Report shows LADWP’s lag in solar deployment

It’s hardly a secret that California dominates solar deployment. Not only was the state a pioneer in solar policy and put some of the nation’s first large-scale solar plants online starting in the late 1980s, but it has kept relatively steady policy support while other states have gone back and forth on their commitments. This is the likely the primary reason that California gets the highest portion of its power from in-state solar (14% in 2018) of any state, but a lot of sun doesn’t hurt either.

And as the state’s policies have supported both large-scale and distributed solar, it should not be a surprise that California cities are among the leaders in terms of installed solar, both measured on raw volume and watts per resident, as documented by Environment America in its latest report on U.S. cities and solar.

It is the latter figure which shows some of the discrepancies. While Los Angeles is the top city for total volume of solar deployed at 420 MW, this is due in part to it being the second-largest city in the United States with four million residents, and it doesn’t make the top 10 for watts per capita.

Image source: PV Magazine

In fact, with only 105 watts per resident, Los Angeles is well behind San Diego (#2 at 247 watts per capita), San Jose (#3 at 195 watts per capita) and Riverside (#8 at 138 watts per capita).

 

LADWP

San Diego, San Jose and Riverside are notable as they are some of the largest cities in the service areas of California’s three investor-owned utilities: respectively, San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE). Whereas Los Angeles has its own municipal utility, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).

This may appear counterintuitive for those who read Naomi Klein’s 2014 book, This Changes Everything, which argued that taking public control of utilities was a necessary first step towards decarbonization. If this is the case, when why isn’t LADWP – a public utility under the control of the voters of Los Angeles – a leader in solar?

In a February interview with pv magazine USA, California Solar and Storage Association (CALSSA) Executive Director Bernadette Del Chiaro blamed the agency’s bureaucracy for a lack of progress. She noted that while the interconnection process has finally been streamlined for residential solar, that there are now significant difficulties getting behind-the-meter energy storage systems interconnected.

“I can’t tell you how many contractors refuse to do business in Los Angeles because of the bureaucracy,” Del Chiaro told pv magazine.

LADWP may have turned a corner, as the city rose one place in the per-capita rankings this year, but its position is still unimpressive for a city in California.

 

Across the nation

Honolulu kept its first place rank for per capita solar, with 646 watts per resident. This is unsurprising, as with very high retail power prices Hawaii has a wide lead as the top state for deployment of rooftop solar.

Image source: PV Magazine

But moving down the list are some cities that may come as surprises. Burlington, Vermont came in fourth-place for per-capita solar, as the top city on the East Coast. Vermont passed a 75% by 2032 renewable energy mandate in 2015, which is arguably more ambitious than any state. While it is not a 100% target like California, Hawaii or New Mexico have, the date is more aggressive. In this it is only exceeded by Washington DC’s 100% by 2032 – the strongest in the nation.

And while Indianapolis fell three spots on the per-capita ranking, Las Vegas and Phoenix both climbed. Due to its large size, Phoenix also has the third-highest total installed volume of solar at 236 MW.

In Arizona, it can’t really be said that this is due to policy, as net metering has been weakened by regulators allowing utilities to impose discriminatory charges. Instead it may simply be a case of raw economics and plentiful sunshine, coupled with a strong desire by consumers to gain a degree of independence from their utility.

Denver and Albuquerque round out the top 10 in terms of per-capita rankings, followed by Salt Lake City and San Antonio. #13 may surprise many: New Orleans. Despite being an oil and gas state and demonstrating its infamously crooked politics, Louisiana for years had a generous 50% state tax credit for behind-the-meter solar.

Environment America’s 2019 Shining Cities report surveyed 69 U.S. cities, including the largest cities in the top 50 metro areas and the largest city in a given state for those that do not have a top 50 metro area.

 

Report shows LADWP’s lag in solar deployment,by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, April 10, 2019.

Electrifying miles and milestones for the Antelope Valley Transit Authority’s buses

It’s not often that a city transit authority gets to look cool and cutting-edge. But sometime next month, the Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) — a public bus operator that serves a region north of Los Angeles at the bottom tip of the Mojave Desert — will pass a pretty awesome tech and environmental milestone: its electric transit buses will have run for 1 million miles.

Those account for the miles driven by 30 electric transit buses that the AVTA bought from BYD, a Chinese bus maker that also built a large factory (that employs hundreds) in the Antelope Valley city of Lancaster. Those electric miles saved the agency $310,000 in fuel costs, reduced its carbon emissions, cut local air pollution and helped AVTA meet the California mandate that says all transit agencies in the state need to start buying zero-emissions buses starting in 2029.

Later this year, AVTA will replace its entire fleet of 75 buses with all-electric ones. When those buses are up and running, AVTA will be one of the first transit authorities to adopt a 100 percent electric bus fleet in the U.S., and it’ll be able to boast an annual carbon emissions reduction of 1.3 million pounds. Local residents won’t all necessarily care about the emission drop but will like the quiet buses that don’t pollute the air and give kids asthma.

Transit agencies across the country are considering zero-emission bus options. Even though battery electric buses are still more expensive to buy than diesel-powered ones, new options such as lease financing and state incentives are making electric bus purchases a lot more attractive. Generate Capital provides lease financing for BYD buses.

There no doubt will be growing pains with this technology transfer. For example, the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico, wasn’t happy with the range of its BYD electric buses, ended up returning them and sued the company. Then, Albuquerque bought “clean diesel” buses from BYD competitor New Flyer.

But guess what? Clean diesel is just diesel. This wouldn’t fly in California after 2029. There also are no fuel savings.

BYD also has some haters because, quite frankly, it’s a Chinese company selling to Americans. When I interviewed BYD’s former head of its Heavy Industries division, Macy Neshati, last year, he said when he first joined the company years ago he was surprised by a lot of the negative sentiment he faced, particularly in Washington, D.C.

A short time after our interview, Neshati left BYD and joined — wait for it — AVTA as its CEO and executive director. He’s now helping head up the 100 percent EV bus transition at the agency.

BYD’s Lancaster factory workforce is made up of local Lancaster residents who assemble 12 types of electric buses in a half-a-million-square-foot factory. It’s the kind of green industry — like solar panel installation, wind turbine technician, electric car assembly — that many regions need to bring in jobs and kickstart development.

 

Electrifying miles and milestones for the Antelope Valley Transit Authority’s buses, by Katie Fehrenbacher, GreenBiz, April 10, 2019.

Palmdale moves toward new energy plan

PALMDALE — Palmdale’s road to providing electricity to its residents by forming a Community Choice Aggregation program was further paved Tuesday as the City Council approved a number of measures intended to lay the foundation for the entity that officials hope will mean lower energy bills for residents.

The council on March 19 decided to proceed with joining California Choice Energy Authority, the joint powers authority that brings together individual cities’ own Community Choice Aggregation programs, including Lancaster’s.

Under the program, the city will purchase electricity to sell to residents, but Southern California Edison will continue to provide and maintain the infrastructure. Residents’ electricity bills will have two components, one paid to Edison for these infrastructure costs and one to the city’s aggregation program for the electricity itself, which may be obtained at a lower rate, officials said.

With a changing landscape of rules and fees for these types of programs, it is not yet known for certain how much the savings may be, but one calculation provided by city staff last month suggested a savings of 50 cents on a $100 monthly electricity bill.

The council approved, on 4-1 votes each time, four separate items regarding establishing the program and paying for the startup costs.

As before, Councilwoman Laura Bettencourt was the lone dissenting vote on each of the items relating to the program, voicing concerns she still has about its effectiveness.

“I hope one day you prove me wrong, but at this moment I am not convinced,” she said.

The council approved an ordinance to establish the program and a resolution authorizing joining the California Choice Energy Authority, as well as an agreement with Southern California Edison.

The council also granted authority to City Manager James Purtee to submit bond payments and to negotiate and finalize agreements relating to starting the program. The state Public Utilities Commission requires a $100,000 bond to start a CCA, money that is held in case the program is unable to operate and Edison is needed to step back in to ensure electrical service continues unabated, Energy and Technology Manager Ben Lucha said.

There have been some changes to the proposed program timeline since the council’s March 19 decision, Lucha said.

Instead of a May 2020 start, the city is now looking at September 2020 for residential customers, and May 2021 for commercial customers. This slip is due to changes happening with Southern California Edison, he said.

The later start date, however, means the city may not need as much as $700,000 originally planned to be set aside to show the state it has the ability to pay costs before revenues are sufficient. Without the need to make this proof until April 2021, staff believes the city should generate enough revenues from the program itself to cover that amount, Lucha said.

As part of the March 19 decision, the council authorized transferring up to $1.5 million from the General Fund reserves to pay for the startup costs. The $700,000 was part of that transfer that may instead be returned to the reserves.

Even after these steps have been taken, the city still has opportunities to back out of the effort before purchasing energy prior to the start date, officials said.

“There’s off-ramps at each one of these junctures,” Mayor Steve Hofbauer said.

To share your opinion on this article or any other article, write a letter to the editor and email it to editor@avpress.com or mail it to Letters to Editor, PO Box 4050, Palmdale CA 93590-4050.

 

Palmdale moves toward new energy plan, by Allison Gatlin, Antelope Valley Press, April 4, 2019.

Santa Monica Businesses Transition to Green Power Starting in May

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Beginning May 1, 2019, Santa Monica businesses will begin receiving 100 percent green power. The City of Santa Monica through Clean Power Alliance introduced Santa Monica residents to green power in February 2019. Through the change, electricity delivery and billing will remain with Southern California Edison (SCE), but business customers will have a choice of three Clean Power Alliance energy plans derived from 100 percent carbon-free energy sources. This transition will have a huge impact on reducing Santa Monica’s greenhouse gas emissions. This change marks the final transition for approximately three million customers across 31 jurisdictions in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

“Santa Monica’s business community has long championed sustainable practices and now they get to continue to model what it means to be a green business,” said Mayor Gleam Davis. “We are a greener, healthier city because our businesses lead on climate change.”

Santa Monica businesses account for 75 percent of communitywide electricity demand. By switching to 100 percent green power, Santa Monica businesses will continue to be leaders and innovative while significantly driving down greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change. Being a Clean Power Alliance customer is the easiest and least costly climate change solution available today. Taken together, residents and businesses switching to green power will remove almost 20 percent of communitywide carbon emissions.

“Based on what we have seen with our residential rollout, where 95 percent of customers committed to 100 percent green power, we are confident that the business community will take pride in our new green energy mix and work to keep the renewable levels as high as possible,” said Santa Monica’s Chief Sustainability Officer Dean Kubani.

All green power is derived from non-fossil fuel, non-nuclear, and plans offer the highest percentage of green power possible on the grid today. The three power plans offer a range in price and in the percentage of energy derived from renewable sources. The plans can be adjusted freely without restriction. Energy plans range from 100 percent, 50 percent, and 36 percent renewable power. Santa Monica selected the “100 percent green power” plan as the default for all businesses. This means that businesses will automatically be enrolled in in 100 percent renewable unless they select a different plan.

Clean Power Alliance has secured long-term renewable energy agreements in order to offer stable and competitive rates for Santa Monica customers. Customers with solar who generate excess energy will also be able to sell their electricity to the Clean Power Alliance at a rate 10 percent higher than SCE’s.

Santa Monica commercial customers will start receiving 100 percent Green Power in May 2019, but businesses can choose the Clean Power Alliance plan that’s right for them or opt out completely. To speak to a Clean Power Alliance customer service representative, call 888-585-3788 or email customerservice@cleanpoweralliance.org. To learn more about Clean Power Alliance, visit www.cleanpoweralliance.org.

###

 

Santa Monica Businesses Transition to Green Power Starting in May, Press Release, City of Santa Monica, April 4, 2019.

Business, Civic Leaders Urge LADWP to Step up Local Solar Goals to Fill Gap from Phased out Power Plants

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Apr 2, 2019–A broad coalition of business, environmental and civic leaders today called on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to increase and accelerate its goals for generating local renewable energy, urging the utility to immediately expand a successful pilot program allowing hundreds of building owners to install rooftop solar panels and then sell the electricity generated into the utility’s power grid.

Aside from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) solar program – the largest solar program of its kind in the nation – is credited with spurring major private investment in clean solar power in Los Angeles County and creating thousands of high-quality local jobs. The pilot program has reached capacity with all 150MWs originally authorized either installed or active, along with a waitlist of interested participants.

“Los Angeles has a unique opportunity to show the nation that we can harness technology, an entrepreneurial spirit and the sun’s energy to meet the demands of the climate crisis while producing the power needed to sustain our way of life,” wrote leaders organized by the Los Angeles Business Council in a letter sent today to LADWP Board President Mel Levine on behalf of the organization’s 500 members.

“Expanding solar programs [will] benefit the entire L.A. community by creating a pipeline of good paying local jobs, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the quality of life for residents,” the letter states.

This push to expand the FiT program follows a recent announcement by Mayor Eric Garcetti that the DWP will be closing three gas-fired power plants along the coast that generate nearly 40 percent of the city’s natural gas portfolio. The decision to phase out the power plants supports L.A.’s goal of transitioning to 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

City leaders have yet to announce how the DWP plans to replace the nearly 1,700MW of lost electricity without raising energy prices or increasing the risk of power outages.

“This is a moment that calls for big-picture thinking,” said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Nury Martinez. “We need to accelerate our transition to clean energy even faster by quickly scaling the FiT program to generate more renewable energy, and consistent with the call for a Green New Deal for Los Angeles, we must seize the opportunity to be first in the nation to commit to targeting the environmental and economic benefits of this groundbreaking approach to our hardest hit front-line and disadvantaged communities.”

Current participants in the FiT program include a variety of commercial, industrial and residential buildings in such neighborhoods as Boyle Heights, Sun Valley and Downtown L.A. Together, they are delivering affordable solar energy to the utility’s power grid while generating a steady stream of income for the buildings’ owners.

“The FiT pilot program generated $500 million in economic activity while displacing 2.7 million tons of greenhouse gases from the environment each year. That’s like taking away the emissions from about half a million cars annually while delivering clean power to tens of thousands of LADWP customers,” said J.R. DeShazo, director of UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation, which has conducted in-depth analysis on the program.

“The FiT program delivered on its promise and is now ready for a significant expansion to bring it to scale,” continued DeShazo. “According to our UCLA atlas, there are an estimated 10,000 acres of underutilized rooftops of office buildings, warehouses and apartment buildings in Los Angeles that could be put to use generating zero-carbon solar energy.”

The program has drawn investment to underserved neighborhoods, with 40 percent of all projects in “solar equity hotspots,” low-income communities with abundant rooftops for solar installations.

“The success of the FiT program demonstrates that you can grow the economy while investing in clean energy,” said Luis Amezcua, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s My Generation Campaign. “We urge city officials to fast-track the expansion of the FiT to continue pumping clean energy into the grid while creating good job opportunities in communities where health and economic benefits are needed the most.”

Solar power has been in a continual state of innovation in recent years, with advances in solar panel efficiency, solar battery storage and solar system design. The FiT has also spurred innovative local manufacturing and financing programs, such as the Solar Strap roof attachment system and the imminent introduction of an online permitting process, as well as the attention of real estate owners and developers.

“The FiT program is an opportunity for our business to turn unused space – our building rooftops – into an income generating resource,” said Randy Kendrick, CEO of Xebec Realty, which just installed the largest FiT solar array in Sun Valley on the roof of one of its industrial properties. “It’s a smart business decision for us that also helps create a better environment for the community. At Xebec, we expect to install solar panels on more of our buildings within DWP territory, and already have identified two additional properties.”

The Mayor’s Sustainability pLAn sets a goal of 900 – 1,500 MWs of local solar by 2025 – half of which will be accomplished through solar FiT. Business leaders and environmental advocates convened by the LABC believe that goal is insufficient.

“We are grateful for Mayor Garcetti’s leadership in putting us on a path to 100 percent clean energy. Now we must step up our solar goals and expand the FiT program to ensure our city’s green transformation is rooted in equity and benefits communities that need it most,” said Veronica Padilla, executive director of Pacoima Beautiful.

The call to increase the city’s local solar targets comes as government, business and civic leaders are poised to convene at the LABC’s 13th Annual Sustainability Summit at the Getty Center on April 5. The summit will explore public and private sector investments needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change as well as restore certainty to California’s energy market. A full schedule of events can be found at losangelesbusinesscouncil.org.

About the Los Angeles Business Council

The Los Angeles Business Council is one of the most effective and influential advocacy and educational organizations in California. For over 70 years, the LABC has had a major impact on public policy by harnessing the power of business and government to promote environmental and economic sustainability in the Los Angeles region. To learn more, please visit www.labusinesscouncil.org.

View source version on businesswire.com:https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190402006025/en/

CONTACT: Malina Brown

(310) 974-6680 |Malina@sugermangroup.com

KEYWORD: UNITED STATES NORTH AMERICA CALIFORNIA

INDUSTRY KEYWORD: ENERGY ALTERNATIVE ENERGY UTILITIES PUBLIC POLICY/GOVERNMENT STATE/LOCAL

SOURCE: Los Angeles Business Council

Copyright Business Wire 2019.

PUB: 04/02/2019 04:00 PM/DISC: 04/02/2019 04:00 PM

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190402006025/en

 

Business, Civic Leaders Urge LADWP to Step up Local Solar Goals to Fill Gap from Phased out Power Plants, Press Release, Business Wire, April 2,2019.

Clean Power Alliance: Providing clean energy and empowering communities

Established in 2017, Clean Power Alliance (CPA) has quickly become the largest CCA in the nation. CPA currently serves over 900,000 homes and roughly 3.5 million people through Southern California.  Beginning in May 2019, CPA will also provide clean energy to approximately 130,000 businesses as well.

As a Community Choice Aggregator (CCA), Clean Power Alliance is a government entity that purchases clean power directly on the open energy market and delivers it to consumers on existing Southern California Edison (SCE) power lines. Originally established as a joint powers authority with unincorporated Los Angeles County, Rolling Hills Estates, and South Pasadena as founding members, it quickly grew to a coalition of 31 agencies across Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

Choice and Growth

For more than a century, Southern California Edison had been the region’s dominant electric utility. But for nearly a million homes across Southern California, the days of Edison’s monopoly are coming to an end. Clean Power Alliance and other CCAs are offering a cleaner option and bringing competition on a larger scale.  CPA offers consumers three energy options at three price points: Green (100 percent renewables), Clean (50 percent renewables), and Lean (36 percent renewables.)  Consumers can decide their level of investment in clean energy.

Communities join because it is a platform for environmental protection and combatting climate change, and because cities have their own local sustainability goals. They also join because they are given a choice on how their energy is sourced. Clean Power Alliance also reinvests funds in innovative projects and programs within the communities they serve.

“The benefits of removing the monopoly system are that it brings innovation and lower rates,” said Ted Bardacke, Executive Director of Clean Power Alliance. “People want choice and the idea that if they can save money and be a little greener, or pay a bit more and be a lot greener, appeals to consumers.”

Creating a Strong Foundation

Before Clean Power Alliance was born, Bardacke knew there were things he needed to get right to build a thriving CCA. Although CCAs have been around Northern California since 2010, they are a relatively new concept in Southern California.  Ensuring there was a robust infrastructure in place, the organization set high standards for its employees, officers, and directors.  Along with strong corporate governance, Bardacke and his team took their time hiring experienced staff and figuring out how the agency is organized to ensure a secure future.

“We spent a lot of time hiring staff who knew what they are doing and to keep the place running,” said Bardacke.

According to Bardacke, by 2020 the Clean Power Alliance is set to take in over $800M in annual revenue. He attributes this success to applying the organization’s best practices and creating a framework of tools and techniques that identify, assess, mitigate, and monitor risk within the organization. Nothing is built at breakneck speed, and policies are carefully and thoughtfully considered.

“We want to make sure that we don’t get out over our skis,” said Bardacke.  “It requires a lot of work to be conservative and disciplined.”

CPA turned to River City Bank for its financial needs.  Bardacke knew that River City Bank has taken a bold lead in the clean energy space, supporting CCA clients throughout California with their depository, cash management, and lending needs. He has seen RCB provide other CCA clients with custom-tailored solutions spanning start-up capital, lines of credit, renewable energy project financing, and custodian “lockbox” accounts.

“We know that River City Bank understands the CCA business and is comfortable in the space,” said Bardacke. “They are entrepreneurial without being bureaucratic.  They understand what it takes to start this type of business, and we appreciate working with people who get that mindset. I know that I can call Steve Fleming directly and get something done.”

What’s In Store for Clean Energy

With talks about a “Green New Deal” which includes a 100% reliance on renewable energy, mitigation of climate change, and increasing green jobs, CCAs like Clean Power Alliance will be right in the middle of the action.

“There will be a change in a systemic and personal level when it comes to where Californians get their energy,” says Bardacke.

Since 2010, CCAs have given customers the ability to directly influence their community’s energy options by giving them the power to choose how and where they buy their electricity and natural gas. In light of California’s Senate Bill 100 which requires California to get 60% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels for electricity by 2045, CCAs are very likely to grow in prominence in the coming years. Gradually, it could mean incentives for customers to install electric water or space heaters, reducing the need to burn natural gas. It might pave the way for free or discounted electric vehicle chargers or special electricity rates that encourage people to charge their electric vehicles at home.

In the clean energy arena, there will be new players and opportunities.  The state continues to be open to innovation and technology that will help eliminate the use of fossil fuels in the next few decades.

“In California, this idea of bold and ambitious goals based on local priorities has been successful across the board,” Bardacke says. “Everything we’re experiencing right now is what the other CCAs (community choice aggregators) have experienced around the state.”

To learn more about Clean Power Alliance visit their website at www.cleanpoweralliance.org.

 

Clean Power Alliance: Providing clean energy and empowering communities, by  River City Bank Staff, River City Bank, March 28, 2019.

 

Big batteries are coming to Southern California

Southern California has embraced solar perhaps more than anywhere else this side of Germany. The results have been dramatic; while California got around 14% from its power from solar in 2018, according to utility renewable portfolio standard filings the portion is even higher in Southern California,

All of this solar is exacerbating the duck curve, leading to lower mid-day power prices and steep ramps in the evening. And now the answer to this and other system needs met met by large volumes of solar is arriving: batteries. And lots of them.

Yesterday Macquarie announced that it has closed on debt financing for 97 MWh of batteries as the third phase of a 63 MW/340 megawatt-hour (MWh) battery project for Southern California Edison. Notably, this project is not a few large batteries, such as utility PG&E is deploying in Northern California, but behind-the-meter systems for “grid-constrained pockets” of its service area in the urban sprawl in the western end of the Los Angeles basin.

And yet this is not the only battery system which is coming for the seemingly endless land of freeways and sun known to those outside the region simply as “LA”. According to reliable sources, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is planning to deploy 1.8 GW of batteries as part of the plan to replace the local capacity that will be lost when three large gas plants are shut down, as part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan to rapidly decarbonize the City of Los Angeles.

LADWP officials declined to confirm plans for these batteries.

 

Battery prices just keep coming down

All of this falls on the heels of new research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) which shows that the cost of lithium-ion batteries is continuing to fall, with prices declining 35% over the past year to $185 per megawatt-hour. This is part of a larger decline, with the cost for lithium-ion storage falling 76% since 2012.

Image Source: PV Magazine

Some of this can be attributed to developments in the supply chain. While there have been concerns about the prices of key materials, particularly cobalt, a spike in cobalt prices in late 2017 and early 2018 has subsided, with prices back below $20 per pound around the beginning of 2019.

And while South American lithium producers have been slow to scale to meet the rising demand, at the BNEF Summit in New York this week, Aleksey Yefremov of Instinet noted that Chinese and Australian lithium producers had quickly moved in to fill the gap.

However, the raw supply of chemicals is only one of several factors, and Elena Giannakopoulou, the head of energy economics at BNEF describes “staggering improvements” in the cost declines of batteries, wind, and solar, citing “technology innovation, economies of scale, stiff price competition and manufacturing experience.”

Much of this is happening in China, which not only controls the supply of key process materials but represents the majority of the world’s battery manufacturing capacity – a trend which is likely to only increase in coming years, given the massive capacities of battery factories that the nation is planning.

 

Big batteries are coming to Southern California, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, March 27, 2019.

Irvine Looks to a New Renewable Energy Source

Irvine is considering switching from Southern California Edison to a greener source of power for its residents, ideally at a lower cost.

Edison still would deliver the energy and bill its Irvine customers.

In September, the Irvine City Council commissioned a feasibility study on this approach, called Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) or Community Choice Energy, which already is serving eight million customers statewide.

But Community Choice still is in its early days, giving rise to questions about what it will cost customers to retain or leave their legacy energy systems.

One of the local catalysts for Community Choice is Robin Ganahl, Orange County organizer for the Climate Action Campaign, a Southern California nonprofit which advocates for local policies to halt climate change.

Ganahl recently sat down with Voice of OC to answer questions about how Community Choice might work in Irvine and other Orange County cities. The interview was edited minimally for space, clarity and continuity.

Q: If I am a resident of a city that decided to set up Community Choice, what is going to change for me? What are the benefits?

It’s already working out very well in over 160 cities in California. Most people won’t notice any difference in their service and there’s nothing they have to do, but the goal is to stabilize our electricity rates and eventually lower them while providing a greener mix of electricity for an entire city. That’s a much faster way than hoping everyone would install solar panels on their house – not everybody can do that.

Q: Irvine started a feasibility study in September to consider Community Choice in the city. The result should be released in April. Then what happens?

The feasibility study should tell us if the city council can purchase electricity and provide it to residents and businesses of Irvine at the rate that is competitive with SoCal Edison, and how they would do that, and where there would be cost savings for the residents and businesses.

So they’ll get the results of the study back, and then we’ll know if it is financially viable. The City Council will then have to vote to pursue an implementation plan that they would then file with the state regulator, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Once they do that, they get on a path; the CPUC sort of puts them in a queue and gives them a date for when they can launch. There is a waiting period because the utility needs to know [how many customers they will lose] to not purchase electricity on behalf of those residents any more….So, if they were to file a plan by the end of this year, they would launch it in 2021.

Q: Right, because customers have the right to opt out [of CCA] if they want to.

Yes. Customers, I believe, in all the programs can always chose to opt out, and there is not a deadline for that. They might have to pay a small fee if they don’t do it within two months or something…Most of the time the fee is very small, like $5.

Q: That’s what happened in other programs?

Yes.

Q: What are the consumer costs associated with leaving a legacy power system?

The costs are called “exit fees” and the idea behind it is that utilities have already entered into long-term contracts, sometimes up to 20 years to buy power, so if all of sudden a big portion of their customers…leave for a CCA program, the state doesn’t want those remaining customers to have to pay for the departed customers. The utilities can make the CCA customers continue to pay [fees toward utilities]… There was a decision made by the state regulator back in October, this past fall, to increase the amount of those fees for CCA’s customers. We are just kind of waiting to see how the feasibility study comes out and how Irvine’s rate could compare to SoCal Edison.

Q: So if I want to be a Community Choice customer, I have to pay exit fees to SoCal Edison to be part of the CCA, is that right?

If Irvine sets up a CCA, everyone is automatically updated into it and those fees are built into your rates. You wouldn’t have to do anything but yes, you would be paying these fees.

Q: Would I pay more than I do currently?

Generally, no. So far, every Community Choice program has been able to still offer a lower rate even with those fees included in them. So the hope for Irvine is that…they would still be able to offer residents and businesses a lower rate even with these added fees included in them. That’s what we are waiting to find out in the feasibility study.

Q: What are the biggest challenges to set up a CCA in Orange County?

So far, I think it’s just been cities grappling with other issues that take priority. A lot of cities are really trying to address the homeless problem and they don’t have the staff to dedicate looking into a feasibility study or even partnering with other cities on a feasibility study. I would say that’s the biggest challenge. The other challenge is that there’s not enough public demand for it. We’re trying to change it. It’s always taken grassroots movements to bring in a Community Choice Energy program. That’s how we’ve gotten the study in Irvine, by community members asking for it.

Q: Are there any other cities interested in the study launched by Irvine?

The study is just for Irvine, but they have invited other cities to piggyback on their solicitation process, so they don’t have to go through the steps of releasing a request for proposal (RFP), soliciting and reviewing all the bids. There are other cities interested. San Clemente is talking with the North San Diego cities right now. Oceanside, Carlsbad, Del Mar and Encinitas all partnered on a study that’s finishing up this month, if it’s not already finished. San Clemente would eventually join up with their Community Choice program if it launches. There are other cities like Lake Forest that are looking for partners. Tustin wants to do a study, but they have put that on the back burner for now; Costa Mesa might pursue one too. But for all these cities it’s getting them to make it a priority over other issues that are taking time.

Q: You said that the idea of the study in Irvine came from the grassroots. Who were the people involved?

There were a few groups that really kind of kicked off the process….The organization that I work for, Climate Action Campaign, gave a couple presentations about it about two years ago. That helped educate some community members and inspire them to go to city council meetings and ask for it. But there’s other people like scientists who have also been involved organizing people and meeting with city council members. There’s a group called Imagine Action OC that has been a big supporter to move forward with the Community Choice study. University High School’s Eco Club also came out in support of at a city council meeting. Major employers in Irvine sent letters of support such as Hoag and Edwards Lifesciences Corp. which has 5,000 employees and Irvine, so there’s been some business support also.

Q: What’s the role of your organization in this process?

Climate Action Campaign is providing the leadership for OC Clean Power. It is based in San Diego and was founded four years ago. We have meetings once a month to just check in with people from other cities that want to advocate for this program in their city. I am the advocate of the Climate Action Campaign in Orange County. My role is to do outreach in Irvine and to educate the city council members, city staff and community members about community choice program and to guide them about policy. I am trying to be a source of reliable information.

Q: Who is involved in that organization? Are they activists or green energy entrepreneurs?

Well, our founder, Nicole Capretz, worked for the city of San Diego for 20 years, and she’s an environmental lawyer… I wouldn’t say the other employees are green energy entrepreneurs. They are more passionate about climate, justice, social equity. We are kind from all over the place. We have one former navy veteran who sees climate change as a national security issue. I’m a former engineer and I am doing this because I had a realization, back in 2015, that I have two children aged seven and nine and that everything I was doing as a mom was going to be for nothing if we really didn’t address this crisis and do more to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions quickly. So, I started volunteering for local organizations and educating myself about what could we ask our cities to do. I started trying to figure what’s practical but doable with has a big impact. And that’s how I learned about choice energy. It’s really the biggest tool a city has to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

MZ Charlet is a free-lance journalist.

 

Irvine Looks to a New Renewable Energy Source, by MZ Charlet, Voice of OC, March 22, 2019.

Palmdale to ponder power program

PALMDALE — The City Council will decide tonight whether to proceed with forming a Community Choice Aggregation pro­gram, in the hopes that the program may give it the ability to provide elec­tric­ity to residents at lower rates by negotiating power pur­­chases directly with en­er­gy producers, instead of Southern Cal­ifornia Ed­ison.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Cham­bers at City Hall, 38300 Sierra Highway, Suite B.

Should the Council de­cide to move forward with such a program by June 2020, it will need a loan of $1.5 million from the city’s General Fund reserves in order to cover the start up costs, which have not been budgeted, according to the staff report.

The program will not be able to generate enough revenue to pay back the loan until 2023, at the earliest, depending on the rates set for the program.

In addition to the start up costs, the city will also need to budget for ongoing op­erating costs in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, which be­gins July 1. According to the staff report, this may re­quire another loan from the General Fund reserves of up to $2.5 million. With the program set to begin in June 2020, it is not expected to generate the revenue to recoup op­erating costs until at least August 2020. These op­er­ating costs in­clude power pro­cure­ment, staff­ing and ad­min­is­tration and con­sult­ing, among others.

The additional start up and operating costs will include tentatively recruiting two and a half new positions on city staff to administer the program, according to the staff report. One position, a senior management an­al­yst, would be needed dur­ing the current fiscal year as part of the start up process. A senior fi­nan­cial analyst and half the fund­ing for an ad­min­is­tra­tive assistant would be required at a later date for operating the program.

In a study produced by California Choice Energy Auth­ority in early 2018 es­ti­mated customers would save 1% of the en­er­gy production costs of their electrical bills, or ap­prox­imately 50 cents per month for the average household.

In December, the City Coun­cil directed staff to submit its intention to join Lancaster’s Com­mu­nity Choice Energy Auth­or­ity pro­gram to the Cal­if­or­nia Public Utilities Com­mis­sion as a means of main­taining the option to proceed with the program with further study, but not yet fully committing to it.

The city nows faces an April deadline to provide ad­di­tional information sta­ting its intentions. This sec­ond phase of the process has a $160,000 price tag, which is not in the current bud­get, according to the staff report.

The Lancaster CCEA has five member cities, in­clu­ding Lan­cas­ter, and anoth­er four are con­sid­ering joining. With Palm­dale, it would make an or­ganization of 10 mem­bers.

Questions the Council had asked staff to in­ves­tig­ate in December remain, in­cluding uncertainty in the changes to policies and fees made by the Cal­if­ornia PUC with these types of agreements, in part to prevent harm to the util­ities facing an exodus of cus­tomers, which will in­crease energy rates.

To share your opinion on this article or any other article, write a letter to the editor and email it to editor@avpress.com or mail it to Letters to Editor, PO Box 4050, Palmdale CA 93590-4050.

 

City to ponder power program, by Allison Gatlin, Antelope Valley Press, March 19, 2019.

Community Choice Energy Meeting Looks to Establish JPA for Power in South OC

Members of the South Orange County Community Choice Alliance, along with Surfrider Foundation, hosted an informational meeting about community choice energy (CCE) on Thursday, March 7, at the Dana Point Tennis Club. The movement has gained momentum in the past few years throughout the state of California, which is to provide options to residents about which energy sources they use.

The goal of CCE programs is to create joint powers that would negotiate prices and purchase or create renewable energy from a portfolio of sources and transfer that energy to existing infrastructure, which in South Orange County’s case is through SDG&E’s transmission lines.

With the state of California’s goal to be 100 percent renewable by 2040, more than 18 of the state’s counties have set up or are exploring plans to establish such utility means.

Technical studies can take at least a year before communities start implementing procedural plans. A full story on CCE will be in The Green Issue from Picket Fence Media on April 11.

 

Community Choice Energy Meeting Looks to Establish JPA for Power in South OC, by Eric Heinz,  San Clemente Times, March 14, 2019.