Editor’s note: Elements of this story originally published on Thursday, July 27 were in error. This updated story corrects and clarifies those errors.
By Hans Peter
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In an effort to source cleaner energy for local customers, Woodland officially took part in their third meeting of the Valley Clean Energy Alliance this week.
The VCEA originally derived from the city of Davis and Yolo County in December 2016. Woodland joined the organization in June, adding mayor Angel Barajas and Councilman Tom Stallard to the board.
Joining means Woodland has plugged into Community Choice Energy. Under this system, involved customers — homeowners and business — may choose to opt “in” or “out” in regards to sourcing their electricity from a variety of companies, including wind and solar providers. The county would continue to use Pacific Gas & Electric infrastructure (transmission, billing services), but the power running through the lines to each individual home could be sourced from more renewable sources.
Should the VCEA favor some power sources over others, excess rate payer money will go toward expanding that power source locally.
The Alliance’s joint powers authority — which is made up of members from the county along with Davis and Woodland — laid out an aggressive timeline last year. Tuesday’s meeting was designed as a public hearings and information exchanged on where the program is headed.
Board members have yet to hire a chief executive officer, though that search has progressed recently, according to a staff update.
The light-speed schedule has encountered some issues, but board members, advisers and the general public alike agreed that additional public outreach needed to get underway before any large steps be taken.
“I have a lot of people who are skeptical already,” said Yolo District 5 Supervisor Duane Chamberlain, an acting member of the VCEA board. “I want to see some numbers.”
Chamberlain said most of the calls he’s received have come from those in unincorporated communities like Esparto, who have had less involvement in the setup of the project and less information regarding rates.
Granted, rates are subject to the market; projected energy rates could change between now and the “flip of the switch” June of next year. The VCEA must buy power contracts before implementing prices.
According to VCEA Chairman Don Saylor, recent projections suggest CCE contracted rates could be lower than existing PG&E rates. Moreover, customers may be able to choose from perhaps three different “packages” with different mixes of renewable and non-renewable energy; this could result in a more expensive bill, but some customers may pay extra to reflect their own priorities by choosing a 100 percent renewably-sourced package, for example. Granted, the VCEA has not formed such package options as of yet.
“We have to be priced competitively,” Saylor said. “Some (customers) will be making their decision solely on pricing.”
A company called “Circlepoint” will be in charge of outreach, creating the VCEA image that will reach the mailboxes of residents and ultimately, their power grids.
Before implementation, customers — all residents and businesses managed under the agreement — will be sent notification letters. Those letters allow residents to opt out of the agreement, meaning their power supply would continue normally.
“We do need to engage the people themselves,” said Saylor.
The VCEA is also working with public advisers, who are acting as sounding boards for public concerns.
Each element of the JPA appointed those individuals with hopes of creating a spread of experience and community voices in Davis, Woodland and countywide.
Those nine people also act as representatives for the affected communities.
At Tuesday’s meeting, some of those public representatives seemed concerned that without understanding the pricing and dates of the “switch,” residents will opt out instead of opting in.
Robb Davis, mayor of Davis, said the advisers would be key to the agreement’s success.
“I think the purpose of the advisory committee … is right on,” he said. “(They are a) critical accountability and transparency layer.”
Contact Hans Peter at 530-406-6238.
Valley Clean Energy Alliance Powering up an Aggressive Schedule, by Hans Peter, Woodland Daily Democrat, July 27, 2017.