May 15 at Pittsburg City Hall to learn more or voice an opinion. For more information on MCE or the Community Choice Energy Program, call (888) 632-3674 or go online to www.mcecleanenergy.org.

Pittsburg Considers Community Choice Energy ProgramCity of Pittsburg, May 9, 2017.

San Ramon Council to Discuss Community Choice Energy Program

The San Ramon City Council is set to talk Tuesday about whether the city should join a community choice energy program to allow for electricity-sourcing options other than PG&E.

San Ramon — along with Contra Costa County and 13 other municipalities, including Danville — are looking into whether to stay with PG&E, join an existing CCE or form a new local program to purchase electricity from sources other than PG&E, including more renewable options, and then to sell it back to consumers in their areas.

The goals of an alternative program would include gaining local control, expanding consumer choices and reducing consumer costs for electricity generation, according to San Ramon Valley officials.

The 15 jurisdictions commissioned a technical study from a consultant firm to outline how a local energy program would work, and the San Ramon council is set to receive the latest update on the study from city staff and county officials Tuesday night.

The study analyzed four options for each community to consider: remain with PG&E, join the existing MCE Clean Energy (formerly known as Marin Clean Energy), join the East Bay Community Energy (a new CCE program being established in Alameda County) or form a new Contra Costa County CCE program.

The participating town and city councils and the county Board of Supervisors are expected to issue decisions in the weeks ahead on possibly implementing one of the options in their community. San Ramon city staff did not make a recommendation to the council heading into Tuesday’s meeting, according to the pre-meeting agenda packet.

The council’s open-session meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. inside the council chambers at 7000 Bollinger Canyon Road.

San Ramon Council to Discuss Community Choice Energy Program, by Jeremy Walsh, Danville San Ramon, May 8, 2017.