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.