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.

Carrizo Plains solar farm’s credit rating drops to ‘junk’ as PG&E bankruptcy looms

Representatives for the massive Topaz Solar Farm in the Carrizo Plains are keeping an eye on PG&E, now that the farm’s only source of revenue seems poised to declare bankruptcy.

The 550-megawatt photovoltaic solar farm in eastern San Luis Obispo County relies on the cash-strapped public utility. By contract, PG&E purchases 100 percent of the electricity produced at the farm.

“Topaz is monitoring the dynamic situation surrounding PG&E’s financial situation,” Jessi Strawn, director of corporate communications for Berkshire Hathaway Energy, wrote in an email to The Tribune on Tuesday. “Topaz continues to perform obligations under its power purchase agreement.”

“Maintaining financially healthy utilities in California is good for current and future renewable energy investments in the state,” Strawn added, “and is important for meeting the state’s renewable energy goals.”

Berkshire Hathaway Energy, also known as BHE Renewables, owns the farm.

PG&E’s potential bankruptcy is already taking a toll on the solar farm’s credit rating.

S&P Global Ratings downgraded Topaz Solar Farm’s credit rating from “BBB” to “B” on Jan. 10— a downgrade that pushed the farm’s rating into “junk” status.

Corporations whose credit rating is below a “BBB” are typically more susceptible to defaulting on payments, and for those with a “B” rating, “adverse business, financial, or economic conditions will likely impair the obligor’s capacity or willingness to meet its financial commitments on the obligation,” according to S&P’s ratings guide.

In its decision to downgrade Topaz, S&P noted the solar farm “receives all of its revenue from PG&E under a long-term power purchase and sale agreement (PPSA). Our rating on the solar project is currently capped by our view of the credit quality of PG&E, its utility offtaker.”

S&P also downgraded PG&E’s credit rating to “B” last week.

S&P kept Topaz Solar Farm on its Creditwatch negative listing — meaning its rating could still go down — to reflect “the increasing risk that we will downgrade PG&E by one or more notches over the next few months.”

If S&P lowers its PG&E ratings again, it could do the same to Topaz Farms, it said.

PG&E’s potential bankruptcy filing could trigger a cross default for Topaz’s financing, S&P warned, unless the power contract with PG&E is replaced within 90 days of the filing.

Strawn declined to comment further on the farm’s relationship with PG&E, or whether it was seeking other purchasers of its electricity. She also declined to disclose how many people work at the farm.

According to its website, Topaz Solar Farm has added $417 million into the local economy — including $192 million for the roughly 400 construction jobs required to build the plant between 2012 and 2014. That total also included “$52 million in economic output for local suppliers, $14 million in sales taxes during construction and up to $400,000 per year in new property tax revenues,” according to the website.

The farm spans about 4,700 acres and provides enough electricity to power more than 180,000 average California households, according to the website.

 

Carrizo Plains solar farm’s credit rating drops to ‘junk’ as PG&E bankruptcy looms, by Kaytlyn Leslie, The Tribune, January 16, 2019.

How will PG&E’s bankruptcy impact SLO County? Your questions answered

Now that it looks certain PG&E will declare bankruptcy, you might be wondering what that means for San Luis Obispo County.

After all, the utility is the biggest private local employer, and operates Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which is currently in the early stages of an intensive, decades-long shutdown.

So here are the answers to key questions that arose soon after PG&E’s announcement Monday.

If you have more questions you’d like answered, send them to Tribune reporter Kaytlyn Leslie at kleslie@thetribunenews.com and they could be featured in a follow-up.

Q: When will PG&E file for bankruptcy?

On or about Jan. 29. The utility was required, under a state law signed in September by former Gov. Jerry Brown, to give 15 days’ notice before filing. That’s what it did Monday. The notice came out about 12 hours after CEO Geisha Williams resigned.

Q: What has PG&E said about this move?

In a press statement, the utility company said it “does not expect any impact to electric or natural gas service for its customers.” It also said it is “committed to continuing to make investments in system safety as it works with regulators, policymakers and other key stakeholders to consider a range of alternatives to provide for the safe delivery of natural gas and electric service for the long-term in an environment that continues to be challenged by climate change.”

It also said its employees are expected to continue to receive their pay and benefits.

Q: What happens to Diablo Canyon decommissioning?

Business as usual, according to PG&E. Normal operations at the nuclear power plant are not expected to be impacted by the bankruptcy, and the decommissioning process is expected to move forward as anticipated, PG&E spokesman Blair Jones told The Tribune on Monday.

No layoffs of workers are anticipated, and the company does not have plans to sell or close Diablo Canyon prematurely.

Q: If PG&E goes bankrupt, will it still pay local property taxes?

PG&E is the largest taxpayer in San Luis Obispo County, representing about 5.88 percent of the county’s total budget, according to documents filed with the California Public Utilities Commission during the Diablo Canyon closure consideration.

When PG&E last went bankrupt in 2001, the company at first paid less than half of its property tax due that year, according to previous Tribune reports. (PG&E paid the rest at a later date.)

That isn’t expected to happen this time. Jones said on Tuesday that the company still intends “to honor and pay franchise taxes as normal, following the Chapter 11 filing.”

This means the county, local school districts, flood control zones and cemetery districts that receive revenue from PG&E’s property taxes will likely still get that money this year.

Q: What about local donations from PG&E?

This is one area that will definitely be impacted by the bankruptcy. According to the company’s “Reorganization Information” FAQ on its website, its charitable giving program for 2019 has been put on hold and will be subject to review under the bankruptcy proceedings.

“We regret we cannot make any financial commitments toward events, programs or partnerships at this time,” reads the website.

The PG&E Corp. Foundation’s charitable giving program — separate from the above program — is also being re-evaluated.

So don’t expect any of those big checks from the company this year.

Q: What will happen to workers’ pensions?

Jones on Tuesday said PG&E doesn’t expect any changes to its tax-qualified pension plan.

“The company currently intends to continue to make regular pension contributions to that plan as normal,” he said.

Tom Danzell, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Chapter 1245, said on Tuesday that though he thinks the likelihood of the proceedings impacting local pensions is “extremely low,” it is one of the union’s most pressing concerns.

“It’s a high damage if it were to. It’s something of great concern to employees and retirees,” he said.

The union, which Danzel said represents 500 Diablo Canyon workers and a couple hundred other electrical workers between Buellton and Templeton, is committed to protecting its workers through the proceedings, he added.

Q: Didn’t the Legislature bail out PG&E?

The Legislature, in passing SB 901 last fall, gave PG&E and other utilities limited protection against wildfire claims. Among other things, the law says the Public Utilities Commission could allow utilities to pass some wildfire claim expenses onto ratepayers if the utilities aren’t strong enough financially to shoulder the costs themselves.

The protection, however, only includes the 2017 fires, not the massive Camp Fire last year. Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, earlier vowed to would introduce legislation to extend the protections to include the Camp Fire, but said Monday he won’t.

“The playing field of solutions, quite frankly, has shifted from the Legislature to the courts,” he said.

Fire officials have not determined a cause for that fire, but many residents already have sued PG&E, which had a power-line malfunction near the fire ignition point.

Q: Does bankruptcy mean PG&E would go out of business? Will the lights go out?

No, and no. PG&E would file for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code. Chapter 11 allows the company to stay in business while it sorts out its ever-growing debt load. PG&E kept the lights on during the three years it spent in Chapter 11 between 2001 and 2004, when it was clobbered by rising power costs during the energy crisis. The state suffered several days of rolling blackouts in 2001, but they were spread beyond PG&E’s territory and weren’t caused by the bankruptcy.

Q: Will bankruptcy lead to higher rates?

Rates could go up, but not necessarily because of a bankruptcy filing.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has already asked the Public Utilities Commission for authority to raise rates by 6.4 percent in 2020. If the rate hike is granted in full, monthly gas bills would increase $1.84 and electric bills would rise $8.73, on average. The higher rates would generate about $1.1 billion in additional annual revenue. PG&E says about half would be spent on wildfire prevention initiatives, such as installing high-definition cameras in remote areas and trimming trees more aggressively.

But bankruptcies can add enormous legal costs, and PG&E could seek to have ratepayers absorb those expenses. “Bankruptcy is never a clean, easy process, and there’s a lot of costs involved just in terms of lawyers and accountants,” said James Bushnell, a UC Davis energy economist. “Some of that is going to be passed onto ratepayers.”

Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network in San Francisco, said ratepayer interests would be neglected. “It puts the decision in the hands of a bankruptcy judge whose first priority is paying creditors off. The ratepayers are the last priority.”

Q: How does bankruptcy benefit PG&E?

Chapter 11 gives companies breathing room of sorts, the chance to sort out their debts while they keep operating. One possible outcome is that PG&E would use a court-supervised auction to sell its natural-gas division to raise money to pay wildfire claims.

Q: What about PG&E executives?

Williams, the former CEO, will get her severance payments, according to a statement filed by PG&E on Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That will total nearly $2.4 million, according to an earlier filing.

Q: Will wildfire survivors get paid in full?

Bankruptcy could reduce the amount of money available for paying survivors who’ve sued PG&E over the Camp Fire and the 2017 fires. Survivors would be declared “unsecured creditors” and would be lumped in with other such creditors — namely the investors who hold roughly $18 billion in long-term debt owed by the utility and its corporate parent, PG&E Corp.

Wildfire victims seeking recovery “could be in deep trouble,” said Jared Ellias, a bankruptcy-law expert at UC Hastings College of Law in San Francisco.

Ellias did say, however, that bankruptcy could speed the processing of damage claims. A bankruptcy trustee could require that survivors get some funds long before the courts could resolve the mountain of lawsuits. “Bankruptcy is often much faster than state court,” he said.

Q: So how much would these creditors receive?

It’s too early to tell. But it’s worth noting that PG&E’s bonds have been trading at about 78 cents on the dollar, said Carol Levenson of Gimme Credit LLC, a debt-analysis firm. That suggests bondholders aren’t counting on getting paid in full, she said. The same could apply to fire survivors.

Survivors’ lawyers say they believe they can recover damages for their clients regardless. “PG&E has a lot of assets,” said Dario de Ghetaldi, a Bay Area lawyer who’s suing PG&E on survivors’ behalf. “I think there will be sufficient assets to protect the victims ultimately.”

Q: What happens if the gas division is sold?

For many California ratepayers, it would mean writing two utility checks each month instead of one. Sacramento residents do that already, paying PG&E for gas and SMUD for electricity.

A sale would be overseen by the PUC. But it brings up another concern for Northern California residents, many of whom haven’t forgotten the San Bruno gas explosion that killed eight people and leveled a neighborhood in 2010: Who would be their new gas company or companies, and would they be any better than PG&E?

“We really have to make sure that who they sell it to is experienced (and) has a good track record in operating gas pipeline systems in a safe manner,” Toney said. “We don’t want to see venture capital firms buying it or parties that don’t have experience and aren’t going to put the public interest first.”

Q: Have PG&E stockholders been affected?

Yes. The company already suspended quarterly dividend payments in late 2017, and its stock price has been crushed since it disclosed that it experienced trouble on a transmission tower near the spot where the Camp Fire ignited Nov. 8. PG&E shares fell to $8.17 on Monday and have lost 80 percent of their value since the Camp Fire started.

Q: What happens next?

Aside from bankruptcy, plenty. A federal judge has told PG&E to appear in court Jan. 30 to respond to his plan to require the company to fix transmission lines and take other safety steps. In February, PG&E will release its latest financial results, which will provide more detailed analysis on the potential liabilities from the Camp Fire.

For more information on the reorganization efforts, visit PG&E’s “Reorganization Information”page on its website, www.pge.com.

 

How will PG&E’s bankruptcy impact SLO County? Your questions answered, by Kaytlyn Leslie And Dale Kasler, The Tribune, January 15, 2019.

Views wanted on plan for offshore wind farms along San Luis Obispo County’s coast

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management—also known as BOEM—is an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, and is in charge of leasing America’s federal coastal waters, whether it’s for petroleum oil and gas exploration, or renewable energy projects.

After consulting with the military and various industry stakeholders, BOEM and the California Energy Commission have released draft maps of potential lease areas off California’s coast that possess the necessary conditions to support large-scale wind farms.

Offshore of the state’s roughly 840 miles of coastline, there are just three areas where the wind blows with enough consistency and speed for such farms. Two are off San Luis Obispo County’s coast, one near the soon-to-be-decommissioned Diablo Canyon Power Plant and the other off the coast of Morro Bay. The third is Humboldt County near Eureka.

“There’s limited places offshore California where you can actually do offshore wind energy,” said Jean Thurston, a BOEM renewable energy specialist focused on the Pacific region. “You need greater than seven meters per second wind speed for it to be economically viable, for a developer to even want to put a project in. So looking at the cost-benefit analysis, that’s the kind of the cut-off point.”

Thurston said other considerations in figuring out locations for offshore wind farm are water depth, and finding areas that aren’t already located in a marine sanctuary. In the end, just six percent of California’s offshore areas has the right conditions. And besides the technical needs, there’s other users and uses of those marine areas to factor in.

“We want to pick areas that minimize conflicts,” Thurston said. “Now we know—looking at all the areas offshore that are viable—there’s no area that’s going to be conflict free. So we’re trying to look at areas that have the least amount of conflict,”

Groups wary of setting up offshore wind farms are the fishing and shipping industries, and those who say wind farms will harm marine mammals like migrating whales, due to dangers of entanglement and undersea noise.

For the area off Morro Bay, local fishermen have made an agreement with one of the wind energy developers, said Eric Endersby, Morro Bay’s harbor director.

“The fishing community has supported, the fishing community has signed onto an agreement with Castle Winds, the proponent that’s pushing one of the projects right now,” Endersby said. “But it will impact the fishing community because it’s basically taking some fishing grounds off limits, where they won’t be able to fish, and so they’ve mitigated that, and the fishermen are happy with what they’ve agreed with.”

The search for possible offshore wind energy development areas started with a proposal from the company Trident Winds, now known as Castle Winds. That application kicked off a whole planning process with the state and federal government to look at offshore wind energy in California.

“Instead of just responding to requests site-specifically, why don’t we as a state look at where the wind resources are and where the need is and where the most environmentally-sensitive areas are to avoid, and really think about where we would want offshore wind if we were to approve a project,” said Kristen Hislop, marine conservation program director with the Environmental Defense Center.

The EDC has been active in the process of figuring out where offshore leases should go, from an environmental stance. Staff have submitted ideas on the types of research, studies and monitoring efforts necessary to protect the marine environment.

“We haven’t taken a stance on whether or not we’re for or against offshore wind [development], but we but we are very interested in being part of the process and figuring out if we can help influence in a positive way where these things might be sited,” Hislop said. “And also determine if it’s the best way to get renewable energy for the state.”

In mid-December, BOEM held an open house in San Luis Obispo to answer questions from the public. A few dozen people showed up to speak to staff from various agencies involved in the decision making process, and to submit public comment. Frank Pendleton does mapping for BOEM.

“Someone knows a lot about the birds in the area, someone knows a lot about the whales, we want to hear from them,” Pendleton said. “[If someone knows] a lot about who fishes where in the area…we’ve opened the comment period now, and that’s what we want to hear from folks—how this could affect them.”

Public comments can be submitted here until January 28, 2019.

 

Views wanted on plan for offshore wind farms along San Luis Obispo County’s coast, Greta Mart, KCBX Central Coast, January 9, 2019.

Community choice energy grows on Central Coast

In 2005, California passed a law allowing local governments to pool the electricity demand of their residents and then buy and sell electricity on their behalf. It’s called Community Choice Energy, and over 19 cities and counties have now established community choice agencies or programs.

Rather than Pacific, Gas & Electric (PG&E) or Southern California Edison being in charge of all aspects of electricity delivery to homes and businesses, the community choice agencies are nonprofits and can generate and sell electricity to the grid.

“They can then use that excess revenue to reinvest in local energy programs and they could also have local say in the energy content so it could be more renewable that could have lower carbon content,” said Chris Read, sustainability manager for the city of San Luis Obispo. San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay recently joined the Monterey Bay Community Power agency. By January of 2020, power customers in San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay will start seeing a change in their electric bills.

“The Monterey Bay Community Power program provides a three percent rebate back on all electricity bills so that’s three percent cheaper relative to the current PG&E bill,” Read said.

Initially, San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay were looking at starting their own agency, but a regulatory change this year made it too expensive. So they joined a big existing one, which brings new benefit.

“[Monterey Bay Community Power] just invested in one of the largest solar plus storage developments in the country, in concert with one of the Bay Area community choice energy programs,” Read said.

And the distance between Monterey Bay and San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay is no obstacle.

“Ultimately we see ourselves as part of a larger Central Coast community,” Read said. “So this is an opportunity to to really engage with the counties of the north of us and ensure we’re all working together on our climate goals our economic development goals and our local energy goals.

In 2019, San Luis Obispo power customers will hear more about the change, and when they can start looking for their three percent rebates on monthly bills.

Meanwhile, King City is the smallest community choice program in the state. Former mayor and current city council member Joe LeBarre said King City looked at joining the Monterey Bay community choice program, but wouldn’t have had enough of a say in decision-making. So the city went it alone, and that means King City residents get all the benefits.

“Some of those benefits are a slight reduction in electricity rates,” LeBarre said. “And we’ll be adding brand new wireless streetlights—streetlights [concern] was number one in our community survey for residents because of safety.”

Another benefit, LeBarre says, is that many King City residents are Spanish-speaking, so the community choice agency built a completely bilingual call center. And they are looking at more investments.

“Long term we’re looking at putting me in a three megawatt solar power plant,” LeBarre said. “If a feasibility study comes back positive and we do that, that becomes an asset for the community.”

PG&E programs like CARE, which gives discount of bills depending on income, will continue to be available to community choice customers.

 

Community choice energy grows on Central Coast, by Greta Mart, KCBX, December 28, 2018.

Most tri-county ratepayers to see savings on December energy bill

SANTA CRUZ — Call it a Christmas present from your local utility: Ratepayers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties can expect to see a small savings on their December electricity bills.

Between $5 and $10 on average, the rebate is the first to be handed out to residential customers by Monterey Bay Community Power, a locally controlled utility that rolled out service to more than 200,000 tri-county customers in July.

Instead of paying shareholder dividends such as investor-owned utility Pacific Gas & Electric, the not-for-profit utility is using a portion of its revenues to give about $4 million back to its customers this year.

“As a not-for-profit public agency, our goals are different than investor-owned utilities,” said J.R. Killigrew, Monterey Bay Community Power’s director of communications and energy programs in a recent interview. “Our shareholders are our customers, not Wall Street,” he added.

Additional revenues are being used to fund investment in electric vehicle incentives and infrastructure, and to install solar panels on dozens of low-income homes in a partnership with Grid Alternatives, according to Killigrew. About $1.3 million is expected to be invested in those programs in 2019.

The credit on customers’ December bills reflects a bundled 3percent rebate on five months of service. Savings are expected to be larger in 2019, when the annual rebate will apply to a full year of service.

Commercial customers, which use more power, can see much higher returns from the rebate. Dole Fresh Vegetables, based in Salinas, is saving $50,000 this year, according to information provided by Facilities Manager Tom Messenger in a news release.

Thousands of solar-powered residences, however, won’t see the rebate this month because their switch to the local utility is on hold pending their annual “true up” date with PG&E, when electricity generated for the grid is offset against usage.

Monterey Bay Community Power was formed under an agreement between the three counties and the 18 cities within their borders.

The agency operates under a model called community-choice energy that allows local governments to form their own utility on the backbone of the traditional investor-owned providers.

Electricity rates remain the same, and billing, delivery, metering and natural gas continue to be provided by PG&E. Customers are also able to opt out of the locally owned utility and remain with PG&E, but so far, few have.

But there is at least one key difference. Bay Community Power is able to purchase its own energy entirely from carbon-free sources, while PG&E secures about 80 percent of its energy from carbon-free sources.

“Everything is the same except for you’re now supporting an entity that fits what you believes is the right course of action for your local economy, your community as well as environmentally,” Killigrew said.

The community-choice model is becoming increasingly popular in California, despite initial resistance from the investor-owned utilities.

Monterey Bay Community Power became the 12th community-choice energy agency to come online in California. The state’s first, Marin Clean Energy, formed in 2010 serving Marin County and surrounding areas.

According to Killigrew, Monterey Bay Community Power is expanding to include the cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay in 2020.

For information on Monterey Bay Community Power, visit mbcommunitypower.org.

 

Most tri-county ratepayers to see savings on December energy bill, by Nicolas Ibarra, Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 26, 2018.

Tesla’s utility-sized Megapack battery may debut in California

Tesla chief Elon Musk once dropped a hint about a “large product on the stationary storage side” in an interview, and some clues found online showed that the company is calling that product the “Megapack.” Now, Electrek has obtained a copy of Tesla’s proposal for PG&E’s Moss Landing energy storage site, which gives us a more concrete idea of what the Megapack actually is. Based on the documents, Tesla plans to use its new power storage product for large-scale projects instead of the Powerpack. And it makes sense, because each Megapack battery system will apparently measure 23’5″ x 5’3″ and will have a capacity of around 2,673 kWh.

That’s much, much bigger than the Powerpack, which has a length and width measuring 51.5″ x 32.4″ and has an energy capacity of 210 kWh. The illustrations in the documents show that Tesla plans to install two container-sized Megapack units back-to-back. It also plans to deploy 449 Megapacks with a total capacity of 1,200 MWh at the PG&E site in California.

The energy company apparently wants to switch the site on by 2020, so Tesla might start installing units soon.

 

Tesla’s utility-sized Megapack battery may debut in California, by Mariella Moon, Engadget, December 15, 2018.

Hundreds of wind turbines could sprout off SLO County. Here’s how to learn about the plan.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will host a meeting in San Luis Obispo this week to share information on the possibility of offshore wind developments along the California coast.

This includes plans to add hundreds of 700-foot-tall floating turbines on sites off Diablo Canyon and Piedras Blancas.

The meeting is Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at The Monday Club, 1815 Monterey St.

According to a BOEM news release, the department published a call for information and nominations on Oct. 19, asking for public input on the potential for offshore wind energy developments in three “call areas”: the two on the Central Coast, and another in Northern California off Humboldt County.

The BOEM is also receiving nominations and applications for commercial wind energy leases in these areas.

Likely to be a topic of discussion will be Morro Bay’s recent agreement with Castle Wind LLC, to support the company’s plans to generate approximately 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy with an offshore wind project off San Simeon.

The agreement, approved by the Morro Bay City Council on Nov. 29, grants an exclusive option to Castle Wind to lease the city’s outflow tunnel to set up a grid connection at the Morro Bay substation.

The city and Castle Wind — a joint venture between Trident Winds Inc. and EnBW North America Inc. — calls for a “coordinated effort to maximize the economic and other benefits during development, construction and operation of the offshore wind farm,” according to a Dec. 3 Castle Wind news release.

“Castle Wind commits to create a wide range of economic opportunities for the Morro Bay community if it secures a lease for the project from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management,” the release says. “These commitments include hiring qualified local residents, establishing internships and trainee programs at local schools and universities during construction and operation of the wind farm, establishment of a maintenance and monitoring facility for the project at the Morro Bay harbor, and promotion of local businesses for over 30-year project life.”

The plans aren’t final, of course — they’re pending decision by the BOEM.

At Thursday’s meeting, the BOEM will discuss the planning timeline for possible developments and additional opportunities for public participation.

It will also take public comment and answer questions of state agency representatives and other BOEM California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force members.

More information on the Task Force and potential wind developments can be found at https://www.boem.gov/California/.

 

Hundreds of wind turbines could sprout off SLO County. Here’s how to learn about the plan, by Kaytlyn Leslie, San Luis Obispo Times, December 11, 2018.

SLO, Morro Bay will offer carbon-free energy by 2020 — thanks to a new partnership

By 2020, the cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay will be providing carbon-free energy to power homes, appliances and more.

That’s because the cities have joined with a Monterey-based program that provides community choice energy.

On Wednesday, San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay joined Monterey Bay Community Power’s community choice energy (CCE) program following a unanimous vote by the Monterey program’s board.

The program will kick in locally in January 2020. Local consumers can then start powering their properties with energy from sources including wind, solar and water, which will be purchased through the program.

The cost of the program will be the same for customers as what they’re charged by PG&E, according to the program’s website. The energy will come entirely from carbon-free sources, with a minimum 3 percent rebate on the December bill, the website said.

Electricity will still be powered through PG&E’s infrastructure, even through it’s coming from the CCE program. Customers have the option to opt out from CCE and use PG&E services, as customers do under the existing service. And community choice energy will still be included on customers’ PG&E bills.

“I’m really excited to have this option of carbon-free electricity,” said Chris Read, San Luis Obispo’s sustainability manager. “The carbon-free electricity provided by Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) allows us to achieve our 2020 greenhouse gas reduction targets and will be the foundation for our path to carbon neutrality.”

Read said the move is a big step forward to help the city achieve its ambitious goal of being carbon neutral by 2035, 10 years earlier than California’s statewide goal.

Carbon neutrality, or net zero energy, refers to the concept of reducing as much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as possible, with the overall goal of achieving a zero carbon footprint.

“The city of Morro Bay is excited to join Monterey Bay Community Power, a proven community choice energy program, to bring affordable, greener and cleaner energy to our community,” Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons said in a MBCP press release.

The partnership adds 29,000 new customers to MBCP’s base, now totaling more than 300,000 customers and reduces 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the MBCP press release.

The anticipated increase of electric vehicle use will also contribute to reducing greenhouse gases, Read said.

Twenty-one California cities and county government agencies, including Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito county government agencies, now make up the Monterey Bay Community Power partnership.

Throughout California, 19 different community choice energy programs are operating, serving 8 million customers statewide, according to a MBCP press release. They are also known as community choice aggregators.

The majority of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors opted not to pursue community choice energy in January, New Times reported then.

San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay will share a seat on the Monterey-based program’s policy board, made up of election officials, and operations board, composed of city managers. The cities will also share a position on a citizens advisory committee.

San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay had considered partnering to form their own CCE, but a recent California Public Utilities Commission ruling changed a fee on CCE customers that would make a small, new program too costly, Read said.

“It’s a very complicated fee formula, but it makes it much less stable for new, smaller programs with a limited cash flow than it does for larger programs that are already established,” Read said.

“The CCE program will become the cities’ primary provider of electricity, leading to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, investments in renewable energy projects and energy programs, and lower electricity rates for consumers,” the city of San Luis Obispo said in a news release.

 

SLO, Morro Bay will offer carbon-free energy by 2020 — thanks to a new partnership, by Nick Wilson, The San Luis Obispo Tribune, December 6, 2018.