Officials with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority on Friday said they were one step closer to launching a new energy program in Humboldt County that aims to shrink electricity bills and supply power from more renewable sources.
Matthew Marshall, executive director at the energy authority, said they received notice late last month the California Public Utilities Commission approved their plan to begin purchasing energy for county residents. The Community Choice Aggregation program is scheduled to go into effect in May.
“We’re excited to have the state’s endorsement of our program,” Marshall said in a statement. “This moves us into the growing set of California counties and cities that are able to offer their citizens lower rates, local control over electric service, and the new jobs that come with a growing local renewable energy sector.”
Residents in Sonoma, Marin, and San Francisco counties have opted into similar programs, according to Marshall. Mendocino is on its way to joining Sonoma’s program.
Marshall said the program is an alternative method for local government to get power to homes and business. The authority — which is part of a joint power agency that includes the county of Humboldt; the cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna, Rio Dell, and Trinidad; and the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District — would begin procuring energy for customers in the area while trying to secure better rates.
He said the agency hopes to slightly reduce the rates of energy. Customers will see that in the form of a small reduction in their “generation” fee, which amounts to about half a customer’s total bill, according to the energy authority.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. will still take charge in supplying power to the customers through its company-owned infrastructure. It will also make repairs and respond to outages.
Electricity bills also still come from PG&E — they’ll swap their charge for procuring energy with RCEA’s generation fee, according to Marshall.
“Customers won’t get two bills,” he said. “PG&E owns the power lines so when there is a storm — like we’ve seen recently — they’re still thankfully the ones that are the point for that. They do a great job at that.”
Another initiative the energy authority hopes to pursue is sourcing more power from local sources of renewable energy. Marshall said initially they hope to find electricity generated from solar, wind and — maybe eventually — even wave power.
Customers might also have the option of paying a premium to source all the power supplied to them from renewable sources. PG&E offers a similar option, according to its website.
The energy authority plans to notify customers in spring of the changes, Marshall said. Customers still have the option to purchase their energy through PG&E.
He said that will boost competition.
“Hopefully, we are going to be able to get better rates,” he said. “But if its not going to save you any money, you can opt out if you like.”}
Redwood Coast Energy Authority Receives State Approval, by Manny Araujo, Eureka Times-Standard, January 6, 2016.