Monterey >> The City Council received a round of applause from attendees of Tuesday’s meeting after unanimously deciding to move ahead as a member in the Community Choice Energy Program.
The tri-county initiative that will take over power purchasing control from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and put it into the hands of a new regional agency called Monterey Bay Community Power is also geared to keep its revenue from consumers local. That’s while doubling Monterey County’s renewable energy portfolio for the same price that is is currently under PG&E, according to Ted Terrasas, sustainability coordinator for the city of Monterey.
Overall, Terrasas said that while there are still a lot of things to consider while the process moves forward, on Tuesday an important milestone was reached.
“That’s kind of the key right now — to bring everyone together,” said Terrasas. “You don’t want too many specifics yet. The board moving forward will be making specific policy decisions and guiding where the MBCP is going to be going.”
Tuesday’s decision came amid a bevy of public comment and some reservations by councilmembers Dan Albert and Ed Smith, who were also feeling pressure from a deadline concerning the project’s overall timeline. Nineteen local governments including Santa Cruz and San Benito counties had already indicated they wanted to join the agency. On Tuesday, a previously split board of Monterey County Supervisors also agreed by a 3-2 vote to sign on to the Monterey Bay Community Power under the agreement’s original governance structure.
Concerns about the new initiative have centered around fair and equitable representation on the agency board. Because Monterey County’s energy demands are higher, local officials have felt they should have more votes to reflect that. Other concerns revolve around an option by customers to “opt out” and the possibility that PG&E could charge more for the transmission of energy. As part of the new agreement, PG&E would still maintain power lines and provide customer service.
Terrasas has maintained that the risks of joining such an initiative are far less than the benefits. The project would ultimately produce little to no carbon and would be renewable in that it wouldn’t use up natural resources.
“There’s still valid points and things to consider, but I think a lot of folks recognized that having more choice and more control over our energy destiny rather than have an investor-owned utility where the revenues are going to shareholders somewhere else, is a good thing,” said Terrasas. “I think they realized this is an option we have to have.”
Also on Tuesday, the council voted to send a letter to the state Coastal Commission urging it to intervene in the ongoing Cemex sand operation. Southern Monterey Bay has the highest erosion rates in the state, and the Cemex plant is the primary cause of erosion in the Monterey Bay, according to research by the U.S. Geological Survey and NOAA. The Coastal Commission has said it plans to vote on a cease-and-desist order.
“Signing a letter of support to start winding the operation up — especially given the impacts to the coastal erosion makes sense,” said Terrasas. “That is why the City Council voted to move forward with a letter.”
Monterey Opts to Join Community Choice Energy Program, by Carly Mayberry, Monterey Herald, March 8, 2017.