Santa Maria delays decision on joining Monterey Bay Community Power

As Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) continues to expand southward and throughout most of San Luis Obispo County, Santa Maria is weighing whether to join the public electricity provider.

MBCP services Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties, with cities throughout SLO County also joining. The community choice energy (CCE) agency is one of 19 throughout the state, which serve more than 10 million people.

CCEs are governed by a board of directors made up of officials from participating cities. The organizations handle generating and purchasing energy, while leaving companies like PG&E, which currently provides electricity in Santa Maria, responsible for transmission and distribution.

At the May 21 City Council meeting, J.R. Killigrew, director of communications for MBCP, pitched the agency as a way for the city and its residents to save money on their electricity bills.

“Because we are a nonprofit and don’t have the corporate structure, we can take that one portion of the bill and find a way to reduce the cost,” Killigrew said.

According to Killigrew’s presentation to council, if Santa Maria joins the organization, residents are estimated to save $3 million between 2021-25, while businesses are estimated to save between $8 million to $9 million during the same timeframe.

Killigrew said switching to MBCP will also help the city move in a greener direction. MBCP has a 100 percent carbon-free energy portfolio, with 33 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources, while 80 percent of PG&E’s energy is carbon-free.

City Council members expressed dismay over the presentation and a report from city staff highlighting many positives about the joining MBCP without disclosing any risks. Council members were also concerned that a PG&E representative didn’t attend the meeting to comment on this potential change.

Andy Caldwell, executive director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business, of which PG&E is a member, spoke at length about the upside to sticking with PG&E. He touted the amount of tax revenue jurisdictions receive from private energy companies and said CCEs take advantage of already existing infrastructure built by companies like PG&E.

“These guys are literally leeches on the end of PG&E’s transmission lines thinking that no matter what happens to those lines and the investment needed, they are going to run risk free,” Caldwell said.

Ultimately, City Council deferred making any decision, despite Killigrew’s telling council that they would need to adopt an ordinance to join MBCP by August to begin service in 2021.

Instead, City Council directed city staff to reach out to PG&E for comment on the potential change. Additionally, City Council decided to delay its decision until Santa Barbara County informs the city of the county’s decision whether to create a CCE.

Last year the county began looking into the feasibility of a CCE, which could include Santa Maria. According to a written public comment from the county to the council, the county will have new information on the feasibility of a local program in the coming weeks.

Councilmember Mike Cordero said at the very least, the city should wait for more information from the county before making a decision in joining MBCP.

“I think at the bare minimum we should wait and find out what the county has to offer and what we can learn from them that we don’t know now,” Cordero said. “I don’t think we should cast this aside, but I do think there’s a bit more learning to take place.”

Santa Maria delays decision on joining Monterey Bay Community Power, by Zac Ezzone, Santa Maria Sun, May 30, 2019.

Community Choice Energy – A Small Town Turnaround

Community Choice Energy – A Small Town Turnaround

By Alison Kerr, Mayor of Del Rey Oaks

In the spring of 2017, Del Rey Oaks made a name for itself when our city council voted against the opportunity to join Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP).  We held the dubious distinction of being one of only two cities in the Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito tri-county area not to team up with 20 neighboring jurisdictions.

It was a decision that denied DRO residents and businesses the benefits and advantages of being a CCA customer.

It was also a decision that quickly became the catalyst for Del Rey Oaks residents’ determined fight for clean power and a sustainable energy future.

Del Rey Oaks is a small, residential community on the Monterey peninsula.  Our 1900 residents love the central location on a sunbelt, and our natural surroundings with regional parks and wetlands.  We know our neighbors, who include young families as well as people who have lived here over 50+ years. We have an annual community wide garage sale, ice cream socials and picnics in the park.  Voters lean left, and support liberal causes, although city leadership has been conservative for the last 30 years I have called DRO home.

So, DRO residents, myself included, had assumed the council would be in favor of joining our region’s soon to be CCA because of the obvious benefits: access to lower greenhouse gas emitting energy, clean energy professionals with impressive track records to lead operations, return of profits back into our community rather than shareholder pockets, and a choice between PG&E and MBCP’s various offerings.  Couple all of this with strong community support and we thought it was a done deal.

However, the majority of the council stated CCAs presented a threat of fiscal liability, and that because our new President was rolling back environmental legislation, alternative energy wouldn’t stand a chance against gas and oil.

It was a decision that was misguided and an embarrassment to our city.

Joining MBCP became a flashpoint for our residents and a rallying cry went up. Meetings were held and strategies were developed to overturn our council’s decision.  We researched the issues in depth, spoke deliberately at City Council meetings and developed an information and outreach program to get others involved.  We collected over 200 signatures on a petition.

The council did not budge. It was an impasse that prompted my decision to run for Mayor of Del Rey Oaks.

During the spring and summer of 2018 we watched as MBCP got up and running, becoming one of the most successful CCA launches, paying off the loan guarantees in less than 6 months.  We also watched as a California Public Utilities Commission Resolution was adopted that imposed a delay of at least one calendar year to the process of joining MBCP.

Joining MBCP, fighting for transparent and open government as well as protecting and expanding our green spaces were my top three priorities.  These priorities helped me win the election over a heavily favored incumbent in November 2018 with 59% of the vote.

Fast forward to the spring of 2019.  I am proud to report that on May 28, just five months into my term as Mayor, the Del Rey Oaks City Council voted to join Monterey Bay Community Power.  We have also established a citizen-led Sustainable Del Rey Oaks group that will be looking at additional ways our city and community can decrease reliance on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources and protect our environment as we meet the new challenges we will all face due to the shifts in climate.

These were decisions made to move our residents, businesses and small town in the right direction.  We are excited to finally be joining the Community Choice Energy community!

 

 

 

 

Grover Beach, Paso Robles vote to join Monterey Bay Community Power

The Grover Beach and Paso Robles city councils took their first official steps to join Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) the week of May 20—kicking off what’s expected to be a countywide exodus from PG&E to the northernly public electricity provider over the next few months.

Both city councils voted to adopt first readings of ordinances to join MBCP. If finalized, they’ll be the third and fourth cities to do so, along with SLO and Morro Bay.

Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Santa Maria, and Guadalupe, as well as SLO County, have upcoming meetings to consider joining the burgeoning Community Choice Energy (CCE) agency currently serving Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties.

“I applaud you for your leadership,” J.R. Killigrew, director of communications for MBCP, told the Grover Beach City Council on May 20. “I know both the Five Cities and [SLO] County, as well as Guadalupe and Santa Maria, are looking for someone to take the first step. I think with that momentum we will be able to unify the Central Coast.”

Starting its service in 2018, MCBP is one of 12 California CCEs operating in PG&E territory. Governed by a board of directors comprised of local elected officials, a CCE handles energy purchasing and leaves PG&E responsible for distribution.

MBCP has a carbon-free energy portfolio and matches PG&E’s rates while also providing 3.7 percent rebates to customers in 2018-19. It has $57 million in reserves, according to Grover Beach.

Customers can choose between MBCP or PG&E, but they’re opted in to MBCP by default.

As MBCP picks up new territory throughout the region, it’s considering rebranding with a Central Coast theme and opening a satellite office in SLO County.

Local cities view joining MBCP as an opportunity to save electricity costs and go in a greener direction. According to a Paso Robles staff report, city ratepayers are set to save an estimated $4 million over five years as part of MBCP.

“The projected savings are especially important now, as PG&E’s costs for transmission and distribution are going to rise sharply as a result of the recent fires and other problems,” the Paso staff report read.

If all of SLO County were to join, MBCP estimates that total cost savings for residents and businesses would surpass $30 million between 2021 and 2025.

In order for MBCP to meet deadlines necessary to begin service in SLO County starting 2020 and 2021, localities must finalize their decisions by July 31.

County supervisors, who decided to abandon a local CCE formation effort last year, will meet on June 18 to discuss whether to include SLO’s unincorporated areas in MBCP.

“I don’t really see a downside to this,” Grover Beach City Councilmember Karen Bright said on May 20. “You can opt out. Everyone has an opportunity—you can participate or not.”

 

Grover Beach, Paso Robles vote to join Monterey Bay Community Power: Getting the very best deal, by Peter Johnson, New Times San Luis Obispo, May 23, 2019.

Monterey Bay Community Power is looking to expand as far south as Santa Barbara County.

Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties pooled together their electricity buying power, founding Monterey Bay Community Power in 2017. Now, that agency is scaling up with expansion envisioned for all of San Luis Obispo County and possibly as far south as portions of Santa Barbara County.

The pitch to local officials in these areas is simple: Pacific Gas & Electric has been purchasing electricity on behalf of your communities for as long as anyone can remember. MBCP would like to offer an alternative. As a public entity, the agency has proven that it can lower rates for consumers while also prioritizing renewable sources of energy.

The cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay recently opted in and their enrollment is scheduled to begin in January 2020.

Efforts to bring in additional partners have been going on for months and will continue, says MBCP’s Director of Communications & Energy Programs J.R. Killigrew. Jurisdictions reviewing the option of joining include San Luis Obispo County, as well as the cities of Grover Beach, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero and Santa Maria.

The expansion drive could see MBCP’s customer base grow by as much as 50 percent, Killigrew says.

Amy Wolfrum, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s ocean conservation policy manager, who serves on MBCP’s Community Advisory Council, says the expansion is a good gauge of success.

“It’s a vote of confidence for Monterey Bay Community Power that these other coastal communities want to join,” she says.

As more of the Central Coast comes under the Monterey Bay Community Power umbrella, the idea of renaming the agency has come up. “We would want to make sure the new communities are part of our identity,” Killigrew says.

Community choice aggregation, or CCA, is the term for the pooling together of ratepayers’ buying power. It’s been gaining popularity across California over the past few years. From zero CCAs a decade ago, the state now counts 19, including MBCP. These agencies are now responsible for purchasing electricity on behalf of more than 10 million customers. The traditional electric utilities (like PG&E) still get paid to deliver the power to individual homes and businesses and they still handle the billing.

Meanwhile, the state has created a major challenge for energy providers by setting a requirement that half of California’s electricity be powered by renewable resources by 2025. The ultimate goal is to switch to 100-percent zero-emission electricity by 2045.

MBCP is chipping away at the goal. Over the past year, the agency has inked deals to invest in three renewable energy projects: a wind farm in New Mexico and solar projects in Kern and Kings counties. Earlier this year, the agency teamed up with Silicon Valley Clean Energy to issue a request for proposals for new carbon-free power supply projects.

MBCP issued another RFP inviting bids for microgrid projects, aiming to support local energy generation and boost economic development. By the May 17 deadline, nine applications were received including proposals from the agriculture industry and governmental and educational institutions.

 

Monterey Bay Community Power is looking to expand as far south as Santa Barbara County., by Asaf Shalev, Monterey County Weekly, May 23, 2019.

SLO wants to use water from Nacimiento pipeline to generate electricity

The California Energy Commission is offering the city of San Luis Obispo a $3 million loan to build a 261-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system as well as a 264-kilowatt hydroelectric generation system — both located at the city water treatment plant on Stenner Creek Road behind Cal Poly.

By generating its own power at the treatment facility, SLO could earn savings of $266,863 annually compared to its current power bill, according to a commission report.

Furthermore the loan could be paid back in just over 11 years, while the facility generates renewable power for many more years after.

Read more

Del Rey Oaks moves to join Monterey Bay Community Power

DEL REY OAKS – The city of Del Rey Oaks has approved joining Monterey Bay Community Power, adding to the list of Monterey Peninsula cities and regional jurisdictions that have joined the Community Choice Aggregation program.

City Council bypassed a resolution in the first reading of an ordinance required for membership said Del Rey Oaks City Manager Dino Pick.

“As with all cities joining there will be a second reading of the ordinance at our May 28 city council meeting,” said Pick. “City staff were very pleased to recommend to the City Council that the city of Del Rey Oaks join Monterey Bay Community Power at this point.”

Read more

Agencies launch Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Incentive Program

MONTEREY — Officials from Monterey Bay Community Power and Monterey Bay Air Resources District announced the launch of the Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Incentive Program Wednesday, with electric vehicles available on site for test drives.

“We’re really excited to be a vehicle in partnership with other agencies like (Monterey Bay Air Resources District) to make sure that all consumers and all customers in the Monterey Bay get on this electrification train that’s coming right now,” said JR Killigrew, director of communications and energy programs for Monterey Bay Community Power. “It’s here and it’s going to help us bring an even more cleaner, more vibrant and economically feasible Monterey Bay region.”

The first phase of the program offers significant discounts pre-negotiated off the list price of electric vehicles from specific local dealerships as well as added incentives through July 31. Monterey Bay Community Power customers who are income-qualified can receive a $4,500 discount, nonprofit and public agency Monterey Bay Community Power customers are eligible for a $3,000 discount and all other Monterey Bay Community Power customers can receive a $1,000 discount.

Killigrew said the goal of the event Wednesday was to provide awareness of electric vehicles and the discounts now available.

Click here for the full article.

Agencies launch Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Incentive Program, by Tom Wright, Monterey Herald, May 1, 2019.

Grover Beach City Council discusses Community Choice Energy program

The Grover Beach City Council is considering an energy plan that could potentially save customers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The council received information about the concept of Community Choice Energy, or CCE, and Monterey Bay Community Power on Monday.

During the meeting, officials said the program could save the residents upwards of $820,000 over a five-year period.

The cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay already decided to join Monterey Bay Community Power’s Community Choice Energy Program in December of 2018.

The goal of the program is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, invest in renewable energy projects and programs, and lower electricity rates for customers.

Through the program, PG&E would still distribute power to cities that participate, however, that electricity would come from renewable sources, including wind, solar, and hydro-power.

The council is expected to bring the item back for discussion again in June.

 

Grover Beach City Council discusses Community Choice Energy program, by KSBY Staff, KSBY, April 15, 2019.

Pushing the future: Two SLO County cities join a clean energy program

Our region has a tremendous opportunity to develop and benefit from a clean local energy economy. In support of this, we are thrilled to announce that community choice energy is coming to Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo.

Starting in January of 2020, if you are a resident of or operate a business in either city, you can be a part of a locally controlled public agency that re-invests heavily in our communities. The agency, named Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP), will provide carbon-free electricity with a periodic rebate of 3.7 percent on the generation component of your electricity bill, and will allow you to access innovative energy programs.

Monterey Bay Community Power started from humble and grassroots beginnings in 2013 and officially formed after four years, thousands of hours, and hundreds of community events. Electricity customers in cities and unincorporated areas throughout Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey counties began receiving service in 2018 and received rebates close to $5 million through MBCP’s innovative rebate model.

In 2019, MBCP is investing $1.2 million in electric vehicle incentives and income-qualifying solar installations and is on track to invest even more in 2020. As a public agency, customers will have a direct say at public meetings and through their elected leaders to decide if we spend that additional revenue on bigger rebates, electric vehicle subsidies, or something else entirely.

Over the past few years, the cities of Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo have spent significant time assessing community choice energy options. Between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, our city councils considered the topic at more than 10 public meetings. After extensive discussion, in December of 2018 we decided to partner with MBCP. Since a community choice energy program is an innovative concept, we would like to share some facts about MBCP:

• MBCP estimates that cost savings through the standard rebate for Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo customers in 2020 will be between $700,000 and $900,000.

• MBCP has contracted for the largest solar-plus-battery-storage energy system in California as well as two other renewable energy projects for wind and solar with battery storage, which will meet 20 percent of its annual demand.

• MBCP is debt free and has more than $50 million in reserves.

• Discount programs are available for low-income households.

• Solar customers receive the same net energy metering program as the existing utility, except higher net surplus compensation rates and additional cost savings through MBCP’s standard rebate.

• MBCP’s power supply is carbon-free from eligible renewable resources, as well as through large hydro-electric resources that meet the California Energy Commission’s and California Public Utilities Commission’s standards for procurement and resource adequacy.

• All eligible PG&E customers are enrolled in MBCP, and each customer will have the choice to opt out and stay with PG&E. Additionally, customers will have the option to opt up to MBprime, which supports 100 percent renewable energy.

The benefits of community choice energy are significant. We are proud to be able to participate in how we procure energy and re-invest in our communities. We are optimistic about a bright future of clean and affordable electricity, innovative energy programs, and a collaborative Central Coast community choice energy program. Δ

Heidi Harmon is the mayor of San Luis Obispo, and John Headding is the mayor of Morro Bay. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com, or send a letter to the editor for publication by emailing it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

 

Pushing the future: Two SLO County cities join a clean energy program, by Heidi Harmon and John Headding, New Times SLO, April 11, 2019.

More cities explore Community Choice Energy

Following the lead of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay, more SLO County cities are now in talks with Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) about becoming partner agencies—as the budding public electricity provider looks to expand south.

J.R. Killigrew, director of communications for MBCP, gave presentations to the Paso Robles City Council on April 2 and the Arroyo Grande City Council on April 9 about the process and benefits of joining the community choice energy (CCE) agency, which currently services Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties.

MBCP will start serving the cities of SLO and Morro Bay in 2020—their city councils voted in late 2018 to join after dropping efforts to start a SLO-based program—growing its customer base to about 307,000 residents and businesses.

“Since the cities of SLO and Morro Bay joined, it gave us a chance to think about the bigger picture,” Killigrew told New Times. “If we’re already serving two of the communities in SLO County, we’re starting to see a unified Central Coast program.”

With 19 programs in existence statewide, CCEs purchase their own energy and sell it to customers via PG&E’s existing infrastructure. The agencies are governed by local elected officials, through boards of directors.

Killigrew said since its launch in 2018, MBCP has been able to beat PG&E’s rates with a carbon-free energy portfolio—providing 3 percent rebates to customers.

Surplus revenues are reinvested locally in energy programs like home solar projects and electric vehicle infrastructure, he said.

Killigrew added that future projections indicate CCEs will provide 85 percent of the electricity load in California by 2025. He described it as a new energy paradigm, where CCEs manage power procurement while PG&E provides and maintains infrastructure.

According to MBCP’s presentations to the local cities, SLO County customers could save an estimated $4 million per year in electricity costs if all residents and businesses joined. Paso Robles customers would save about $500,000; Arroyo Grande’s about $165,000.

Arroyo Grande City Manager Jim Bergman told New Times that City Council members were receptive and supportive of the concept on April 9, but they wanted to schedule a future meeting for the public to ask more questions.

“One [council member] said, ‘I’m going to ask you some pointed questions because this just sounds too good to be true,'” Bergman said with a laugh.

Paso Robles Public Works Director Dick McKinley said the Paso City Council would likely vote in May on a first reading of an ordinance to finalize its decision.

“The council was very supportive,” McKinley said.

MBCP has similar presentations scheduled for Grover Beach and Pismo Beach City Council meetings. The CCE is also in talks with Atascadero, Santa Maria, and SLO County. Δ

 

More cities explore Community Choice Energy, by Peter Johnson, New Times SLO, April 11, 2019.