The City Council this week voted to participate in the East Bay Community Energy Authority JPA, a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program that would allow cities in the East Bay to pool together in purchasing energy.
Supporters say CCA programs allow member cities to use economies of scale to negotiate cheaper energy for their residents and businesses and/or choose to purchase cleaner power than is now available from current provider PG&E. PG&E would continue to handle billing, customer service and infrastructure maintenance. In addition, PG&E’s programs for low-income customers would continue. Businesses and residents would also have the opportunity to “opt out” of the CCA and stay with PG&E.
After a Nov. 7 hearing lasting one hour and 20 minutes, the council approved the ordinance to join the JPA.
Mayor Peter Maass opened the public hearing by calling it “the main event tonight.”
Albany Sustainability Coordinator Claire Griffing gave a staff report to council, selling the plan as a way to help the city meet its Climate Action Plan goals.
Consultant Tom Kelly presented the council with detailed information and answered questions.
In 2014, a recommendation was made for Albany to join the existing Marin Clean Energy, a CCA provider that has been joined by Richmond and El Cerrito. However, at the same time, Alameda County began work on creating the East Bay Community Energy Authority (EBCEA) and Albany decided to hold off joining the Marin group.
There are currently four CCAs operating in California, including Marin Clean Energy. A fifth will be operational next year and 26 others are under consideration.
Albany is one of 13 cities in Alameda County eligible to join EBCEA. The Berkeley City Council voted to join the authority last week. The county requested cities to pass ordinances to join the CCA by December with plans to begin delivering power to customers in the fall of 2017. Service would be “rolled out” with customers brought online over a two-year period.
A technical study determined that in most scenarios, customers would save money. The exception would be if renewable power sources were set at 50-80 percent of power over the first five years. The study reported that if other factors (including higher “exit fees” charged by PG&E or higher costs for renewable fuels) happened, customer savings could be wiped out and PG&E would be cheaper.
Councilwoman Peggy McQuaid questioned whether the program was worthwhile if it only partially reduced greenhouse gasses. “Probably the main reason to do this is for greehouse gas reduction,” McQuaid said. “So if we’re not pushing for the 100 percent renewable, I’m not quite as excited about the whole project..”
Councilman Michael Barnes noted that he has solar panels on his house and that because his energy use is below average, they will probably never pay for themselves. He called energy conservation the “low-hanging fruit.”
“I would like to see a plan … that stresses energy efficiency,” he said.
Councilwoman Rochelle Nason said, “We’re going to have less expensive energy, it’s going to be cleaner energy, we’re going to have jobs created. It does sound like a no-brainer.”
Albany Joins Energy Provider Partnership, by Damin Esper, East Bay Times, November 10, 2016.