Alternative energy provider smart way to go

Every household in Agoura Hills has an exciting new opportunity to make a tangible difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air and water quality, all while saving money.

Residents have begun to receive mailers announcing the move to a new energy provider called Clean Power Alliance. Starting in February, our city, along with 30 other communities across Los Angeles and Ventura counties, will launch a community choice energy program that will offer cleaner, more renewable power at competitive rates.

How will it work?

Simply put, Clean Power Alliance purchases clean power and delivers it to your home via existing Southern California Edison lines. SCE will continue to send one bill and resolve any service issues, as before. Financial assistance programs will remain intact and you’ll still have access to rebates and incentives.

What will change?

You now have choice. Customers will have a menu of energy options to choose from.

Lean Power: This is the default rate option for Agoura Hills residents, providing 36 percent renewable content at the lowest possible cost, a 1 to 2 percent savings over SCE’s standard rates.

Clean Power: Purchase 50 percent renewable content at either no cost difference or up to a 1 percent savings compared to SCE’s standard rates.

100 percent Green Power: This will cost about 7 to 9 percent more than SCE’s base rates, but will deliver nearly three times the amount of renewables. And, it’s about 5 percent less expensive than SCE’s 100 percent Green rate.

What do you have to do?

Nothing, unless you want to change your default option. Agoura Hills residential customers will be automatically enrolled in Lean Power, but you can easily make your own energy choice or opt out entirely and return to SCE as your energy supplier. Just go to cleanpoweralliance.org or call (888) 585-3788. Business customers will be enrolled in May.

Why did Agoura Hills choose 36 percent Lean Power as the default?

We anticipate that this service level will allow Agoura Hills residents to realize a cost savings even if SCE raises transmission rates to recoup losses from the California wildfires. That said, we encourage as many residents as possible to opt up to 100 percent Green Power if you can afford the slight increase. It’s an investment in our future.

Unsure which rate is best for you?

Grab your latest bill and head to the online bill calculator to compare and decide. Whether you enjoy the costs savings, go for 100 percent Green, or find your balance in the middle, it’s your choice.

Watch for more mailers coming soon. In the meantime, feel free to reach out or go to cleanpoweralliance.org for more details.

Klein Lopez is an Agoura Hills City Councilmember and the city’s board member on the Clean Power Alliance. She can be reached at dlopez@ ci.agoura-hills.ca.us.

 

Alternative energy provider smart way to go, by Klein Lopez, The Acorn, January 17, 2019.

What happens to a bankrupt PG&E’s solar contracts?

As soon as this morning’s news hit the wires, one of the first questions asked around energy twitter was what was going to happen to the gigawatts of wind and solar projects that hold contracts with Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E), now that it has announced plans to file for bankruptcy.

As usual there were a variety of views, with Tyler Norris of Cypress Creek Renewables and Jigar Shah expressing the opinion that these contracts were unlikely to be vacated.

However, Ben Serrurier of Cypress Creek warned that there could be “haircuts” to older power purchase agreements (PPAs).

 

Any perception that these contracts are safe was further undermined by both Fitch and S&P downgrading the credit rating of the Topaz Solar project before the bankruptcy.

So what is it? Are these contracts safe, or not? The truth is that no one we talked to was willing to make too strong a statement one way or the other, but we did get some insights into what might happen.

 

Unprecedented

PG&E has announced that it will file a voluntary petition for Chapter 11, which is a financial move that allows it to reorganize its debts, and does not involve liquidation. Along with this, the utility is expected to continue normal operations including supplying power to its customers.

And while we have had utility bankruptcies – PG&E has even gone bankrupt before – what we have not had is a utility bankruptcy in the era of strong renewable energy mandates. This was noted by Elias Hinckley, an energy lawyer at firm K&L Gates.

“California consumers are still going to need power,” Hinckley told pv magazine USA. “That power is still going to have to provided under the regulatory framework that California has created, which sets a high bar for renewable energy inclusion.”

Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has also expressed that the California government may play a role. “We are confident that California’s leaders will work to ensure that existing contractual obligations for solar projects are honored and that the state lives up to its climate commitments,” stated SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper. “SEIA is monitoring this issue closely and engaging with the Governor’s office, legislators, and the PUC to protect the state’s investments in current and future renewable energy.”

And while exactly what happens from here is unclear, legal precedent suggests that it will be the bankruptcy court that is the final arbiter. In fact, in September a bankruptcy court in Ohio asserted that even though wholesale power contracts are governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, it had primacy in deciding the fate of power contracts signed by Ohio utility FirstEnergy.

In terms of how the court could decide, another factor could be how contracts are structured.

 

Uncertainty

In the meantime, another impact of this development is that it is likely to throw any pending contracts with PG&E into chaos. This is less of a concern for solar. PG&E, like California’s other two large investor-owned utilities, over-procured renewable energy in advance of state’s 2020 renewable energy mandate, leading to a lull in large-scale procurement.

However for batteries this could be a bigger deal, and Hinckley of K&L Gates says this uncertainty is actually the biggest issue for California’s large-scale energy storage market.One factor is that the bankruptcy process may last years, and until it is concluded solar and storage projects seeking to sell power to PG&E may be prohibitively difficult to finance.

 

The future of utilities

But by far the biggest question is what will happen after the Chapter 11 process. California regulators have already suggested that they may break up PG&E or make it public, and there is no guarantee that the post-bankruptcy utility will look anything like it does today.

But it is not only PG&E that is in danger.

“I don’t think people have fully realized how big of a thing this is, and it isn’t just PG&E that has exposure here,” notes Hinckley. He observes that with climate change intensifying wildfires, utilities in fire-prone regions could see an increase in their basic cost to operate.

Someone is going to have to foot the bill for this, and if this involves a big increase in the price of retail electricity, this could drive greater adoption of rooftop solar and storage.

There are many unanswered questions here, and we at pv magazine USA will be exploring these in the coming weeks and months as this story plays out.

 

What happens to a bankrupt PG&E’s solar contracts?, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, January 14, 2019.

Who Could Get Hurt by PG&E’s Fire-Driven Bankruptcy

PG&E Corp., owner of California’s largest electric utility, warned Monday that it plans to file for bankruptcy protection on Jan. 29, pushed to the brink by wildfire lawsuits that could cost the company $30 billion. It’s the latest fallout from two years of massive blazes that have killed more than 130 Californians and destroyed tens of thousands of properties. The move could trigger big changes for PG&E, its 20,000 employees and the roughly 16 million people it serves. It raises the question of whether people who blame PG&E for burning down their homes will receive the compensation they want. And could bankruptcy derail California’s fight against global warming?

1. Will the lights stay on?

Yes. When utilities file for bankruptcy, they don’t cease operations. PG&E’s utility unit — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. — filed for bankruptcy in 2001 during the California electricity crisis without interrupting service. PG&E said Monday it expects to have $5.5 billion in “debtor in possession” financing lined up to carry it through the bankruptcy process.

2. Will customer bills go up?

Probably, but it’s impossible to say until the bankruptcy process is well underway. And for once, the decision to raise rates won’t rest solely with regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission. Rate increases will be tied to whatever reorganization plan the bankruptcy court judge overseeing the proceeding approves. California passed a law last year allowing PG&E to pass on to ratepayers some of the costs of wildfires for which it had been blamed in 2017, but it’s not clear how the law’s provisions will apply to a company that’s already in bankruptcy. Indeed, some of those provisions were designed to prevent utilities from going bankrupt.

3. What about the employees?

They will continue to work, responding to outages and maintaining the company’s vast web of wires and natural gas pipelines. They will still get paid, and the company will continue to fund their health care, a senior executive with the company’s Pacific Gas and Electric utility said Monday.

4. What happens to all the wildfire victims suing PG&E?

Filing for bankruptcy puts those lawsuits — total estimated liability: $30 billion — on hold and wraps them into the bankruptcy proceedings. That’s part of bankruptcy’s appeal to PG&E. The company would be able to bring all those cases into a single forum for resolving its financial problems, including wildfire suits. Bankruptcy filings also can force litigants to accept smaller settlements than they would have been able to negotiate otherwise.

5. How about the shareholders?

Don’t expect to see your dividends again anytime soon. PG&E stopped issuing dividends after the 2017 fires, and a bankruptcy proceeding would likely put off the resumption of issuing dividends by several years. But analysts don’t expect shareholders to be wiped out.

6. What role is the state taking?

The legislature last year gave PG&E the ability to issue bonds to pay off its 2017 wildfire lawsuit costs. A key state politician has drafted — but not yet introduced — a bill that would do the same for 2018. But PG&E argues the bond process set up by the legislature will take too long to help. Meanwhile, California politicians seem to be losing patience with PG&E. Governor Gavin Newsom’s response Monday morning didn’t indicate he would try to prevent the bankruptcy.

7. Could this interfere with California’s climate change goals?

California is requiring all its utilities to increase their use of renewable power, and PG&E has already lined up enough power purchase contracts to meet the state’s targets for the next few years. But the state’s climate fight very much relies on healthy electric utilities in multiple ways, such as deploying electric vehicle charging stations and making homes more efficient. Newsom is expected to make climate one of his signature issues and has already said that he wants California’s utilities to be strong enough to invest in the state’s energy transition. Meanwhile, analysts are waiting to see if PG&E will use bankruptcy proceedings to get out of some of the most expensive renewable contracts it signed years ago, before the costs of wind and solar power plunged.

 

Who Could Get Hurt by PG&E’s Fire-Driven Bankruptcy: QuickTake, by David R. Baker, Bloomberg, January 14, 2019.

Governor Newsom Statement on PG&E Announcing Intention to File Bankruptcy

SACRAMENTO — California Governor Gavin Newsom issued the following statement after the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) announced its intention to file for bankruptcy:

“PG&E provides gas and electric service to 16 million Californians. From the moment I was elected, I have been closely monitoring the impact of PG&E’s existing and potential future liability for the deadly wildfires on the victims of the fires and the consumers who rely on PG&E for their electric and gas service.

“When I took office one week ago today, I immediately instructed my team to meet with the California Public Utilities Commission, CAISO, PG&E, and labor unions representing the workers who work for PG&E. My staff and I have been in constant contact throughout the week and over the weekend with these stakeholders and regulators. Everyone’s immediate focus is, rightfully, on ensuring Californians have continuous, reliable and safe electric and gas service.

“While PG&E announced its intent to file bankruptcy today, the company should continue to honor promises made to energy suppliers and to our community. Throughout the months ahead, I will be working with the Legislature and all stakeholders on a solution that ensures consumers have access to safe, affordable and reliable service, fire victims are treated fairly, and California can continue to make progress toward our climate goals.”

 

Governor Newsom Statement on PG&E Announcing Intention to File Bankruptcy, Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, January 14, 2019.

CalCCA Statement on PG&E Bankruptcy Announcement

Concord, Calif. – With Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) facing billions of dollars in potential wildfire liabilities the investor-owned utility has announced it is on the verge of filing for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Today, the California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) issued the following statement:

“Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) are committed to providing reliable service, clean energy at competitive rates, and innovative programs that benefit people, the environment and the economy in communities across California. They are closely monitoring any developments related to PG&E’s financial situation and are in the process of evaluating potential impacts on CCA customers and operations.”

###

About CalCCA: The California Community Choice Association supports the development and long-term sustainability of locally-run Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) electricity providers in California. There are currently 19 operational CCA programs in California serving an estimated 8 million customers.

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

Press Contact: Leora Broydo Vestel

(415) 999-4757 | leora@cal-cca.org 

Modern energy infrastructure could mitigate California’s wildfire crisis

What is the value of technology that can sense a problem with a power line and cut the electricity flowing through it faster than it’s able to hit the ground and ignite nearby vegetation? What about mini independent power grids that can disconnect from the main utility and function in the case of a system-wide failure — allowing critical infrastructure like hospitals and first responders to still operate while mitigating the potential fire hazard for the larger community?

Clean technologies like these that allow greater control over the power grid already exist.

They’re the kinds of solutions that should make hard choices easier — like the decision that local utility PG&E had to make about whether or not to keep power running during November’s fire in Paradise, California. Solutions like these mean that people may not lose their homes to fire, that power can be restored in minutes or hours versus days or weeks, and that essential services can keep lights and heating and cooling systems on during emergencies.

The question is — why aren’t utilities racing to incorporate them?

We used to be a nation that invested in energy technology and while some utilities have begun testing and incorporating newer clean technologies — we’re not anywhere near a transition.

The conversation has been stuck at the estimated $1 trillion cost of building a modern smart grid across the country. But we’re already spending $150 billion per year right now from outages due to weather alone. And in 2017, PG&E faced up to $6 billion for damages from that year’s wildfires. At that price, across the country, we could be integrating synchrophaser sensors that can detect and react within seconds to problems along miles of power lines, (which San Diego Gas and Electric has begun doing), along with microgrids.

Microgrids would make the biggest difference in a natural disaster. A large connected grid means limitless vulnerabilities that can wipe out the entire system, and continuous power that’s hard to isolate and manage when there are trouble spots. Self-contained and resilient — if there’s a problem with a microgrid, it only affects the immediate area. In the case of a wildfire it can be entirely shutdown, remotely managed, and easily restarted once danger has passed. Their small, compact nature also means that select sections of the grid can be kept in operation even if everything else is off.

While major utilities in the state have yet to adopt them, California has notable microgrids in operation — several of which belong to the military and serve as teaching examples: Camp Pendleton, Fort Hunter Liggett and Borrego Springs. Even Alcatraz runs on a microgrid.

Historically, the United States has always made the shift to the next era of power generation — from wood and hydro, to coal, to oil and then nuclear — but that hasn’t been happening this time around as renewables and clean technologies have become viable. The current power grid is literally stuck in the 60’s — an analogue system that relies on centralized generation and endless miles of cables, poles and substations spread over long distances. One major disruption along the line and the whole thing can go down, and worse, as we’ve repeatedly now seen in California — it can contribute to the damage done.

The unfortunate short answer to why utilities have been slow to adopt these innovations is that “it’s complicated.” It involves changing behavior and re-orienting and aligning current disincentives built into the regulated utility system into incentives to invest and deploy. This is the nature of moving from central generation to the future of distributed generation. Utilities, regulators and politicians are unsure of how to control and make money from distributed generation.

As the fires in California have demonstrated, natural disasters as a result of drier land from lack of rainfall, increasingly dangerous storms and other climate change related problems are already here and will only get worse. The California Climate Assessment forecasts that by 2050 the area burned by fire in the state will increase by 77 percent and costs will go up by 24 percent.  — But the need for better technology is as simple as the reality that it will always be impossible to maintain tens of thousands of miles of cables and the natural world that grows around them to a level that ensures safety without incident.

Making the investment in modernizing our energy infrastructure means we’ll be prepared with a more resilient system for future natural disasters. Now that we know — there’s no excuse for inaction.

Jigar Shah is the founder of renewable energy company SunEdison.

 

Modern energy infrastructure could mitigate California’s wildfire crisis, by Jigar Shah, The Hill, January 12, 2019.

California set a goal of 100% clean energy, and now other states may follow its lead

It’s been less than four months since California committed to getting all of its electricity from climate-friendly sources by 2045. But the idea is already catching on in other states.

At least nine governors taking their oaths of office this month, from Nevada to Michigan to New York, campaigned on 100% clean energy, or have endorsed the target since it was enshrined in California law. The District of Columbia also set a 100% clean energy goal last month. So did Xcel Energy, a Minneapolis-based utility that serves 3.6 million electricity customers across eight Western and Midwestern states.

The policy’s growing popularity is driven in part by market trends and technological advances that make it easier to envision a future in which fossil fuels are no longer burned for electricity. But experts say California’s recent passage of Senate Bill 100 is also playing a role.

“Sometimes other states don’t want to admit that they’re looking to California for leadership. But they really are,” said Carla Frisch from the Rocky Mountain Institute, a Colorado-based think tank that has worked with cities and states on energy policy.

As the world’s fifth-largest economy, California wields enormous power to influence environmental policy nationally and even globally. The state’s actions have reshaped how industries do business, changed people’s habits and set the agenda for other states and countries. Automakers, for instance, have been forced to build increasingly fuel-efficient cars for decades because of California’s authority to set tailpipe-emission rules stricter than those of the federal government.

The Golden State’s aggressive policies can also prompt a backlash. In the four-plus years since California lawmakers voted to ban single-use plastic bags at most stores, nine states have passed laws blocking local governments from enacting such bans.

California’s role as a global leader was front of mind of then-state Sen. Kevin de León as he crafted the 100% climate-friendly energy legislation. The Los Angeles Democrat had previously written a bill raising the state’s clean energy target to 50% by 2030. But within a few years, it had become clear the state could meet that goal far sooner than expected, without the massive economic disruption opponents had predicted.

“California has long shown the rest of the nation how to protect the environment while growing the economy,” De León said. “If California can do it, everyone else can.”

What’s unique about 100% clean energy, supporters say, is that it’s caught on with lawmakers and the public in a way other climate change policies haven’t.

Many economists say a market-based tool that puts a price on planet-warming carbon emissions is the cheapest way to fight climate change. But even in places with broad support for climate action, it’s been difficult to build support for those types of policies. Voters in Washington state, for instance, overwhelmingly rejected a carbon tax in 2016 and again in 2018.

Adam Browning, executive director of the Oakland-based advocacy group Vote Solar, cited a common refrain among climate advocates — that the only two problems with a carbon tax are “carbon” and “tax.” Nobody likes taxes, and most people don’t have strong feelings about carbon.

A 100% clean energy policy, on the other hand, is simple and focused on positive change, Browning said. Supporters can highlight the potential benefits of cleaner air, job creation and cutting-edge technologies.

“It’s exciting to be a part of, it speaks to values, it speaks to solutions, and it speaks to things people like. And it has overwhelming bipartisan support,” Browning said.

The concept didn’t originate in California. Hawaii became the first state to pass a 100% clean energy mandate in 2015, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, introduced federal legislation to that effect in 2017. More than 100 cities have endorsed the concept, according to the Sierra Club, as have 150 major corporations that are part of the RE100 coalition.

But in the months since California passed its 100% clean energy mandate, the idea has gained significant political momentum.

Voters in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin elected new governors in November who signed a pledge from the League of Conservation Voters to support 100% clean energy by 2050. In several states, the new governors mark a dramatic shift from their predecessors.

In Maine, for instance, Democrat Janet Mills has replaced Republican Paul LePage, who issued a moratorium on new wind turbines and vetoed a bill to study how climate change would affect the state.

In Oregon, voters reelected Gov. Kate Brown, who also signed the League of Conservation Voters’ 100% clean energy pledge. In New Mexico, newly elected Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham campaigned on a promise of 80% renewable energy by 2040 and has toutedCalifornia’s 100% clean energy law as a success story. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also announced his support last month for 100% climate-friendly energy.

David Bookbinder, chief counsel for the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., described the groundswell of support for 100% clean energy policies as a “political trend” first and foremost.

“These are all governors who are Democrats, and they’re all trying to be progressive. And saying ‘100% renewables’ is money in the bank as far as their base is concerned,” Bookbinder said.

The Niskanen Center encourages politicians to support a carbon tax as an economically efficient way to reduce emissions. Still, Bookbinder described the expanding support for 100% clean energy as a positive development in the fight against climate change. It shows that the public is beginning to take the problem seriously, he said, and that lawmakers see “political mileage” in committing to ambitious climate action.

That’s certainly the case in Colorado, where Jared Polis, who was sworn in as governor on Tuesday, made 100% renewable energy a key campaign promise. That pledge may have been a factor in Xcel Energy’s decision to become the first major U.S. utility to commit to 100% carbon-free electricity, with a target date of 2050. Xcel’s biggest electricity customer base is in Colorado.

Washington, D.C., has set the most aggressive target date, 2032, for getting off of fossil fuels. The nation’s capital also set a strict goal of all-renewable energy, meaning only naturally replenishing resources such as sunlight, wind and geothermal heat. California and Xcel set zero-carbon targets that could also include nuclear power or fossil-fueled power plants that capture carbon dioxide before it is emitted into the atmosphere.

For many of the newly elected governors, it’s unclear exactly what flavor of “100% clean energy” they’ll ultimately seek.

But whatever standards they endorse, the effects of simply setting the goal could be felt immediately, even with a target date 20 to 30 years in the future. Wade Schauer, a research director at the energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, said investors might hesitate to invest in gas-fired power plants in states looking to eliminate fossil fuels in the next few decades.

“Why would you want to go into New York and build a power plant that by 2035 would barely be running, and by 2040 wouldn’t be running at all?” Schauer asked. The adoption of 100% clean energy targets, he said, “could completely change the game” for natural gas.

At the same time, goal-setting is the easy part. When it comes to eliminating fossil fuels from electricity, the devil will be in the details — and other states will be looking to California to see if it’s really possible.

The biggest issue California needs to work out: how to move beyond natural gas, the state’s largest source of electricity.

Some ideas are already being put into practice, such as batteries that store solar power for nighttime use, geothermal plants that generate clean energy around the clock and time-varying electricity rates that encourage people to use energy at different times of day. But it’s not yet clear how those policies and technologies will fit together, or how quickly California can radically reduce its use of gas.

Another proposal favored by former Gov. Jerry Brown is to merge California’s power grid with those of other Western states.

So far, the plan has been derailed by the thorny politics of red states and blue states working together. But in the long run, most energy experts say an expanded power grid that makes for easier sharing of electricity across state lines is one of the least expensive ways to meet 100% clean energy targets.

One other problem facing California: Cars and trucks, not electricity, are the state’s biggest source of planet-warming emissions. California already gets nearly one-third of its electricity from renewable sources. When nuclear and large hydropower plants are counted, the amount of electricity from zero-carbon sources rises to half. But the state has made far less progress transitioning away from oil-powered vehicles as the main source of transportation.

“It’s easy to switch from coal to gas and from gas to renewables. Relatively easy,” Bookbinder said. “Getting rid of the internal combustion engine is a whole nother thing.”

 

California set a goal of 100% clean energy, and now other states may follow its lead, by Sammy Roth, The Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2019.

PUC again tries to help utilities fight their fear

Until damages and liabilities from wildfires rose from mere hundreds of millions into the multi-billion-dollar range over the past 18 months, California’s big private utilities had no greater fear than the steady expansion of a phenomenon best known by the initials CCA.

That’s short for Community Choice Aggregation, a means allowing electricity consumers in some places to opt out of being served by the likes of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co. Municipally-owned and-operated CCAs generally charge a little less per kilowatt hour than the private companies and provide more energy from renewable sources like wind and solar. They use existing transmission lines to fetch power for their customers.

It’s a nightmare for the utilities, which have already lost cities big and small to CCAs, cutting into their profits a bit. San Francisco Clean Power is a CCA. Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties also offer CCA service. Starting next month, customers in 31 Southern California cities plus the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties will join the biggest-ever CCA unless they opt out in favor of sticking with Edison.

That one will include cities like Ventura and Thousand Oaks, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach and Calabasas, to name just a few. About one-third of those locales have chosen to give customers 100 percent renewable power unless they deliberately choose dirtier options priced a bit lower. Los Angeles itself won’t join the CCA because it already has the state’s largest municipally-owned utility, the Department of Water and Power.

The latest significant city wanting a CCA is San Diego, where Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer the other day announced support for an alternative to SDG&E as the best means to fulfill the city’s pledge of running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2025.

Not surprisingly, California’s Public Utilities Commission, which regulates the big utilities and has long favored them over their customers, keeps throwing obstacles in the path of CCA expansion. In January 2018, it passed new rules that essentially delayed establishment of new CCAs for a year. As that time expired, the commission adopted new, higher levies on CCA customers as a way to compensate the existing utilities for expenses of previous power plant construction and long-term power purchase contracts they signed during the energy crunch almost 20 years ago. Never mind that consumers actually paid for all that via their monthly bills.

“We are updating the formula because everyone agrees it is broken,” newly termed-out Commissioner Carla Peterman, a Jerry Brown appointee, said at the time of the vote.

But not everyone agrees. Some activists, especially in the San Diego area, believe the new, higher charges — significantly more there than what’s paid by consumers leaving PG&E and Edison — are excessive.

“This is dangerous because it defeats the aim of better prices by CCAs than established utilities,” said Bill Powers, a San Diego energy engineer who helped California fight off utility plans to import high-priced foreign-sourced liquefied natural gas through Ventura County in the early 2000s. “In San Diego, it could set up an almost impossible burden for any new agency.”

 

PUC again tries to help utilities fight their fear, by Thomas Elias, Chico Enterprise-Record, January 8, 2019.

Myth Of The Month: CCAs Don’t Sign Long-term RE Contracts

In this new feature, we explore myths around community choice aggregation. If you have a suggestion for myth of the month, send it to info@ebce.org.

As community choice aggregation (CCA) ramps up around the state, a myth has taken hold that CCAs are not signing contracts for new energy supply. But new data released shows that CCAs have been busy contracting for over 2000 MW of new renewable energy, with more to come.

“These programs produce very little new renewable energy, instead buying from existing sources, including out-of-state wind and solar farms,” wrote Jerry Sanders, former mayor of San Diego and head of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

So what is really going on? As customers departed in droves for CCAs throughout 2017 and 2018, investor-owned utilities have been left with an excess of the renewable energy they need to comply with the state renewable portfolio standard (RPS). As a result, IOUs did not conduct annual RPS solicitations in 2016 or 2017, nor did they plan to undertake solicitations in 2018, according to the CPUC’s RPS annual report, released in November.

The report says that the nine CCAs in service in 2017 had an average RPS position of 49%, also well ahead of RPS schedules. But load served by CCAs is rapidly increasing, with ten new CCAs starting up in 2018. “As the RPS requirements increase and more CCAs fully come online,” the CPUC report says, “there will be a near-term renewable procurement need.”

In total, the CPUC says CCAs will need to procure “approximately 6,900 GWh beginning in 2020,” plus more to meet the 60% RPS target by 2030.

And CCAs are busy doing exactly that.

Two Gigawatts, So Far

The California Association of Community Choice Aggregators (CalCCA) recently released datashowing that six CCAs have so far signed long-term contracts for over 2000 MW of new renewables. Of the 56 contracts they tallied, 38 are for 20 years or longer. Only three are less than 10 years.

CCAs passed the two gigawatt milestone in October when Monterey Bay Community Power and Silicon Valley Clean Energy jointly approved contracts for 278 MW of solar, coupled with 340 megawatt hours (MWh) of battery storage for two separate projects to be built in Kern and Kings Counties. That is the largest solar + storage procurement to date in California. That same month, Peninsula Clean Energy broke ground on a 200 MW solar project supported with a 25 year contract.

Altogether, CCAs signed up for about 1000 MW of new renewables under long-term contracts in 2017. And more contracts are on the way. So far, every CCA in California plans to procure more renewables than is required under the RPS, and sooner. Most are being driven by their member communities. Ten communities in the Clean Power Alliance (CPA), for example, recently voted to go 100 percent renewable as soon as CPA starts operations next year.

CCAs that are just getting started (like EBCE) are proving ready to solicit long-term contracts right out of the gate. In June of this year, even before its residential launch, EBCE issued a solicitation for multi-hundreds of megawatts of California-based renewable energy from new projects, with at least 20 MW from local projects.

Contracts big and small

The contracts signed to date support 1360 MW of new solar, 741 MW of new wind, and 12 MW of new biogas. Interestingly, all but one of the projects are in California, belying the related myth that CCAs are supporting “out of state” power suppliers. (See map below.)


Timeline of operation dates for CCA-supported new renewables

MCE Clean Energy, the oldest CCA, has signed the most contracts, at just over 900 MW. MCE’s diverse portfolio includes 36 contracts ranging from 3 to 25 years in length, and from 60 kilowatts to 160 MW. Over 400 MW of their new renewables capacity came online this year. MCE got a favorable review and rating from Moody’s Investors Service in May, the first CCA to to be rated.


Signed contracts for wind, solar, and biogas

Monterey Bay Community Power and Silicon Valley Clean Energy have teamed up on their procurement efforts, signing contracts for three big wind and solar projects — coupled with batteries — that will come online in 2021. The average length for those contracts is 16 years. Monterey Bay is in its first year of operations, serving residential customers on July 1, 2018, while Silicon Valley went live in April 2017.

One of the smallest CCAs, Lancaster Clean Energy, has set “a lofty goal of becoming the nation’s first net-zero city.” Lancaster, a desert town of 160,000, was the first city in America to require all new homes to have solar, and has converted all city buses to electric. Lancaster Clean Energy took a step toward that goal by signing a 20-year contract for a 10 MW solar farm just outside of town, enough to power 1800 homes.


Most contracts are 15 years or longer

While 2000 megawatts is an impressive start, more needs to be — and will be — procured. Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 100 into law in September, committing the entire state to at least 60 percent renewable and 100 percent zero-carbon power by 2045. Community choice aggregators will be on the front lines of achieving that goal as quickly, as reliably, and as affordably as possible.

 

Myth Of The Month: Ccas Don’t Sign Long-term RE Contracts, by East Bay Community Energy Staff, East Bay Community Energy, January 7, 2019.

US Electric Vehicle Sales Increased by 81% in 2018

U.S. electric vehicle sales may be finally seeing the hockey stick growth market watchers have been waiting for.

The 2018 numbers are in, and total U.S. EV sales came in at 361,307 for the year — up 81 percent over 2017 — according to the tracking website Inside EVs.

For Chris Nelder, manager of Rocky Mountain Institute’s mobility practice, the results came as a surprise.

“I did not expect the growth rate to be over 30 percent” for 2018, he said. “I expected it to be in the 20 percent range, which is where it’s been.”

“I did expect we’d have a sharp increase in the rate adoption sometime soon,” he added. “But I didn’t think it would be in 2018.”

Image from Greentech Media

Last year’s strong sales performance really came down to one thing: Tesla. The Silicon Valley automaker sold 139,782 units of the Model 3 in 2018, according to Inside EVs. Including the Model S and the Model X, Tesla was responsible for more than 50 percent of total plug-in vehicle sales last year.

The Toyota Prius Prime was the second-bestselling EV of 2018, with 27,595 units sold. GM’s Model 3 challenger, the Chevy Bolt, made the top 10 list but was well behind the market leader, with just 18,019 sales for the year.

Source: Inside EVs

U.S. EV sales to date have been underwhelming. While launching an entirely new class of vehicles is no easy feat, China has seen adoption levels surge, while European countries lead on a per-capita basis.

The U.S. EV sector has seen incremental growth over the past several years, but it has yet to reach an inflection point. And sales actually saw a dip in 2015.

Source: InsideEVs

In 2017, U.S. EV sales totaled 199,818 — up 26 percent over 2016. That number set a new record for the U.S. market, although plug-in sales barely surpassed 1 percent of total market share.

Historic EV sales growth in the U.S. has been steady, but it’s safe to say it hasn’t spiked. 2018 may prove to be the year that changed, but it will depend in large part on how well automakers other than Tesla perform.

Taking the Model 3 out of the mix, U.S. EV sales increased by only 11 percent last year, a poor showing by most standards.

But Nelder notes that many automakers were focused on introducing new EV models and retooling their production lines in 2018. While this didn’t translate to enormous sales, he believes these investments will start to pay off in the coming months.

“I think it’s going to be a whole different game,” he said. “I don’t think 2019 is going to be all about the Model 3. There are a lot more manufacturers making a lot more EVs.”

There are several new mass-market EVs available with over 200 miles of electric range, such as the Kia Soul and Kia Niro. At the same time, brands such as Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Jaguar and Audi are launching headline-grabbing high-performance electric cars — and putting real pressure on Tesla for the first time.

“In 2019, we’re going to have much more significant participation from other major manufacturers, especially in the high-end luxury crossover/SUV segment,” said Nelder. “And it’s there that I think people are going to get excited about what’s happening. That’s not the consumer model stuff that we all need and want to see, but it is the sexy stuff. It is the stuff that generates headlines and gets people to go into showrooms and gets real money to flow.”

 

US Electric Vehicle Sales Increased by 81% in 2018, by Julia Pyper, Greentech Media, January 7, 2019.