Woodland Selects Panel of Community Choice Energy Advisors

A panel of six residents will be the nucleus around which a larger body could assemble to determine whether a Community Choice Energy program would be a good fit for Woodland.

Acting Tuesday night, the City Council accepted the group which will consider whether alternative energy sources would be preferred over Pacific, Gas & Electric for not only residents but businesses alike.

The city and council have been closely following developments between Yolo County and the city of Davis on a “ Community Choice ” power system that it is hoped could cut local utility bills by 4 percent or more.

Several weeks ago, the council gave unanimous support toward forming an ad hoc advisory committee to evaluate the benefits and risks of the Community Choice Energy Program. But the council has been reluctant to commit itself any further until more questions are answered. However, with the citizen advisory panel it’s thought elements could be put in place by next March.

Councilmen Skip Davies and Angel Barajas were earlier selected to serve on an ad hoc committee to study the plan. Under the new proposal a group of eight individuals familiar with electrical power systems, markets, distribution, and policies; as well as expertise in local economic and environmental issues, would also be selected to study the alternatives.

On Tuesday a group of six people were presented by Roberta Childers, the city’s environmental sustainability manager, but both she and the council thought there should be greater representation. As such, additional outreach will be conducted to enlarge the body to as many as 13 people.

Childers told the council that eight people would allow for a “reasonable mix” but council members, particularly Skip Davies said he wanted to see “bigger users,” particularly those who are already buying power independently from PG&E. He referenced Pacific Coast Producers, Boundary Bend Olive Oil, Adams Grain and Nugget Markets as examples.

No one had any problems with expanding the panel’s membership. Vice Mayor Angel Barajas also said he wanted to see more women on the group in the interests of diversity.

Councilman Tom Stallard also noted the panel wasn’t going to exist very long. “I don’t think we need a year and a half of study,” Stallard noted. “We don’t need to reinvent any wheels here.”

Stallard’s comments were in reference to the strides already taken by Yolo County and the city of Davis, which have formed a joint powers agency to seek out cheaper, and more sustainable, energy sources.

The aim of the Davis-Yolo County group, called Valley Clean Energy Alliance, is to deliver at least 50 percent renewable energy. The group would operate as a nonprofit which would handle service rates and leverage purchasing power.

The Woodland council started serious consideration of joining the Energy Alliance in late September. In addition to the Energy Alliance locally, there are other Community Choice programs such as Marin Clean Energy, which includes Napa County and parts of Contra Costa and Solano counties; Sonoma Clean Power; Lancaster Choice Energy; and Clean Power San Francisco.

It’s possible — although unlikely — Woodland could link up with any of these groups.

Previously, Stallard said he wants “to work with our neighbors” but urged caution “I don’t think our citizens care where the power comes from because they’re motivated by price. If we can show that our progress of working with our local partners is equivalent then” the city will have better options.

Barajas also noted earlier that savings of 4 percent to 8 percent would be substantial for local businesses.

Those people appointed to the ad hoc panel include:

•Mark Aulman, a retired marketing communications consultant; chairman of the Woodland Historical Preservation Commission; secretary of Woodland Tree Foundation; president of Woodland Kiwanis; and a community participant in City Council Sustainability Committee.

•Kevin Cowan, a financial service provider; first vice president (and incoming president) of the Woodland Chamber of Commerce, a frequent Chamber of Commerce participant on the City Council Sustainability Committee

•Tom Flynn, a Storage & Distributed Energy Resource Policy Manager for the California Independent System Operator with nearly 30 years of experience in California electricity policy, including California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, California Power Authority, Southern California Edison, consulting, and others.

•Phil Hogan, a district conservationist for the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, who is also president of the Woodland Chamber of Commerce, and a frequent Chamber of Commerce participant on the City Council Sustainability Committee.

•Bill Marcus, a principal economist at JBS Energy, who has nearly 30 years of experience in analysis of electric and gas utilities, providing expert testimony on utility issues, preparing financial analyses of utility contracts, and providing consulting services on utility economics.

•Christine Shewmaker, a retired plant biologist and plant molecular biologist, with 30 years experience and a community activist on climate change issues who has been involved with the city’s Climate Action Plan and its 2035 General Plan.

Woodland Selects Panel of Community Choice Energy Advisors, by Jim Smith, Daily Democrat, November 16, 2016.

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