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.

Navy may oppose wind farms off Morro Bay — but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen

The dream of Morro Bay as a new hub of offshore renewable energy production in California could be over before it even gets its sea legs — or it could just be ramping up.

The Navy is expected to make an announcement in the coming weeks on whether it will support fields of 700-foot floating wind turbines off certain areas of the California coast.

State and San Luis Obispo County leaders say they’ve been informed the Navy will likely recommend against building potential wind farms off the coast of Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, something that could effectively sink hopes for the North Coast to be a new hub of renewable energy.

Despite this, those same leaders said they don’t believe the project is dead in the water just yet.

Read more

Hundreds of new oil wells could soon triple Santa Barbara County production

Environmental groups and local residents are sounding alarms that proposed drilling projects would triple onshore oil production in Santa Barbara County — to which the oil industry says, “What’s wrong with that?”

Three companies propose to add hundreds of new wells and associated pipelines to extract thick crude using thermally enhanced recovery — an energy-intensive process to recover heavy oils that can’t flow unless they are heated — and then truck the oil on rural roads and highways.

The projects would bring a new pulse of activity — along with tax revenue and risk of spills — to Cat Canyon Oil Field, a historic site of oil production up the road from Santa Maria into the rolling oak-covered Solomon Hills.

Click here for full article.

Hundreds of new oil wells could soon triple Santa Barbara County production, by Monica Vaughn, San Luis Obispo Tribune, March 18, 2019.

Montecito Fire Protection District Board unanimously votes to proceed with Community Microgrid efforts

NEWS RELEASE: Montecito Fire Protection District Board unanimously votes to proceed with Community Microgrid efforts

Clean Coalition and World Business Academy applaud this milestone as a significant step in the Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative, which will provide the area with renewables-driven resilience and emergency preparedness

Santa Barbara, CA — The Clean Coalition and the World Business Academy are pleased to announce that on Monday, February 25,the Montecito Fire Protection District Board of Directors unanimously authorized Fire Chief Chip Hickman to draft a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to proceed with Community Microgrid efforts for the Fire Protection District headquarters and fire stations.

This Community Microgrid represents the first building block in the Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative, which will bring renewables-driven resilience to Montecito — allowing critical facilities like fire stations, emergency shelters, and critical water and communications infrastructureto remain online indefinitely, even during extended grid outages.

Community Microgrid is a new approach for designing and operating the electric grid, based on local renewables and other distributed energy resources (DER) like energy storage and demand response. Although linked to the main electric grid, during a power outage a Community Microgrid can isolate from the broader grid and provide indefinite renewables-driven backup power.

The Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative aims to build multiple Community Microgrids in the area, ensuring the continuous operation of critical and priority facilities in the event of future disasters — as well as providing ongoing energy resilience to a broader Santa Barbara region that is served by a single, and highly vulnerable, connection to the high-voltage transmission system, via the Goleta Substation at the top of Glen Annie Road in Goleta.

“We are excited to explore renewable energy opportunities through a Community Microgrid approach that will make the Montecito Fire Department and the community more resilient,” said Fire Chief Chip Hickman. “The Fire Department is all too familiar with the dangers posed by extreme weather events like the Thomas Fire and the subsequent debris flow. This modern energy system will enable us to better serve the Montecito community, as well as provide much-needed redundancy to our essential service.”

“The Montecito Fire Protection District Board’s unanimous approval of drafting an agreement for a Community Microgrid is a major milestone in moving this Initiative forward,” said Craig Lewis, Executive Director of the Clean Coalition. “In casting a vote to move forward, the Board has demonstrated a keen understanding of the unparalleled economic, environmental, and resilience benefits that a Community Microgrid will bring to Montecito.”

The Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative is led by a Steering Committee comprised of dedicated leaders from throughout Montecito, which Judi Weisbart, VP of Community Relations for the World Business Academy, has helped to assemble.Members of the Steering Committee include Diane Boss, Sharon Byrne, Tom Dain, Cindy Feinberg, Julianna Friedman, Berna Kieler, Lee Lysne, Sara Miller McCune, Cheryl Tomchin, and Mike Weissman.

“I’m thrilled that the Fire Protection District Board of Directors has conceptually accepted the proposed microgrid design to make their headquarters more energy resilient in the face of extreme weather events,” said Sharon Byrne, Steering Committee member and Executive Director of the Montecito Association. “We hope that other critical facilities will adopt this idea and establish Montecito as the first energy-resilient community in Santa Barbara County.”

Supporting the Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative is the Kind World Foundation, which created a generous matching grant of $150,000 for the Initiative. In February, the Zegar Family Foundation made a generous donation toward this matching grant, bringing the Initiative within sight of its initial $300,000 fundraising goal. This funding will support the staging of Community Microgrids in Montecito’s Upper Village, which includes aligning stakeholders, performing engineering and economic analyses, and identifying investors to leverage the tax credits that are available to the parties that will own the Community Microgrid assets and sell energy to the sites via power purchase agreements (PPAs). These funds have positioned the Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative for success in bringing economic, environmental, and resilience benefits to Montecito.

###

About the Clean Coalition
The Clean Coalition is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and a modern grid through technical, policy, and project development expertise. The Clean Coalition drives policy innovation to remove barriers to procurement and interconnection of distributed energy resources (DER) — such as local renewables, energy storage, advanced inverters, and demand response — and we establish market mechanisms that realize the full potential of integrating these solutions. In addition to being active in numerous proceedings before state and federal agencies throughout the United States, the Clean Coalition collaborates with utilities, community choice aggregation agencies, municipalities, and other jurisdictions to create near-term deployment opportunities that prove the technical and economic viability of local renewables and other DER.

About the World Business Academy
Since 1987, the World Business Academy has operated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit think tank focused on the role business can and should play in solving humanity’s largest challenges. Over the past five years, the Academy has transitioned into an action incubator for energy, economic and environmental causes that directly impact our community. The Academy advocates for sustainable energy use by working to elevate the consciousness of people in the business community and encouraging them to use their influence to take responsibility for the environment. The Academy’s 30-year advocacy and litigation track record includes the closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, the rejection of the Ellwood and Puente natural gas peaker plants, and litigation to enforce CEQA review as part of the continued operation of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

Contacts:

Rosana Francescato
Communications Director
Clean Coalition
rosana@clean-coalition.org
415-282-2488 (m)

Judi Weisbart
VP of Community Relations
World Business Academy
judi@weisbart.com
805-729-7009 (m)

Monterey Bay Community Power celebrates its one-year anniversary and looks to the future.

When we flip a switch or plug in our phones, we don’t usually think about how or where that power comes from. From customer to source, our power structure pre-dates thoughtful consumption: The first electricity grid was built 100 miles north in San Francisco in 1879, 15 years before the radio was invented.

California still relies on a lot of antiquated energy infrastructure, making it challenging for a state of 40 million people to put fossil fuels in the rear view mirror. I’m committed to making it happen.

For the last year, Monterey Bay Community Power has been changing where our power comes from, starting by delivering carbon-free electricity to customers in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. MBCP started two years ago, when a coalition of community leaders decided that tackling the issue of sustainable power was too important to kick down the road any longer. We wanted to source clean energy, deliver it to households and businesses, and if possible, do it at affordable rates that saved them money.

MBCP is a unique agency that under California’s Community Choice Aggregation model can buy electricity from renewable sources wholesale and deliver it to customers in our region using PG&E’s existing infrastructure and delivery systems. Exactly one year ago, MBCP started delivering clean power to commercial customers in the tri-county region, and residential service started last July. This month, we celebrate the agency’s first birthday.

It’s been an exciting first year. We paid back loans to each of the three member counties, served over 270,000 customers, and bought 2,400 gigawatt-hours of power from sources like solar, hydro and wind.

All that clean energy meant less carbon emissions. In 2018, MBCP reduced an estimated 300,000 metric tons of carbon emissions. For a non-scientist like me, that roughly translates into taking 64,000 cars off the road for one year. The most exciting part? Not only are we consuming energy more thoughtfully, we are re-investing in energy infrastructure for clean energy sources to benefit us and our planet for decades. Two solar projects that we have broken ground on will generate enough power for 32,000 homes. That is significant for our customers, but also doubles the long-term megawatt capacity from renewable energy facilities across the state’s 18 other CCA agencies like ours.

MBCP is a local organization looking to the future. We’re already talking about micro-grids that will take energy infrastructure even further. Ultimately, we want to be building infrastructure that can last for the next 140 years and beyond while supporting true economic development for the Monterey Bay region. Last year we were able to give our customers rebates totaling $4.4 million. That number will continue to grow each year.

The future is carbon-free in the Monterey Bay region.

 

Monterey Bay Community Power celebrates its one-year anniversary and looks to the future., by Steve McShane, Monterey County Now, February 28, 2019.

If you want a gas stove at home, it could cost you extra under new SLO proposal

The San Luis Obispo City Council wants to discourage the use of gas appliances in favor of electric in new housing to help push along its ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2035.

Meaning, if you want a gas oven in your new home, it’ll cost you (if all goes as planned).

City staff doesn’t believe it can legally ban the use of fossil-fuel infrastructure. But the council unanimously agreed it should work toward city laws that could effectively phase out gas-powered stoves, heaters, dryers and other devices through the use of building rules that go beyond state standards to incentive the use of electric.

New homeowners could choose an all-electric powered home or pay more for gas-powered appliances to fund carbon offsets.

Carbon offsets address emissions generated from one source by reducing carbon emissions elsewhere, such as paying for retrofits for existing homes and buildings elsewhere in the community (retrofits would remove gas appliances and install electric power).

“I lived in a home that was built in 1961 that’s an all-electric development,” council member Carlyn Christianson said. “There’s no gas line. So we’re coming back to the future. I’m perfectly happy without gas. It can be done.”

Christianson said the city should expect community objections about impacts on home costs. But she would like people to take the “long-haul view that if we don’t do something the cost is going to be tremendously more.”

That’s because climate-change impacts, caused by carbon emissions, are contributing to wildfires, impacted water supplies and threats to agriculture and ecosystems, according to city officials.

Greenhouse gases coming from nonresidential and residential energy use made up about 40 percent of SLO’s emissions in 2016, with 51 percent coming from transportation sources (6 percent is from solid waste and 3 percent is from off-road).

The council is working toward an aggressive target to be carbon neutral by 2035. Carbon neutrality, or net-zero energy, is the concept of reducing as much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as possible, with the overall goal to achieve a zero-carbon footprint.

“It’s going to hurt our community and culture way more if we don’t do these things,” Christianson said. “Some people will have to bite the bullet and pay for it, because it’s going to cost way more (if climate change continues to worsen).”

The city is awaiting the construction of 1,300 new homes with the approved San Luis Ranch and Avila Ranch developments. Both projects have development agreements stating they’ll comply with new city policy on energy use at the time their building permits are issued — and the developers are on board with ideas for environmentally friendly energy uses regardless of policy, according to city officials.

Councilwoman Erica Stewart, a former baker and caterer, said she thinks professional chefs and those who enjoy cooking at home may object to the idea of electric-powered cooking devices over gas stoves and ovens.

Mayor Heidi Harmon also said she anticipates similar cooking concerns. But she said many people aren’t yet familiar with how induction cookware works, and she hopes they can get acquainted with those tools.

Induction cookware heats up food electrically, and Harmon said it would be important for people to get more comfortable with those types of tools.

“As the climate crisis accelerates, and we’re really just at the beginning point of that acceleration, I can see a time when these kinds of policies will be handed down to us period anyway,” Harmon said. “That just makes me to invite the development community to consider that possibility.”

City staff said more work needs to be done to analyze the cost effectiveness of the program and to comply with state law.

Chris Read, the city’s sustainability manager, said he’ll be researching whether the possible new city code would “save more energy than the current statewide (energy) standards and that the code is cost effective for the building occupant” — both requirements to get regulatory approval from the California Energy Commission on new local laws.

Read said that means paying about the same or less on utility bills under a new policy (compared with what residents would pay under the state standard) over the lifetime of the home.

SLO also is converting to a Community Choice Energy program, in which energy provided to city residents would come from nearly all renewable energy sources — thus future new buildings that use all electrical appliances wouldn’t emit much, if any, greenhouse gases.

 

If you want a gas stove at home, it could cost you extra under new SLO proposal, by Nick Wilson, The San Luis Obispo Tribune, February 23, 2019.

As PG&E begins bankruptcy proceedings, Monterey Bay Community Power gauges uncertainty.

Last July, you might’ve noticed a change on your monthly bill from Pacific Gas & Electric. Or maybe not. But unless you opted out, residents of Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties were automatically enrolled as customers of Monterey Bay Community Power, a new community choice aggregation model, or CCA, that buys electricity from renewable sources. PG&E buys that power from Monterey Bay Community Power, and transmits it through its existing power lines to your house, and remains the billing agency.

In California, there are now 19 CCAs serving millions of customers; 12 of those CCAs are in PG&E’s territory. In 2010, PG&E was responsible for procuring or generating 100 percent of the electricity for those customers. This year, the company is responsible for just 59 percent, with the other 41 percent taken care of by CCAs, which were responsible for 1,239 megawatts of power.

That means PG&E has a problem: long-term contracts the company entered into but now does not plan to fulfill. Last October, PG&E asked the California Public Utilities Commission to allow the utility to pass on some of those contractual liabilities to ratepayers. The CPUC gave PG&E its blessing, though the exact amounts of so-called “exit fees” remain to be determined, leaving Monterey Bay Community Power uncertain of how much they can build up reserves while delivering promised savings to customers.

“We don’t disagree investor-owned utilities should be compensated for contracts they entered into on our behalf,” says J.R. Killigrew, MBCP’s director of communications and energy programs. “But if [the fee] is a moving target, it limits our ability to reinvest in the community.”

(Monterey Bay Community Power officials pledged to make their power cheaper than PG&E’s, and in 2018, its first year of operation, delivered $4.4 million in rebates to 268,000 customers.)

It’s against this backdrop, with PG&E already looking for how to get out of long-term contracts, that the company saw an even bigger liability looming in connection to devastating wildfires. With that risk in mind, PG&E filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Jan. 29.

Monterey Bay Community Power, along with the other 11 CCAs in PG&E’s service area, have already filed their first court papers in that bankruptcy case with a motion to make sure PG&E keeps paying CCAs for power as usual.

One of many decisions in the bankruptcy proceedings will be whether PG&E is obligated to pay some $42 billion in agreements to buy power from about 350 renewable energy suppliers – the type of suppliers many CCAs are now buying power from.

Killigrew emphasizes that as the bankruptcy case unfolds, local customers are unlikely to see any change.

“Customers’ lights will still be on,” he says. “At the end of the day, we are a partner with PG&E. They deliver electrons and do the billing. Our role is to supply that power onto the grid.”

The next hearing in PG&E’s bankruptcy case is set for Feb. 27 in San Francisco.

 

As PG&E begins bankruptcy proceedings, Monterey Bay Community Power gauges uncertainty, by Sara Rubin, Monterey County Weekly, February 14, 2019.

Electric Cars Cost Less Than You’d Think

Electric Drive 805, a new coalition between Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties, wants all car drivers to know about the financial feasibility and benefits of purchasing electric vehicles. The coalition is also encouraging more locations to install charging stations, such as at housing complexes, workplaces, and community centers.

According to Danny McQuillan, a representative from Ventura County Air Pollution Control District, most reservations about electric vehicles stem from a lack of information about pricing and rebates. About 40 electric vehicle models are on the market today with some spread in price, and some are as affordable as gas or diesel options through the use of State of California and Southern California Edison (SCE) utility rebates.

A boon to those who refuse to pay full retail, the combination of rewards and rebates can take $14,500 off the price of a Nissan Leaf, for instance. SCE offers $1,000 in Clean Fuel Rewards for customers who purchase electric vehicles after January 1, and a $450 rebate for those buying one before 2019. Even purchasers of second and third electric vehicles qualify for the money-back promotion. As well, SCE customers get another $3,500 rebate if they buy a new Nissan LEAF up to April Fool’s Day.

Another incentive to go zero-emission is that operation and maintenance costs for electric vehicles are generally lower than for gas or diesel. McQuillan said the cost of charging an electric vehicle at home is equivalent to paying $1.50 per gallon of gas for a traditional car.

The coalition, which includes the Community Environmental Council, Central Coast Clean Cities Coalition, Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance, and the Air Pollution Control Districts of the three counties, is focusing some of its efforts to get lower-income residents into less-polluting vehicles.

Rebates are also available for businesses and residential complexes that install electric vehicle chargers. SCE offers rebates for locations that install 10 or more electric vehicle chargers.

Electric Drive 805 hopes to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and thereby protect citizen health, as well as to meet state mandates on the number of electric vehicles on the road. California’s goal is 5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030. The state reached 500,000 electric vehicles as of November 2018.

 

Electric Cars Cost Less Than You’d Think, by Amelia Buckley, The Santa Barbara Independent, February 1, 2019.