Community Choice Energy – A Small Town Turnaround

Community Choice Energy – A Small Town Turnaround

By Alison Kerr, Mayor of Del Rey Oaks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Del Rey Oaks moves to join Monterey Bay Community Power

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

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

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

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Agencies launch Monterey Bay Electric Vehicle Incentive Program

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

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

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

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

Click here for the full article.

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

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.

California regulators approve the world’s biggest battery projects

Batteries are getting big in California. And by big, I am talking about Dynegy’s plan to build a 300 MW battery project to replace a gas-fired power plant in Moss Landing, California.

Today the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved four contracts for battery storage contracts that utility Pacific Gas & Electric Company signed with developers, including the 300 MW lithium-ion battery from Dynegy, a 182.5 MW Tesla battery and two other li-ion battery projects totaling 85 MW, for a total of 567 MW.

Image from PV Magazine

The 300 MW battery is easily the largest lithium-ion battery project known to pv magazine. All have four-hour ratings, giving these batteries a total energy rating of 2.27 gigawatt-hours. All of these batteries will be located on or near the site of the Moss Landing Power Plant, a looming gas-fired power plant on Monterey Bay in California, 15 miles north of Monterey.

These batteries will not only connect to the substation and transmission infrastructure built for the Moss Landing Power Plant, but will replace the services provided by the plant itself. Plant owner Dynegy announced last February that it may close the plant, and according to CPUC another cogeneration plant in Gilroy has has signaled that it may go offline.

The potential closure of these plants and their replacement with batteries is part of a trend in California where conventional generation is increasingly being replaced with clean energy options including different combinations of transmission upgrades, renewables and batteries.

And it appears to be benefitting ratepayers. In CPUC’s order the organization found that the evaluation methodology which finds greater benefits than costs for the four projects is both reasonable and consistent with other energy storage solicitations, and that these plants offer greater value to ratepayers than other procurement options.

 

California regulators approve the world’s biggest battery projects, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, November 8, 2018.

Monterey Bay Community Power announces solar deals

Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) recently signed two long-term solar development agreements, one of which will be the largest utility-scale, solar-plus-storage project ever built in California. With the approval of these two projects, MBCP will be making significant contributions to grid stability for California and to utility-scale storage capacity for California and the Nation.

The Slate 1 project, to be developed in Kings County, CA by Recurrent Energy, will provide 150 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity, plus 45 MW of storage, for a 15-year term. Just south in Kern County, the BigBeau Solar project, developed by EDF Renewables North America, will provide 128 MW of solar capacity with 40 MW of storage as part of a 20-year agreement. The two solar + storage projects combined will power 32,000 MBCP customer homes annually and will provide 840 temporary jobs during construction with commercial operation scheduled for 2021.

“We are excited to bring online the largest California solar-plus-storage project by CCAs to date,” said Tom Habashi, CEO of Monterey Bay Community Power. “Solar development has been a hallmark of California’s renewable energy boom and with the storage component, we can realize the full potential of solar generation.”

Both projects are the result of a joint-procurement effort between MBCP and Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE), their second such collaboration in less than 3 months. MBCP will be off taking 45% of the energy produced from both Slate 1 and BigBeau, while SVCE will harness the other 55%. The renewable energy produced from these projects will be utilized exclusively by CCAs, many of which are driving the recent rise in buildout of renewable energy infrastructure across the state.

The California Community Choice Association (CalCCA), a trade group that represents the state’s community choice energy agencies, applauded the joint procurement effort noting it represents a significant achievement for the CCA movement in California.

“This landmark purchase of utility-scale solar and energy storage resources shows that CCAs are ready, willing and able to sign long-term contracts with new renewable energy projects in California,” said Beth Vaughan, executive director of CalCCA. “It also reflects the commitment community choice programs have to supporting new sources of clean energy and fueling job creation and economic development.”

As a leader among CCAs driving California’s climate action success, MBCP is also poised to provide its own community with significant benefits.  After just eight months of operation MBCP is projecting to save tri-county a combined $3.5 million in cost savings, contribute to 300,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions spared from the atmosphere, and reinvest an additional $2.5 million in programs designed to help offset the cost of electric vehicles (EV) and EV charging stations for residents, businesses, schools and public agencies. Additional programs to support low-income rate payers are also being evaluated.

According to a May, 2018 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) report: At the end of 2017, 708 MWs of utility-scale battery storage capacity was in operation in the US. With the approval of these two projects, MBCP will be contributing to a 12% increase in US Storage Capacity

About Monterey Bay Community Power

Monterey Bay Community Power is a Community Choice Energy agency established by local communities to source carbon-free electricity for Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties while retaining PG&E’s traditional role delivering power and maintaining electric infrastructure. As a locally controlled not-for-profit, MBCP is not taxpayer funded and supports Tri-County economic vitality by providing cleaner energy at a lower cost, supporting low-income rate payers, and funding local renewable energy projects. For more information, visit www.mbcommunitypower.org

 

Monterey Bay Community Power announces solar deals, by Monterey Bay Community Power, San Benito Live, November 2, 2018.

County Recognized For Monterey Bay Community Power

From Santa Cruz Co.: The County of Santa Cruz is pleased to announce it has been awarded a 2018 Merit Award be the California State Association of Counties in recognition of efforts to form Monterey Bay Community Power.

Now delivering power to thousands of customers throughout the tri-county Monterey Bay region, Monterey Bay Community Power is a community-choice energy agency focused on delivering renewable energy to local customers and reinvesting revenues in the community. Every year, the California State Association of Counties recognizes innovation and the creative spirit of California’s 58 counties through the Challenge and Merit Awards.

“When we started down this road, they said it couldn’t be done,” Supervisor Bruce McPherson said. “Monterey Bay Community Power is now a runaway success. When we work together to address the challenges of our time, our community can do great things. I thank the California State Association of Counties for their recognition.”

Led by McPherson’s office, Santa Cruz County was the lead agency behind formation of Monterey Bay Community Power, a joint powers authority comprised of 19 local governments around the Monterey Bay that came together in an unprecedented show of unity to benefit local communities and address climate change. With an operating budget in excess of $200 million, Monterey Bay Community Power has now been rolled out to commercial and residential customers throughout Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties, providing electricity at rates below PG&E while delivering 100 percent carbon-free power over the existing electricity grid. Despite launching just seven months ago, MBCP is expected to be debt free within the next month, and is poised to reinvest $16 million back into the community in the form of rebates and complimentary programs. MBCP serves 95 percent of the population in the tri-county market.

 

County Recognized For Monterey Bay Community Power, by News Desk, Patch Capitola, October 3, 2018.

Ahead Of Schedule And Beyond Expectations – MBCP Pays Off Startup Loan And Successfully Enrolls Customers In Monterey Bay Community Power

Monterey, CA – Sept. 18, 2018 – After just seven months of operation, Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) has successfully paid off a loan obtained through Lines of Credit totaling $6.2 million, as well as reimbursed the County of Santa Cruz for expenses incurred on behalf of MBCP prior to securing the lines of credit.

“Due to sound financial stewardship, low cost carbon free electricity procurement and smart decision making, MBCP will pay down this outstanding debt a year earlier than planned,” exclaimed Bruce McPherson, Board Chair of MBCP’s Policy Board and Santa Cruz County Supervisor. “This is an incredible success and demonstrates the value of having a locally controlled agency that can be a catalyst for economic and environment progress in the Monterey Bay.”

By focusing on business fundamentals to achieve better financial stability, MBCP will be in a stronger position to continue delivering on its promises around clean energy, lower cost and economic vitality for the tri-county businesses and residents. MBCP is successfully serving 97% of the eligible customer base across the 16 cities and 3 counties which constitute the newest Monterey Bay public agency.

“MBCP is big when it matters, small when it counts,” said Tom Habashi, MBCP’s CEO. “Our service territory is large enough to afford attracting the majority of small and large energy developers and suppliers, yet small enough to move quickly when opportunities for acquiring clean, efficient and economical resources present themselves.
As part of the fast-growing, statewide Community Choice Energy (CCE) or Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) movement, MBCP is playing an important role in helping the Monterey Bay Region and even the entire State of California meet their ambitious climate-action goals.

“MBCP continues to exceed expectations that were put forth as the first tri-county Community Choice program in the state of California,” said Steve McShane, Vice Chair of MBCP’s Policy Board and Councilmember from the City of Salinas. “By retiring its debt early, MBCP exemplifies what is means to be a well-run public agency for the Monterey Bay region. I am excited for the future of MBCP in providing tangible value to its customers through outreach, education, customer rebates and customer programs.”

In addition to being debt free and fast-tracking statewide climate-action goals, MBCP has made notable accomplishments in in all three of its focus points during only seven months of operation:

Reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
• MBchoice: Carbon free electricity as default service offering and MBprime: 100% eligible renewables service offering
• Close to 97% enrollment of customer electricity demand
• 90 MW, 15-year New Wind Project to meet 10% of MBCP Annual demand
• 125 MW Solar + 38 MW Storage – Long term agreements near completion

Affordable rates and customer re-investment
• 3% Rebate to all customers – est. $3.5 million applied to customer bills
• Higher rates for net energy generation for customers with on-site generation
• 2% of gross revenue set aside for customer energy programs – $2.5 million for MBCP customers
• Over 230 voluntary customer enrollments to MBprime, MBshare & MBgreen+

Stimulate local economy
• Potential for 20 MW of renewable local generation
• Employed 19 staff members, working and mostly living locally
• Supported the move of GridX’s, MBCP Data Manger, to our offices for a Tier 2 local call center
• Executed $450k in contracts with local service providers
• Hosted Cal-CCA 2018 Annual Meeting at Asilomar conference center in Pacific Grove for over 300 attendees
• Sponsored and supported over 135 community events and organizations
• Examining the feasibility of partnering with MBARD and State Agencies to deploy Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program for Level II & DC fast chargers in the Tri-County

Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) provides competitively priced carbon-free electricity to our participating communities while reducing the need to consume fossil fuels to generate energy that powers all sectors of our local economy. MBCP actively promotes the economic vitality of the Monterey Bay Region while preserving its clean water and air. For more information, visit www.mbcommunitypower.org

Contact
Shelly Whitworth
Telephone
O: 831-641-7206 C: 831-229-0277
Email
swhitworth@mbcommunitypower.org
Website
www.mbcommunitypower.org