Luis Alejo: Community Power OK, raw deal isn’t

When I voted for Senate Bill 350 in 2015 while serving in the Assembly, California once again raised the bar for the rest of the nation to make greater investments in renewable energy. In fact, it made it law that California would achieve 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

To carry these goals further, local governments in Northern California began creating their own joint power authorities (JPAs) to purchase renewable energy at even faster and greater levels while keeping energy bills comparable to PG&E or slightly lower. These agencies are now known as Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) JPAs.

Recently, a local working group created such a JPA called Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) that could potentially provide energy to nearly 769,000 residents and thousands more local businesses and institutions in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties, while also giving them a choice to opt-out and remain with PG&E.

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted on March 7 to join MBCP, but it’s getting a raw deal. In fact, Monterey County and all its cities are getting shortchanged in a big way when it comes to fair and equitable representation and voting seats on the governance board.

While Monterey County represents 57 percent of the population in MBCP with nearly 435,000 residents, it’s being relegated a minority of board seats. That is not fair nor is it equitable by any standard. Monterey County has more people than Santa Cruz and San Benito counties combined with their 334,000 residents total. If we measure by energy use, Monterey County alone exceeds the other two counties by even more with 61.5 percent.

Moreover, Monterey County cities are also getting a bad deal by each being denied a voting seat in MBCP, and instead must rotate three seats among 11 cities. Giving each city a vote would have shown respect and been fair. And guess what? That’s also exactly what every other multi-jurisdiction CCA in the state has done. But MBCP proponents instead claim an arbitrary cap number of 11 seats on its governance board despite no other similar CCA using such ill-founded and rigid logic.

Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and Humboldt counties’ CCAs give each city and county a vote and have also included a “weighted vote” so that local governments get additional votes proportional to its energy use or number of customer accounts. San Mateo County’s CCA doesn’t have a “weighted vote” but it does give each city a vote and gives the county two votes due to its size. The only other two CCAs that exist in the state are single jurisdictions, San Francisco and Lancaster, and they, too, have fair governance models.

Why does all this matter? It matters because this new governing board will soon be making multimillion-dollar decisions, investments, purchases, local job creation and benefits, and potentially siting future solar or wind projects in Monterey and San Benito counties. However, when those decisions get made, Monterey County governments will not have fair or equitable representation.

During our recent deliberations I argued that this information had not been formally presented to other city councils or supervisors, nor to the public. I also raised that Monterey County and other county cities also had another option of creating our own CCA that would have been designed better and fairer to our local governments.

In a separate Monterey County CCA, each city could have been given a vote while also utilizing new startup financing structures that are faster, cheaper and more cutting edge than the design that MBCP utilized. Therefore, the question for Monterey County was never really about whether we would join a CCA; it was about which one and there was a better choice, one that could have been operating just as fast.

I do believe that Monterey Bay Community Power is needed and I support all its positive intended goals, but it lacks fair and equitable representation for Monterey County. MBCP still has an opportunity to get it right by amending its JPA and governance structure at its first meeting in a comparable way to every other multi-jurisdiction CCA in the state and in a way that is fair to Monterey County and its people.

Luis Alejo is the Monterey County supervisor for District 1 and is the former state Assemblymember of the 30th District.

Luis Alejo: Community Power OK, raw deal isn’t, by Luis Alejo, Monterey Herald, March 25, 2017.

PG&E Electricity Bills Will Rise This Week amid Rate Restructuring

SAN FRANCISCO — PG&E on Monday unveiled a restructuring of how the utility charges people for electricity, a move that will impose a steep increase in electric bills for residential customers.

The higher electricity costs, which take effect March 1, mark the second time in two months that power bills have risen for PG&E customers. Monthly electricity bills last jumped on Jan. 1.

What’s more, the higher electricity bills come on top of a huge jump in monthly gas bills that took effect last summer. As of Aug. 1, monthly gas bills soared 12 percent.

At present, the monthly PG&E electricity bill for a typical residential customer is $99.13 a month.

But as of Wednesday, due to the new rates and changes in its billing tiers, the new average monthly bill will jump nearly $12 a month to $110.77, according to the company.

“We are trying to simplify the rate structure,” said Donald Cutler, a PG&E spokesman. “We are trying to align the cost of service to the service that is being provided.”

San Francisco-based PG&E conceded that customers who tend to use less electricity are likely to pay more in their monthly power bills, while those who use more electricity will likely be paying less under the bill-balancing effort.

Why? According to PG&E, an analysis indicates that customers who have used a great deal of electricity have tended to subsidize those who used very little under the prior system of several billing tiers, especially since PG&E has a certain minimum expense of connecting each residence to the electricity grid.

PG&E is reducing the number of billing tiers to two, down from the prior three. At one point in recent years, PG&E customers were grouped into five tiers.

“People should be rewarded for conserving energy, and not rewarded for being an energy hog,” said Mark Toney, executive director of The Utility Reform Network, a consumer group. “People are being punished with higher bills for using less energy.”

Just last July, the average PG&E residential customer paid $145.36 a month for gas and electricity combined. Effective March 1, that combined bill will rocket to $165.10 a month, an increase of nearly 14 percent, or nearly $20.

Electricity bills last July 31 averaged $96.94. By March, the increase in electricity bills of $13.83 will equate to a 14.3 percent jump in those power costs over the 7-month period.

Gas bills that at the end of July averaged $48.42 are now $5.91 higher and average $54.33, a 12.2 percent increase since midsummer.

About two-thirds of PG&E residential customers are likely to be saddled with more expensive monthly electricity bills, TURN estimated.

PG&E says that it must pay fixed costs to connect a residence to its electricity grid, and it seeks to recoup those costs through the restructuring.

“These changes to the rate structure were developed with the energy companies, the PUC and a number of consumer groups from across the state,” Cutler said.

In addition, people who use power far above the levels in the tier structures will be obliged to pay a 10 percent surcharge on top of their basic electricity bill.

“We understand that any change to the way our customers are accustomed to being charged for energy may cause some questions,” said Deborah Affonsa, vice president of customer service for PG&E, in a prepared release. “We want all of our customers to know that we’re here to help them understand these changes and manage their energy costs.”

PG&E Electricity Bills Will Rise This Week amid Rate Restructuring, by George Avalos, The Mercury News, February 27, 2017.

Horacio Amezquita: Farmworkers support clean-energy proposal

I am a proud member of the San Jerardo Farmworkers Cooperative in the Salinas Valley. San Jerardo’s residents work the land. We spend the day with our hands in the soil and our backs to the sun. If there is any community who understands that the Earth’s climate is dramatically impacting our planet, it is we.

That’s why I am writing to you today, to support local efforts that reduce climate change in Salinas Valley, such as the Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP). The MBCP is a clean-energy proposal, an alternative to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. Over the next month, cities and counties around the Monterey Bay area will vote on whether to be a part of this publicly-run, clean-energy proposal. I am asking that all 21 municipalities that have this option join the efforts to bring Monterey Bay Community Power to our communities.

As people who work in the fields and feel connected to the Earth, we understand that global warming has real consequences. Since 2012, we have seen the two hottest years on record. Changing temperatures can completely alter growing seasons and make it more difficult to raise Salinas Valley traditional crops, such as lettuce, strawberries and broccoli. This is very serious.

Successful agriculture in our area depends on growing the same crops we have always grown, and our ability to deliver them to market where and when they are expected. I have done my research, and I understand that MBCP can deliver energy to our homes and businesses at the same or lower rates than PG&E’s. Much of the energy from MBCP will come from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. This kind of energy will help us reduce the advance of climate change.

MBCP also has the potential to create many new clean energy jobs around the area, opportunities that will put people to work and keep our hard-earned dollars in the local economy. Our communities, and our families, need good jobs.

I know that we alone cannot solve the problem of climate change. Reducing global warming and reversing the other negative effects of climate change will require many actions by many people. It will require the cooperation of communities, governments and industry. I know we have a long fight ahead of us if we want to solve these issues. For now, at least, I see adopting and using Monterey Bay Community Power as a way Monterey communities can contribute to be part of the solution.

I urge my friends and elected officials to stand behind Monterey Bay Community Power. Many local governments are about to vote on whether or not to make it a reality. Please show up to your city council meetings and show your support. We have one Earth. Let’s do what we can to protect it, for ourselves and for the generations to come.

Horacio Amezquita lives in Salinas.

Horacio Amezquita: Farmworkers support clean-energy proposalMonterey Herald, February 18, 2017.

Monterey Bay Community Power Is a Good Deal

The Central Coast in general and Monterey County communities in particular have arrived at an important moment that will determine whether we continue to be leaders in the field of innovation and environmental protection.

On Tuesday, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors will consider whether to join Monterey Bay Community Power, an effort several years in the making to create a new regional agency that will purchase clean-source electricity at a cost equivalent to PG&E.

The new agency will help create jobs, fund renewable energy projects and reduce carbon-based emissions. A week after the vote by Monterey County Supervisors, Salinas City Council will vote, with votes by city councils elsewhere in the county also taking place over the next few weeks. Cities and counties throughout the Central Coast have already expressed support for this movement to seize our energy future.

Monterey County should not turn its back on this opportunity. Not only does Monterey County have the chance to determine our energy sources and even reduce prices for our residents, but the profits from Monterey Bay Community Power would be reinvested back into the community. No longer would our hard-earned dollars be sent off to corporate headquarters elsewhere in California.

Communities across California are benefiting from similar opportunities. Marin County, Sonoma County, San Mateo County, San Francisco and Lancaster have all established their own community choice energy agencies, reducing carbon footprints in those communities while offering energy at comparable prices to the big utilities.

Community choice energy works. Here on the Central Coast, it would be governed by a joint powers agency overseen by a publicly accountable 11-member board. Following exhaustive studies and dozens of public meetings over the past several years, this agreement has been hammered out between local governments in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties. Nearly every one of them, including the County of Monterey and the City of Salinas, has formally expressed interest in joining.

The power-sharing agreement fosters collaboration by giving no county the ability to dictate to others – the kind of collaboration so desperately missing from our national political scene. Still, Monterey County communities would have five of the 11 votes on the board, compared to four for Santa Cruz County and two for San Benito County.

This proposal before the Board of Supervisors and other jurisdictions gives Monterey Bay Community Power a clean slate from which to eventually make decisions that will benefit our local residents – from which types of renewable energy we should pursue to where important green jobs should be located within the community. And it does so while preserving Monterey County’s prevailing influence within the region.

Monterey Bay Community Power is a good deal for Monterey County. It positions us to create green jobs to support renewable energy generation. It puts decision making in the hands of locals. It gives customers the choice to opt out and stay with PG&E if desired. It keeps electricity rates comparable to PG&E for all customers, even factoring in all PG&E fees, while still giving us the choice to potentially reduce electricity rates. Sonoma Clean Power recently announced it would drop electricity rates 10% for residential customers due to falling prices for solar energy.

Thanks to the visionary state legislation that makes Monterey Bay Community Power possible, PG&E will still provide line maintenance and customer service. So we’ll continue seeing those blue-and-white trucks carrying crews who work hard to maintain the transmission lines and keep the power on throughout the county.

At the state level, we have great leadership on climate change. We don’t know yet what Presdient Trump’s administration will do on climate change, or how it would impact the state’s ability to act, but the early signs aren’t good. But we can act locally.

Over and over, the voters of Monterey County have sided with self-determination and environmental protection. Local governments across the Monterey Bay region stand on the precipice of perhaps the most important vote we have ever faced on those issues. We strongly support Monterey Bay Community Power and hope our elected colleagues throughout Monterey County will join us by voting yes.

Jane Parker is a Monterey County Supervisor, representing District 4. Steve McShane is a Salinas City Councilmember, representing District 3.

Monterey Bay Community Power Is a Good Deal, by Jane Parker and Steve McShane, The Californian, February 11, 2017.

New Governance Proposal for Community Power Agency Heads to Supervisors

Salinas >> A governance proposal allowing the largest jurisdictions extra voting power on a proposed Monterey Bay Community Power agency is expected to be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Under the proposal, Monterey County, the city of Salinas and Santa Cruz County would be offered two votes each on an 11-member policy board for the proposed new power agency. That would mean Monterey County jurisdictions would control half of the 14 total votes on the board, effectively holding veto power over decisions such as budgeting, capital investment and power rates.

According to county management analyst Dan Bertoldi, the governance proposal will be part of a series of options to be offered to the supervisors during Tuesday’s afternoon session as part of a status report on the agency and related governance discussions. Bertoldi said the general rationale is that the largest jurisdictions, those exceeding 100,000 population, should have additional influence on the proposed agency’s actions because they would bear the most significant credit risk and represent the bulk of the power customer base and energy demand.

Under the proposal, Bertoldi said the county would conduct a first reading of a community choice energy ordinance and power agency agreement by March 7 and a final reading, and potential adoption, on March 21, a few days past the most recent deadline for joining the power agency.

The supervisors will also have the option to sign on to the power agency as currently proposed or decide to join as a “late adopter” next year, according to Bertoldi.

Bertoldi said county staff led by Assistant County Administrative Officer Nick Chiulos has met with representatives of eight other jurisdictions in Monterey County to discuss power agency governance since a narrow majority of the supervisors directed staff on Jan. 31 to pursue additional voting power for the county on the agency board. Supervisors Luis Alejo, Simon Salinas and John Phillips indicated strong support for an increased voice for Monterey County in the power agency’s actions given their importance and potential impact on thousands of customers and their power bills.

While he said he hadn’t attended the meetings, Bertoldi said he understood representatives of the other power agency jurisdictions had been contacted. “I believe our intentions have been communicated,” he said.

Santa Cruz County supervisorial aide Virginia Johnson told the board the other power agency jurisdictions had already considered offering larger jurisdictions more voting power but rejected it based on the concept that all decisions should be made on a regional basis. Alejo suggested the other jurisdictions should reconsider given the potential benefits of including Monterey County in the power agency, but Johnson said Santa Cruz and others were ready to go ahead without the region’s largest entity.

The proposed tri-county community choice energy initiative would take over power purchasing from PG&E in an effort to enhance local control, increase the use of renewable energy, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

New Governance Proposal for Community Power Agency Heads to Supervisors, by Jim Johnson, Monterey Herald, February 13, 2017.

Local Governments Agree to Join Community Power Group

Local governments in 20 communities have taken formal actions signaling their interest to join Monterey Bay Community Power, a regional project among local government agencies to provide electricity to residents and businesses throughout Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties by 2018

Monterey Bay Community Power aims to provide consumer choice, increase renewable energy and stimulate the regional economy.

The actions followed approximately 100 community meetings and presentations, as well as in-depth discussions with elected officials and staff.

Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz County have joined these other participating local governments: Monterey County, San Benito County; the cities of Capitola, Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Gonzales, Greenfield, Hollister, King City, Marina, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas, San Juan Bautista, Santa Cruz, Seaside, Soledad and Watsonville

The new power agency is also inviting interested parties to respond to a Request for Proposals for credit and banking services. Responses are due no later than February 1, 2017.

Here is a timeline for next steps for Monterey Bay Community Power

December 2016: Additional planning and due diligence by staff representatives of participating local governments.

January/February 2017: Ordinances to be passed by local government boards and councils, resulting in formation of a joint powers authority to launch and govern Monterey Bay Community Power.

Spring 2018: Begin serving customers throughout the Monterey Bay area.

The Monterey Bay Community Power is a regional project among local government agencies to provide electricity to residents and businesses throughout Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties through the Community Choice Energy model.

Established in 2002 by a state law, the model enables communities to choose clean-source power at a cost equivalent to PG&E while retaining PG&E’s role in maintaining power lines and providing customer service. The CCE model helps ensure local economic vitality because money from rates paid by local customers stays local, which helps to fund renewable energy projects, create jobs and stimulate the economy. For more information, visit

Local Governments Agree to Join Community Power GroupPress-Banner, December 9, 2016.

Poll Surveys Monterey County Residents on Green Energy Initiative

Monterey County >> A majority of all unincorporated Monterey County residents who responded to a survey about a still little-known tri-county community choice energy initiative would only back the proposal if their electric bills stay the same or decrease.

About 1 in 3 would pay an additional $5 or more per month on their bills to participate. And nearly two-thirds of respondents considered the ability to opt out of the initiative “very important.”

A survey of Salinas city residents showed similar results, with an even higher percentage of respondents conditioning their support for the proposal on how it would impact their electric bills.

Neither survey mentioned a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. “exit fee” charged to customers who would automatically join the initiative known as the Monterey Bay Community Power project unless they choose to opt out, which has cost customers in other areas of the state up to $13 per month, although community choice energy backers have said local electric bills would still likely be the same or lower even with the fees included, depending on the percentage of renewable energy being purchased.

The surveys, conducted last month by Bregman and Associates, were paid for by the county and the city in an effort to gauge support for the initiative, which would set up a new joint powers authority aimed at allowing local jurisdictions in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties to take over electric power purchasing from PG&E in an effort to increase the percentage of renewable energy and use corporate profits to pay for other clean energy projects. PG&E would still operate the electric power transmission system and handle billing and customer support.

“It’s pretty clear people like the idea, but the electric bills must be close (in cost),” Bregman and Associates principal Gene Bregman told the county Alternative Energy and Environment Committee on Wednesday, noting that a large percentage of respondents generally expressed satisfaction with PG&E over a new government agency. “If there was a groundswell of opposition to PG&E it might be different.”

While the survey showed only 25 percent of unincorporated county residents who responded — and only 17 percent of Salinas respondents — knew about the initiative, support for it rose from about 40-44 percent to about 60-70 percent after a series of questions were asked that focused on the positive aspects of the proposal.

Among the aspects of the proposal included in the survey were the ability to opt out of the initiative, similar electricity rates, an estimated $1.4 billion in construction jobs and $28 million in long-term jobs, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through purchase of cleaner energy, and greater local control.

According to the survey, nearly 6 in 10 respondents in both the unincorporated county and city agree current provider PG&E is doing a good job and there’s no need for a new government bureaucracy.

The county’s survey of 255 registered voters in the unincorporated county was conducted Nov. 17-20. It cost the county $10,000.

Public outreach efforts also continue, including those directed at the agricultural community, according to a staff report.

Assistant county administrative officer Nick Chiulos said county staff is in the process of reviewing a draft final joint powers authority agreement and community choice energy ordinance, which would be binding if the Board of Supervisors signs on, and he said staff would also clarify the PG&E exit fee details.

County staff is expecting to provide feedback at next week’s Monterey Bay Community Power ad hoc committee meeting, and could return to the Alternative Energy and Environment Committee with an update at a special meeting in early January.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to consider signing a final agreement and ordinance on Jan. 31, and the new authority is expected to begin supplying power by spring 2018.

A total of 19 jurisdictions have formally indicated an interest in joining the authority, with only Sand City and Hollister declining to do so thus far.

Poll Surveys Monterey County Residents on Green Energy Initiative, by Jim Johnson, Monterey Herald, December 7, 2016.

Work Begins on Californian EV Fast Charging Corridor

The roll-out of electric vehicle fast charging facilities in the US is gathering pace. Earlier this month, the White House revealed details of 48 charging corridors that will run along 55 interstate highways, while work has also now started on the DriveTheArc corridor in Northern California.

Once completed, the DriveTheArc corridor will run from from Monterey at its southern end to Lake Tahoe and Reno at its northern end. There will be 50 fast chargers installed along the route at more than 20 locations, compatible with CHAdeMO and Combo electric vehicles (EV).

The scheme is aimed at making it easier for EVs to travel long distances on what is described as “one of California’s most important travel arteries.” An accompanying smartphone app for Android and iOS will provide users with information about charging points on the corridor and feed anonymous data into research about the use and driving patterns of EVs.

Among its features, the app will allow users to find charging points stations on the way to their destination, direct users to charging points, minimize waiting times by providing charger vacancy info and authorize payments for charging. Users will also be able to view stats about their EV driving.

Partner organizations include the State of California, Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), Nissan Motor Co., Nissan North America, Kanematsu and EVgo. It is being funded by NEDO purportedly to improve energy conservation and promote new energy technologies, as well as to strengthen US-Japanese ties.

EVgo is the local partner managing the installation of the infrastructure, while Kanematsu has been collaborating with Nissan and EVgo to develop the DriveTheArc mobile app.

Ground was broken on the DriveTheArc corridor yesterday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in California’s El Dorado Hills. The corridor is expected to be completed by March next year, with the data collection and analysis project element due for completion in 2020.

Work Begins on Californian Ev Fast Charging Corridor, by Stu Roberts, New Atlas, November 15, 2016.

Community Power Project Resolution Headed to Board of Supervisors

Salinas >> A non-binding resolution of intent to join the fledgling Monterey Bay Community Power project is headed to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, but staff is suggesting modifying the proposed resolution to include weighted voting for key issues.

The Community Power proposal envisions a tri-county community choice energy agency aimed at allowing about 286,000 regional customers in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties, and 18 cities in those counties, to purchase and control their own electric power instead of PG&E, and pursue more clean energy sources and initiatives.

After years of study and discussion, Community Power staff have drafted the non-binding resolution in an effort to determine local jurisdictions’ interest in joining the new power agency, including a proposed governance structure and anticipated finance provisions. This comes ahead of more detailed negotiations on formation of a joint powers authority charged with governing the agency.

Earlier this month, the Alternative Energy and Environment Committee recommended signing the resolution to allow the county to participate in joint power authority negotiations, and staff is now also recommending signing on but with a key condition.

According to a staff report, the supervisors should consider adding a weighted vote based on population to the county’s resolution of intent to address concerns about jurisdictions’ potential financial exposure, including a credit guarantee for $3 million of initial agency funding.

“While staff recognizes the merit of the (Monterey Bay Community Power) proposal, additional consideration is needed to create a fair and balanced voting structure and governance model,” the report reads. “One possible way to address this is to create a governance structure where a weighted vote is invoked for certain decisions such as capital projects, major financial transactions, eminent domain, JPA amendments and involuntary termination of a party.”

Currently, the power agency plan calls for an 11-member board representing all the member jurisdictions.

Meanwhile, the county is also proceeding with a joint survey with the city of Salinas aimed at gauging public opinion about the power agency. County officials asked Community Power staff to back such a survey but were denied. The staff report indicated the results should be available by Dec. 1, well ahead of the Jan. 31 deadline for signing a final, binding resolution to join the agency.

Community Power Project Resolution Headed to Board of Supervisors, by Jim Johnson, Monterey Herald, October 28, 2016.

Monterey, Calif., Diocese Enters ‘New Era’ with Sustainable Energy Program

The four-county Monterey diocese has teamed up with the Romero Institute, a nonprofit law and policy center focused on social justice issues, to promote renewable energy and the creation of a Community Choice Energy program (CCE).

“CCE, which became law in California in 2002, allows cities and counties a say in their energy provider by selecting the source and price of the electricity. The Monterey Bay area has been prepping to implement the program for three years, said the bishop. He encouraged priests and deacons to “mobilize Catholic support” in their parishes, in the form of advocacy and petition drives, for its passage. City councils and boards of supervisors are expected to be voting through the end of October on whether to join a CCE.”

Monterey, Calif., Diocese Enters ‘New Era’ with Sustainable Energy Program, by Marie Venner, National Catholic Reporter, October 3, 2016.