Senator Wiener Holds CPUC Accountable for Misstating Facts About CCAs in Legislative Hearing

Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) cautioned members of the Legislature in a March 19 hearing on expanding California Public Utilities Commission oversight of innovative new community choice aggregation (CCA) programs — charging the agency with attempting to “double down on [a] hyper-centralized, monopoly model” of electricity production that “has not worked well for California.”

In a hearing of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, Senator Wiener asked Michael Picker, president of the CPUC, to clarify remarks Mr. Picker made in recent testimony before the Legislature that CCAs were not meeting state “resource adequacy” requirements — a claim Picker once again restated at Tuesday’s hearing.

State policy requires all Load Serving Entities, including CCAs, to demonstrate they have the capacity to provide enough electricity when and where it is needed — a critical measure of the reliability of the energy system.

“You made a statement that there were 11 resource adequacy waivers granted [by the CPUC] in 2018 and that the majority were granted to CCAs,” Senator Wiener said, noting that a records request had revealed that none of the waivers were for community choice aggregators.

A CPUC representative at the hearing – Energy Division Director Ed Randolph – acknowledged that, in fact, “one or zero” waivers were for CCAs — and the rest were for other Load-Serving Entities (LSEs) adapting to the state’s rapidly evolving energy market.

The waivers, now posted on the CPUC’s own website, show that of the 11 that were issued last year — one to an Investor-Owned Utility (IOU) and ten to Energy Service Providers (ESPs). The list can be found here (scroll down to 2018 Local Waiver Letters): http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/General.aspx?id=6311.

“The comments we’re hearing, this consistent drumbeat of ‘there’s a resource adequacy problem with the CCAs’…I just think the facts don’t support that,” responded Senator Wiener. “And this is why I would not support expanding CPUC’s authority over CCAs.”

To view the exchange, click here.

About CalCCA
Launched in 2016, the California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) represents California’s community choice electricity providers before the state Legislature and at regulatory agencies, advocating for a level playing field and opposing policies that unfairly discriminate against CCAs and their customers. There are currently 19 operational CCA programs in California serving approximately 10 million customers.

For more information about CalCCA, visit www.cal-cca.org.

With community solar we can all be part of the clean energy solution

Los Angeles County is home to infamously bad traffic and seemingly intractable air pollution. We’ve got America’s biggest ports along with 88 different municipalities, one huge investor-owned utility, municipal utilities, and now the Clean Power Alliance—California’s largest Community Choice Aggregation. We’ve got some of the richest and most star-filled ZIP codes in the country alongside half of California’s most environmentally disadvantaged communities. We deal with historic wildfires and droughts so we know firsthand that climate change has arrived and threatens our homes and families. We’re also working hard to be part of the solution, installing solar on more homes in Los Angeles than any other city in the country while recently shutting down three gas plants along our urban coast.

With all this happening here, it seems obvious that tackling climate change is a large-scale problem requiring a large-scale, inclusive effort. To do that, it’s important for both the economic benefits of climate solutions, as well as the environmental benefits, to reach everyone. Community solar, a model that allows subscribers to access solar power from offsite generation and get credit on their utility bills or even receive direct payments, can help achieve that goal.

Click here for full article.

With community solar we can all be part of the clean energy solution, by Michael Kadish, Long Beach Post, March 18, 2019.

Inside California’s Community Solar Experiment

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved two sweeping programs in recent years to spur community solar construction in the state, but the market has yet to gain real traction. Solar developers are now scrambling to organize projects as these programs advance and new opportunities crop up.

“There is not a community solar market yet, but we’re about to experiment with it in a real way,” said CPUC Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves, in an interview with GTM.

California is a leader in U.S. solar development, but the state has deployed few community solar projects so far, with a little more than 100 megawatts of mostly one-off projects built to date. Community solar has not found fast footing in the state. Today, there are still virtually no up-and-running community solar projects within California’s investor-owned utility territories, which make up the majority of the state.

That’s a problem, as millions of people across California rent their homes or are otherwise unable to install rooftop solar. Community solar provides an access point for these people.

“There are a lot of obstacles to get on the roof to install solar when you don’t own it,” Guzman Aceves said. “At the most basic level, our plan gets to a significant population in California that would never have access. This is a really good thing, in that regard.”

The first program, adopted by the CPUC in January of 2015, is dubbed the Enhanced Community Renewables program. Under that policy, which was created by Senate Bill 43, developers market community solar directly to customers as an electricity product. Customers can buy a share of a local solar project directly from the developer and then receive credit for avoided generation costs from the utility. The program is one slice of the state’s 600-megawatt Green Tariff Shared Renewables portfolio, but there is no specific carve-out for community solar.

At present, just over 7 megawatts’ worth of projects are under construction or seeking approval through the Enhanced Community Renewables program:

  • In Sheep Creek near Victorville located in Southern California, developer Jaton is working on a 3-megawatt solar farm in Southern California Edison’s territory territory. Jaton formed in 2016 and seeks to take advantage of the state’s community solar programs.
  • In Campo, a town along the Mexico border, ForeFront Power is developing a 2.4-megawatt project with San Diego Gas & Electric.
  • In Fresno County in Northern California, ForeFront is working with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) on a 1.656-megawatt project.

While the going is rough, ForeFront is emerging as a key developer in California’s fledgling community solar programs. In 2018, PG&E put out a call for community solar proposals, and ForeFront submitted 11 projects that exceed 37 megawatts of power, all of which have the potential to come online in the future. In a public letter dated February 4, 2019, the utility noted that ForeFront’s projects were “selected for award and continued participation.”

One issue with the Enhanced Community Renewables program is that the solar comes at a premium, rather than offering customers savings, because these projects don’t qualify for net metering credits. PG&E started offering community solar at a premium in 2015, and it’s taken years to see any real action.

Disadvantaged communities solar tariff

Last June, the CPUC approved a second program, the Community Solar Green Tariff, that opened a pipeline for another 41 megawatts of community solar. The tariff stems from a provision of the 2013 bill AB 327 — sometimes called the “rate reform bill” — that requires growth of the solar industry in what the state calls “disadvantaged communities.”

The program creates a 20 percent bill reduction for people who live in areas with lots of air pollution and poverty and who want to participate in community solar. The projects must be located within a 5-mile area of their home. Solar developers and utilities operate with traditional power-purchase agreements.

In Southern California, SCE is well positioned to take advantage of the new tariff. Nearly half of the neighborhoods that qualify for this new program are within its territory, according to the utility.

“We found that our existing solar penetration is in this area already,” said Jessica Lim, SCE’s principal manager of product management, customer products and services. “That is where most of the solar projects are coming, from and customers can benefit from the savings in that area.”

SCE estimates that it can service 5,200 customers with the 18 megawatts allotted to the utility under the program.

Community-choice programs

The Enhanced Community Renewables program and the Community Solar Green Tariff program aren’t the only pathways to deploying solar in the Golden State.

Last year, SCE proposed a suite of community oriented solar programs to address some of the other programs’ pitfalls. Customers with Sacramento Municipal Utility District can already participate in a separate community solar program. Local organizations that procure power for residents, the community-choice aggregators (CCAs), are also developing their own initiatives.

Guzman Aceves said the CCAs aren’t burdened by the same regulatory restrictions as utilities. “The CCAs can do something quicker, theoretically, and that’s a good thing,” she said. “They have a lot more flexibility.”

When it comes to the Community Solar Green Tariff, however, CCAs could create a pain point.

SCE’s territory in particular includes many “disadvantaged communities” that qualify for the program, but a lot of these communities overlap with CCA territory, which could create problems if the local groups pursue their own community solar programs. PG&E has less overlap between its qualifying neighborhoods and the CCA service area within its territory, which means that it might be in a position to move more quickly, according to Guzman Aceves.

“One message I have for the CCAs and the utility is to make sure to work together on these types of projects,” Guzman Aceves said. “Do not make it be another five years of pointing fingers at each other, but [rather] see this as an opportunity for collaboration.”

Program constraints

Regulators are currently reviewing proposals under the Community Solar Green Tariff, which is expected to come online in the second quarter of 2019.

Proposal backers believe that building solar within polluted neighborhoods will reduce air pollution, but some developers complained that the program’s constraints are too tight and might limit growth.

Brandon Smithwood, policy director for the Coalition for Community Solar, said: “You’re asking developers to find a place where you have enough customers and where you can interconnect to the distribution grid. There are only so many places on the grid that you can practically plug into. And then this adds the requirement that all of your customers have to be in a small geographic area around the projects.”

He added that the CPUC’s new community solar contracts are a good sign, but they don’t guarantee that anything will be built.

“Whether these programs can work at all is still an open question,” Smithwood said. “Then, I think it’s clear that they’re not scalable. You have very complicated programs that don’t really fit in with the megatrends of the state.”

Instead, Smithwood argues that community solar can be used as a way to expand and experiment with successor programs to net metering. “That’s a way to create a community solar program that’s not these individual programs that have a ton of really complex requirements and restrictions,” he said.

Guzman Aceves expressed concern about introducing a net energy metering (NEM) structure for community solar because of what she called a rise in predatory actions by electricity service providers.

“There is a gaming that can occur with NEM that can’t occur with a fixed tariff,” she said. “It’s not all developers that use that approach, but it is happening with the NEM structure, particularly in low-income communities, monolingual and elderly households, and that’s a real big problem.”

SCE’s suite of community programs

Last September, SCE asked regulators to approve a slate of community-oriented clean energy options. At the time, it acknowledged that the current program for community solar wasn’t working very well.

It crafted an alternative set of programs. Altogether, SCE’s proposal generates 181 megawatts’ worth of new projects, with a 45-megawatt carve-out for low-income participants. The utility estimates the suite of programs could serve more than 82,000 customers.

With one initiative, SCE could aggregate customers for community solar projects itself, rather than solicit a developer or a community-based organization to do that work through contracts.

“Today, with our current program, we don’t really have a direct role in the formation of a community solar project,” Lim said. “We facilitate a solicitation process for the market. With this new program, assuming it is approved, SCE will be right in the middle. We’ll be the connector with customers and with communities.”

“Community solar is an important part of our clean energy future,” Lim said. “For us, it’s still in its infancy.  We just want to grow this program and try to be innovative in how we approach this by emphasizing disadvantaged communities.”

CPUC officials are currently reviewing the proposal, and approval is not guaranteed. In a memo, officials questioned whether SCE could end its existing program without violatingregulations.

CCAs and community solar

East Bay Community Energy, an Alameda County-based CCA, is developing a program that the group’s top executive Nick Chaset calls “a version of community solar more tailored to local governments.”

The idea is to pair city loads with renewable generation. If the program can scale, it will be be accessible to all of the group’s customers.

Chaset said that unlike the CPUC programs, there would be no third-party project owner. Instead, the city would contract for the project directly through the CCA.

Customer demand would be the only cap on the program’s growth. Projects could be built locally or located farther away.

“What differentiates this concept from a standard 100 percent renewable energy product is temporal commitment,” Chaset said. “Municipalities commit for a longer period of time, and that’s what gets the project built in the first place.”

“We are a community-owned provider,” he said. “In some ways all our solar is community solar.”

Energy and equity

Grid Alternatives, one of the largest nonprofit solar installers in the U.S., is also moving into community solar in Southern California.

It is working with SCE, the Greenlining Institute, and other policy and advocacy organizations on a pilot initiative called the Clean Energy Access Working Group. The goal is to create community solar projects that are designed, led and owned by local groups.

While still in development, one potential site is in Compton on land owned by Ujima Housing Corporation, a nonprofit group, according to SCE.

Michael Kadish, Grid Alternative’s executive director for the Los Angeles area, said it’s important for community solar projects to provide customers with real financial savings, and the group is exploring additional community solar options. “We’re accustomed to saving people 80 percent on their energy bill,” he said. “That’s the level of benefit we’re looking to provide.”

The group recently hosted a conference on the subject in Los Angeles. The meeting explored successful models from across the country and pathways to improve programs in California.

“Community solar is interesting and holds potential for us, if you understand our mission,” Kadish said. “We care about bringing the benefits of renewable energy to underserved communities where most people are actually renters.”

Community solar holds potential for a lot of stakeholders in California. The challenge has been and will continue to be finding ways to harness that opportunity.

 

Inside California’s Community Solar Experiment, by Kevin Stark, Greentech Media, March 18, 2019.

To combat climate change, California must wean buildings off fossil fuels

For decades, innovators in California have understood that the challenge of climate change demands ingenuity. Several technological improvements related to transportation and clean energy have emerged, helping to drive a concrete reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. But we’ve still got a long way to go, and the urgency of climate change demands we focus on some not-so-sexy solutions.

Notably, we still don’t have a comprehensive statewide plan to help cities cut pollution from homes and commercial buildings. That’s like having a global naval military strategy that omits the Pacific Ocean.

Construction, heating, and operating of our work and homes account for nearly 40 percent of our nation’s CO2 emissions.

A large share of these emissions come from burning natural gas in our home and office appliances. Indoor gas appliances emit more greenhouse gases than all of California’s power plants combined.

This problem has only worsened. Across the country, emissions from homes and buildings spiked last year, driving one of the largest national emission increases in decades.

In San José, we’re taking our buildings—and their greenhouse gas emissions—seriously.

I joined three other California mayors and 15 global cities to carve a path to a requirement for zero-emission buildings for all new construction.

For existing buildings, we’ve adopted a building performance ordinance that requires owners of commercial and multifamily buildings larger than 20,000 square feet—a far stricter threshold than the state’s—to track and disclose their buildings’ energy and water use through a free online tool.

By making energy costs more transparent to tenants, we will incentivize owner-funded investments in energy-efficient retrofits, and better understand the energy profiles of our existing building stock.

The most impactful change that we can implement lies in shifting from natural gas-fueled heaters and stoves to electricity, through the installation of electric heat pumps, electric hot water heaters, electric induction stoves, and other retrofits.

Studying our city’s emissions profile, we learned that swapping gas appliances with clean, electric options in San José’s homes would reduce our city’s aggregate greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent. Commercial retrofits could reduce greenhouse gas emissions even further.

Why do electric appliances present such opportunity?

In communities throughout California, we’re seeing dramatic progress in the decarbonization of our electrical grid. Part of the credit goes to the growth of community choice aggregation programs, which allow residents and businesses to choose the source of the electricity they buy.

San José Clean Energy, for example, offers nearly every residential customer and many businesses 80 percent carbon-free electricity at a lower cost than the private utility, Pacific Gas & Electric.

By 2021, our base offering will consist of 100 percent carbon-free electricity through a rapid ramp-up of contracts with renewable providers.

With cleaner sources of electricity, the conversion from gas to electric appliances in our homes and workspaces will dramatically cut emissions and reduce air pollution. It will also help grow California’s innovation economy, opening up the kind of clean-tech economic opportunity that we’ve seen with solar, wind, and zero-emission vehicles.

We need effective coordination among California’s leaders and public agencies, however.

The Building Decarbonization Coalition, which unites the building industry with energy providers, local governments, and environmental organizations, recently called on the state to cut building emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2045, and to adopt zero-emission building codes for residential and commercial buildings by 2025 and 2027 respectively.

As with any ambitious goal, cutting building emissions will generate challenges, but also opportunities.

For example, electrifying our buildings can help to lower the cost of new construction by avoiding costly gas hookups and pipeline infrastructure investments. We can also take steps to ensure that renters and lower-income communities have access to clean energy appliances.

Every year, California invests $1.1 billion in energy efficiency programs. But unfortunately, a legacy policy barrier prevents the California Public Utility Commission from allowing these investments to go toward clean, electric appliances.

This outdated policy is propping up fossil fuels at the expense of cleaner air, and it needs to be changed so that our programs and mandates reflect our commitment to zero-carbon living.

Moving California’s buildings beyond fossil fuels is a lofty goal, but one worthy of our collective ambitions.

I join the Building Decarbonization Coalition in calling on local and state leaders to join San José in growing the market for the clean energy appliances and retrofits needed for California’s zero-emission future.


Sam Liccardo is the mayor of San Jose, mayoremail@sanjoseca.gov. He wrote this commentary for CALmatters.

 

To combat climate change, California must wean buildings off fossil fuels, by Sam Liccardo, CAL Matters, March 15, 2019.

California’s wildfire threat could be an opportunity for clean-energy microgrids

To the untrained eye, the shipping containers clustered on the outskirts of Borrego Springs, Calif., don’t look like an innovative clean-energy technology that could help California cope with wildfires.

But these containers, in the remote desert of eastern San Diego County, are packed with lithium-ion batteries — and they’re part of one of the world’s most advanced microgrids. It combines solar panels, diesel generators, energy storage and something called an ultracapacitor to power Borrego Springs, even when electricity isn’t flowing through the single transmission line that connects the town to the main power grid.

“I believe this is the only microgrid in the world that does what this does,” said Steven Prsha, an engineer for San Diego Gas & Electric, as he wrapped up a tour last month.

Click here to read full article.

California’s wildfire threat could be an opportunity for cleanenergy microgrids, by Sammy Roth, The Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2019.

 

New Report Identifies Proactive Strategies to Manage California’s Renewable Energy Transition

The transition to zero-carbon homes and buildings is a critical step in California’s efforts to fight climate change, but the state must urgently develop a coordinated, equitable and cost-effective plan to proactively manage the decommissioning of the legacy gas system.

That is the conclusion of a new report from Environmental Defense Fund, which lays out strategies to guide decision-makers as they grapple with the question of who will pay for the existing fossil fuel infrastructure when California homes and buildings no longer use gas.

“Replacing gas appliances with low-emitting electric options that run on clean energy is a proven way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Tim O’Connor, Senior Director of California’s Energy Program at EDF. “But we need a coordinated and equitable plan in place to manage the impact of transitioning away from gas – for customers, workers, the economy, and ultimately, the success of our climate goals.”

Generally, utilities can incorporate the costs of building gas infrastructure into the rates they charge customers, so long as the California Public Utilities Commission deems the equipment “used and useful”. When the gas system no longer meets this threshold of being “used and useful”, the remaining investment is considered “stranded”.

As California reduces gas use in buildings, the pool of customers footing the bill for the gas system will shrink, which could raise costs and unduly burden lower-income and other vulnerable communities.

The framework finds that these stranded assets could create issues for affordability, equity and future investments in a cleaner energy system. While the full value of the gas system is unknown, California investor-owned utility assets in 2017 were valued at around $6.2 billion.

“While it may not happen tomorrow, California will have to deal with these stranded assets soon, so it is prudent for this be a proactive, planned transition – to allow costs to be spread out,” said Michael Colvin, Senior Manager of California’s Energy Program at EDF. “We can start by identifying an effective forum, possibly through the CPUC or legislature, to evaluate and manage this process.”

The framework also recommends gathering data from gas companies about the overall value and age of the current gas system as a first step, to clarify the full dollar value of the infrastructure, what has yet to be paid off, and how this information interacts with the expected timeline for electrification.

To help guide policymakers, the framework lays out other key tools and steps that can reduce the risks of stranded assets. These include:

  • Strategic targeting of electrification: The state should develop a methodology to support a coordinated roll out of electrification based on specific criteria, such as customer equity, age/value of gas infrastructure, cost of maintenance, risk of gas leaks, cost risk of stranded assets, and ease of deployment. Such a methodology can help maximize grid and customer benefits from electrification and minimize the risk of stranded assets compared to an ad hoc roll out of electrification.
  • Developing pathways to pay for early retirement: Creative financing strategies for mitigating stranded value impacts are also needed to minimize and mitigate the stranded value from specific legacy gas assets, including bonds and changes to regulated investment recovery through accelerated depreciation and changes to return on equity where appropriate.
  • Proactive planning for decommissioning: End of life expenditures (i.e.depressurization or removal) normally occur after a gas asset has reached the end of its useful life, but with a customer base shifting from gas to electric, it becomes more relevant to plan for these decommissioning costs now. A few notable options for this include new distribution system charges, creating a line-item on customers’ bills, and establishing a trust fund.
  • Alternative uses of existing assets: In certain circumstances, there may be a role for lower carbon fuels, like biomethane and hydrogen, as an alternative to fossil gas to extend the useful life of gas assets. Due to concerns over fuel availability, cost, and safety, deployment of these fuels should be focused on applications that may have difficulty electrifying — such as heavy duty industrial facilities, and should be coupled with specific leakage abatement measures for the gas infrastructure.
  • “Bright Line” for new investments: For future near-term gas infrastructure investments, California should establish an investment framework to provide for continued operations and safety, an effective transition, and investor confidence. A first step is developing a “bright line” for determining when investments are more at risk of being stranded and which stakeholders are responsible. Clear mandates for electrification would also provide regulatory certainty and a transition timeline for utilities.

Download the full report online here.

# # #

Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on TwitterFacebook and our Energy Exchange blog.

 

New Report Identifies Proactive Strategies to Manage California’s Renewable Energy Transition, by Environmental Defense Fund Staff, Environmental Defense Fund, March 14, 2019.

California wants to reform PG&E, but just how is uncertain

California leaders clearly want something about Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to change after many of the wildfires scorching the state in recent years were linked to the utility’s power lines.

Now PG&E and its regulators, critics and others are grappling with the hard part: What exactly do they want to do?

They could split the gas and electric sides of the business into separate companies. Some or all of PG&E could be owned by the government. Or they could break up PG&E, the state’s largest utility, in another way — perhaps making the electric business a “wires only” company focused solely on distributing and transmitting power.

There are other options, too, and PG&E has said it is open to making major structural changes as it tries to adapt to the state’s changing climate.

The last two devastating wildfire seasons prompted PG&E to file for bankruptcy protection, which will involve reorganizing the business in some way, and the California Public Utilities Commission also is considering structural options.

Each proposal being considered by the commission comes with a laundry list of debatable pros and cons, and it remains far from clear what might emerge as the most likely choice.

Click here for full article.

California wants to reform PG&E, but just how is uncertain, by J.D. Morris, The San Francisco Chronicle, March 11, 2019.

CalCCA Action Alert: CalCCA tells state legislators Community Choice Aggregators Are “Growing Force” for Reliability and Affordability

CalCCA Action Alert: CalCCA tells state legislators: Community Choice Aggregators Are “Growing Force” for Reliability and Affordability in Uncertain Energy Market 

California’s community choice aggregators (CCAs) are helping to stabilize today’s uncertain energy market — and public, locally-controlled energy providers have an even bigger role to play in the state’s energy future.

CalCCA Executive Director Beth Vaughan delivered that strong message in two legislative hearings this week on PG&E restructuring and the future of California’s energy market.

In testimony before the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee and the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee, Beth shared examples of CCAs all over the state leading with innovative approaches to prioritize reliability and affordability — and facilitating the transition to a greener, safer, more accountable utility system. 

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the traditional, vertically-integrated, bundled utility model is not the future,” Beth said in testimony to the Assembly Utilities and Energy Commission. “For millions of Californians, that model has already shifted to an alternative — Community Choice Aggregation.”

With regulators and ratepayers worried about what utility restructuring could mean, Beth made a compelling case for CCAs’ creditworthiness, resource adequacy, and commitment to developing a shared vision of the energy sector. She highlighted that CCAs are now the main drivers of new renewables construction in California, fueling job creation and economic development throughout the state.

CalCCA is proud to work together with partners like you to protect reliable and affordable service for ratepayers while accelerating progress toward the state’s climate goals. Here are a few ways you can share Beth’s hopeful vision for the future:

  • Share this link with your partners and networks to help them stay connected with timely updates on the PG&E bankruptcy and related news from the State Capitol.
  • Follow CalCCA on Twitter and “like” or “retweet” our posts.

And remember to include Beth’s remarks! You can find them here:

  • Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee Hearing (March 5): Click here to watch Beth’s response to questions about the PG&E bankruptcy (remarks start at 2:44:58).
  • Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee Hearing (March 6): Click here to watch Beth’s comments on the future of energy (remarks start at 1:42:50).

Thank you for your ongoing support of CCA in California!

###

About CalCCA
Launched in 2016, the California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) represents California’s community choice electricity providers before the state Legislature and at regulatory agencies, advocating for a level playing field and opposing policies that unfairly discriminate against CCAs and their customers. There are currently 19 operational CCA programs in California serving approximately 10 million customers.

For more information about CalCCA, visit www.cal-cca.org.

East Bay Community Energy: Big Data Means More Efficient, More Effective Service

Thanks to the massive investment in smart electric meters made by the state over the last decade, utilities collect a steady and granular stream of consumption data from customers.  EBCE is no exception, receiving data from 500,000 residential meters on an hourly basis and 50,000 commercial and industrial meters every 15 minutes.

That adds up to over 6 billion data points per year.  Add to that the previous four years of data acquired from PG&E, and it already amounts to 3.3 terabytes of data.  “Companies like Facebook sneeze at that amount of data – they collect more than 6 times as much every hour,” says Taj Ait-Laoussine, Vice-President for Technology & Analytics.  “But it is a lot.”

That data is collected for EBCE by PG&E and is used primarily for billing, especially as more customers move to time-dependent rates.  But it can do so much more.

WORKING THE NUMBERS

To put that data to work, EBCE has created a data analytics platform that is unique among CCAs in California.  It consists of a set of analytical tools built on a cloud-based platform that help with load forecasting, customer management, rate design, program marketing, and accounting.

EBCE staff are able to access the data to tackle any number of problems. The most basic application (or “use case” in business jargon) is understanding EBCE customers. “We can track enrollments, opt-outs, opt-ups by kWh, view the load profile of certain customer types, or track the number of CARE customers across our jurisdictions, for example,” Taj says.  “General slicing and dicing of the data.”

The next use case is “shadow reporting,” where EBCE runs reports to double-check the transactions that come from PG&E and that go through third party vendors. EBCE can run its own reports to ensure that the correct billing transactions have been posted and to ensure that its settlement with the Independent System Operator (CAISO) lines up with the data it acquires.

The third, and probably most important application so far, is forecasting load and revenues. Based on past behaviors, the tools can model load for the system as a whole, for certain regions, or for certain types of customers.

“We look at 25 distinct rate classes, then model each month, weekday and hour separately —  50,400 different dimensions in all,” says Taj. “Then, for each customer, we determine the relative weight that represents them on all of those dimensions. So we can now predict, for example, the energy consumption for all residential net metering customers in Fremont on a Tuesday in August at 3:00 pm.”

That is useful for estimating future load and revenues, but also for creating a short term summary of recent and upcoming load patterns, which is given to the Scheduling Coordinator every day.  The Coordinator schedules power purchases and deliveries through CAISO. Better visibility enables more accurate scheduling, and less need for expensive last-minute purchases. Before the data platform was set up, there was a gap in accessing that data. Now it happens in real time.

CUSTOMER FOCUSED

The data is also is useful for marketing, such as identifying and signing up individual customers for energy efficiency programs. “We can correlate consumption to weather on an hourly basis,” explains Taj.  “Customers with high correlations must be using a lot of air conditioning or electric heat, so they are good candidates for energy efficiency help.”

Better visibility helps EBCE design programs tailored to customer needs and to reach them more cost-effectively.  “We can spend less money on programs and get better engagement,” Taj says.

The platform can quickly generate detailed reports to customers on request, which is especially attractive to large commercial and industrial customers seeking ways to cut costs.

And it can enable new programs, like the 2018 demand response pilot where EBCE tested the potential for large customers to cut demand in response to price signals.

“Basically, it allows us to be more efficient, to do things faster and with less resources,” says Taj.  “It will result in greater customer retention and customer satisfaction.”

 

Big Data Means More Efficient, More Effective Service, by East Bay Community Energy Staff, East Bay Community Energy, March 8, 2019.

CalCCA Action Alert: Executive Director Beth Vaughan to Testify at Legislative Hearings Focusing on PG&E Bankruptcy and California’s Energy Future

CalCCA Action Alert: Executive Director Beth Vaughan to Testify at Legislative Hearings Focusing on PG&E Bankruptcy and California’s Energy Future

CalCCA members and partners:

As the PG&E bankruptcy unfolds in the courts and in news headlines, CalCCA is proud to work together with partners like you to protect reliable and affordable service for ratepayers while accelerating progress toward the state’s climate goals.

Today, those efforts will take CalCCA Executive Director Beth Vaughan to the State Capitol, where she will testify in an important hearing of the Senate’s Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. The hearing will begin shortly, at 9:30 a.m. 

Representing California’s 19 operational CCAs, customers, and the association’s affiliate members, Beth will discuss the implications of the PG&E bankruptcy on:

  • Billing and service agreements with PG&E
  • Wholesale supply purchases
  • Compliance with renewables portfolio standards and California’s larger energy goals
  • All ratepayers

On Wednesday, March 6, Beth will testify before the Assembly Utilities and Energy Committee at an informational hearing titled, The Metamorphosis of the Energy Sector: Maintaining reliability and affordability on the road to decarbonization.

The hearings are part of a much bigger conversation about climate change and our evolving energy market. CalCCA welcomes the opportunity to work with you to share our common vision of California’s energy and climate future.

Here’s how you can be a part of the conversation:

  • Watch the hearing on Tuesday, March 5 beginning at 9:30 a.m.:http://www.calchannel.com/live-webcast/.  (View the full hearing agenda here)
  • Watch the hearing on Wednesday, March 6 at 1:30 p.m.:  http://www.calchannel.com/live-webcast/
  • Tune in for updates on Twitter. “Like” and “Retweet” to share our messages with your followers
  • Sign up here to stay connected with our timely action alerts and information updates on the PG&E bankruptcy and related news from the State Capitol
  • Forward this email to your organizations, listservs, and Google groups
Thank you for your ongoing support of CCA in California!

About CalCCA
Launched in 2016, the California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) represents California’s community choice electricity providers before the state Legislature and at regulatory agencies, advocating for a level playing field and opposing policies that unfairly discriminate against CCAs and their customers. There are currently 19 operational CCA programs in California serving approximately 10 million customers.

For more information about CalCCA, visit www.cal-cca.org.