Why Community Choice Energy is a win for San Diego families

Electricity in San Diego is about to become more clean, affordable and community-driven as cities across our region get ready to launch Community Choice Energy (CCE) to supply our energy needs.

After years of study and careful deliberation, along with extensive public outreach, cities are in the process of taking back control of our energy destiny. By going from a for-profit corporate monopoly to a local, nonprofit public agency, San Diego will finally join over 10 million other Californians who already enjoy energy freedom and receive the benefits of public power.

And it’s about time.

CCE (also known as CCA) programs have been successfully operating across the state for nearly a decade, giving families the freedom of choice in who supplies their electricity. Under a CCE program, the CCE purchases the power, while the utility maintains and operates the grid. Families can choose to stay with their utility or join the CCE program. Revenues generated by CCE programs are reinvested back into the community, rather than going to pay outrageous executive salaries or line the pockets of corporate shareholders.

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City of San Diego predicts community choice energy can beat SDG&E rates by 5% on customers’ bills

The city of San Diego has run the numbers and concludes adopting a community choice energy program will not only offer rates about 5 percent lower than San Diego Gas & Electric but will be a money-maker that can generate an estimated average of $110 million per year.

But questions about a critical fee that community choice aggregation, or CCA, customers must pay each month and recent developments involving higher energy rates affecting a CCA in Ventura and Los Angeles counties have raised caution flags in some circles.

The city’s figures come from a business plan prepared by MRW & Associates, a consultancy group based in Oakland founded by the former chairman of the California Energy Commission. The study said it used conservative assumptions and concluded community choice aggregation, or CCA, in the San Diego area will deliver total net income of about $1.75 billion from 2020 to 2035.

“This is a business plan; this is not a crystal ball,” said Cody Hooven, chief sustainability officer for the city of San Diego. But should the area adopt a CCA, the $110 million per year average is solid, Hooven said, going “above and beyond the funding reserves” and “paying off all of the bills the CCA generates.”

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La Mesa Commission holds CCA open forum

The city of La Mesa has decided, after four years of effort, that it’s time to start the process of actually setting up a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program to take control of energy costs.

CCAs are becoming the way to go for increasing numbers of local governments interested in renewable energy supplies, to meet state requirements for lowering the use of fossil fuels by 2045.

This is part of the overall La Mesa climate action plan passed by the City Council in March of 2018 — in fact, it’s the major portion of that overall plan.

The city’s Environmental Sustainability Commission held an open meeting on June 17 to tell interested citizens what they might expect to see when this all goes into effect.

On July 15, the commission will present its draft plan to actually make all this happen.

Scott Anders, of CCA 101, told the audience that things will change for them on their utility bills once the CCA is up and running.

“This will place control of your electric rates in the hands of local governmental agencies,” he said. “They will be able to buy power from sources other than SDG&E, if they can find a better rate somewhere else.”

Solana Beach, which has already adopted a CCA, is already planning to buy power from Calpine, an independent energy company.

Some audience members were a little shaky about the possibility of local elected officials setting the rates for their power bills.

David Harris was typical.

“Could you clarify who really runs them? We don’t really trust government that much,” he said. “Buying and selling things is not something they’re really good at.”

Anders replied that the law mandates it be done that way.

“Ultimately, CCAs will make money for the cities running them, but that may not happen at first,” he said. “This is a new program, a new effort to make renewable power available for all, or as many as participate in the program.”

If you’re thinking that SDG&E will suddenly disappear, think again. SDG&E will likely turn out to be the major supplier of power, just as it is now. The utility will be one of the major sources of purchased power. It will just have to compete for the city’s business with others.

However this works out, SDG&E will still handle the paperwork — the billing and collection of utility payments from citizens.

This will be automatic for most customers. When the City Council formally adopts the plan, all current SDG&E customers will be automatically enrolled in the CCA. Anyone who does not wish to participate will have to formally opt out, so they can return to SDG&E alone.

This is going to be expensive to start out. The city will have to hire staff people to actually run this program, and that cost will initially come from the city budget.

There is a good chance other East County cities — specifically Santee — are interested in joining in this effort. One way to handle the expense involved is to form a Joint Powers Authority whereby costs incurred could be defrayed with funding from the various cities.

If all this works, the cities involved believe the CCA will eventually make money for the cities involved — money that La Mesa plans to use to implement other sectors of its climate action plan.

Steve Grooms, who actually helped the Sustainability Commission bring this to where it is now, supports the idea, but admits, “the devil is in the details, isn’t it?”

City Councilman Bill Baber, who sat on the Sustainability Commission, thinks it’ll work.

“I completely support the concept,” he said. “I’m all in favor of it. But we have to make it work in reality.”

 

Commission holds CCA open forum, by Doug Curlee, La Mesa Courier, June 28, 2019.

Monterey Bay Community Power makes pitch to Atascadero

ATASCADERO  – Two weeks after hearing from utility provider, Pacific Gas and Electric Co., that the local electrical grid could be taken offline for extended periods of time to prevent the corporation from being held liable for another infrastructure-caused wildfire, the Atascadero City Council heard a pitch from an alternative energy provider.

Monterey Bay Community Power’s (MBCP) Director of Communications J.R. Killigrew gave Atascadero the same information being furnished to the County of San Luis Obispo’s other municipalities in an effort to sign up the whole region as members of a joint powers authority (JPA) to source “clean” energy. So far Morro Bay, Pismo Beach and Paso Robles are onboard.

While the promised rebate checks and overall lower rates may seem appealing to individual ratepayers feeling burned by PG&E’s policies, joining up with MBCP wouldn’t free customers of reliance on the existing grid. If the City chooses to join, local customers would be enrolled in a program sourcing their energy generated by MBCP, with the change showing up as a line item on their PG&E bill, Killigrew said. They’d have 60 days after that to opt out if they don’t like the change.

The opt-out rather than opt-in method was determined by California state law to guarantee Community Choice Aggregation programs like MBCP a chance to grow, as it takes much more effort for thousands of individual customers to sign up than for those dissatisfied to withdraw.

An element of the sales pitch which drew particular attention from Mayor Pro Tem Charles Bourbeau was the promise of programs that could assist business customers in setting up local “micro-grids” areas that could remain functional should the larger system go down. An area which PG&E’s representative previously distanced the company from responsibility.

According to MBCP materials a microgrid, “can act as a single, controllable entity with respect to the main grid; either connected to the grid or operated autonomously as an island.”

So far so good, but particularly for Councilwomen Roberta Fonzi and Heather Newsom, the timetable required to take action for the MBCP JPA to enroll the municipality by September gave them reason to wait out this round. Areas of concern for Mayor Heather Moreno were not just that the decision to join was advancing quickly, but that Atascadero could find itself on the hook for financial liability without much say in the affairs of the JPA.

“If we do this,” she said to constituents, “we’re not just signing up for another provider. The City is becoming an energy provider as part of the Joint Powers Authority. We need to be clear about that.”

A nonprofit entity, MBCP has two separate governing boards, Killigrew said, with elected representatives from their constituent municipality and county partners making decisions. The breakdown is largely by population, so under the structure proposed Paso Robles and Atascadero would share a North San Luis Obispo County seat.

In an appeal to Moreno’s fiscal hawk instincts, Killigrew noted their primary mechanism for stability is to amass large operating reserves capable of handling 50 percent of their annual expenditure, before turning the excess into rebates and customer programs.

As for the concern about one community of 30,000 being lost in future growth, he said their maximum projected growth would be to Santa Barbara as Ventura already operates under another energy program.

While the Council was split on bringing an actionable item back before August, in time for the energy provider’s September timeline, they agreed to schedule another informational session on July 9.

Both Bourbeau and Councilwoman Susan Funk indicated that they believed there was already enough information to act, but more was certainly available from other communities already taking part in the program.

 

Monterey Bay Community Power makes local pitch, by Camas Frank, Atascadero News, June 28, 2019.

San Diego International Airport and ENGIE Storage Contract to Further Airport’s Strategic Energy Initiative

2 MW/4 MWh GridSynergy Energy Storage System is the First Airport Installation in the United States

ENGIE Storage today announced that San Diego International Airport (SAN) is the first airport in the United States to install one of its battery energy storage systems. The 2 MW/4 MWh GridSynergy® energy storage system furthers the airport’s long-term commitment to efficiency and sustainability. Paired with the airport’s existing photovoltaic solar system, the new energy storage system will reduce energy charges during peak demand which equate to approximately 40 percent of the airport’s monthly electricity costs. The system is expected to begin operation in early 2020.

SAN is widely regarded as a leader for its sustainability efforts. In 2013, the Terminal 2 West Expansion, a part of The Green Build improvement project, was the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certified airport terminal in the world. The expansion included the airport’s first solar array. In 2016-17, the airport installed additional arrays throughout its campus, totaling 5.5 MW of solar generation (PV). The battery storage system will allow the airport to realize additional significant financial benefits from its campus-wide PV portfolio.

“We are continuously exploring ways to operate more efficiently and reduce the airport’s carbon footprint as energy cost and demand rise,” said Kimberly Becker, SAN’s President/CEO. “This system becomes an important tool in that effort by helping to harness our onsite renewable energy opportunities and maximize their benefits well into the future.”

The airport will be using GridSynergy®, a comprehensive, software-driven energy storage solution. The GridSynergy cloud-based software will draw on past and present energy generation and usage data at the airport to calculate optimal charge and discharge cycles for the lithium-ion batteries. GridSynergy will continually learn and adapt to the airport’s energy needs over the next ten years.

“The San Diego International Airport is taking significant steps to reduce their carbon footprint and energy storage is playing an important role in their success,” said Christopher Tilley, chief executive officer at ENGIE Storage. “This is an important milestone as more airports are shifting their attention to the over-arching benefits energy storage brings, especially paired with renewables and efficiency measures.”

Solar generation is just one of many initiatives included in the airport’s comprehensive strategic energy plan. Other initiatives include LED lighting retrofits, HVAC efficiency improvements, additional solar and battery storage, and industry leading energy efficient design of new facilities to include the proposed replacement of Terminal 1.

About San Diego International Airport

Serving a record 24 million passengers in 2018, San Diego International Airport (SAN) offers nonstop services to 70 destinations in the continental U.S., Europe, Asia, Mexico and Canada. In operation since 1928, the airport is celebrating more than 90 years of service to the San Diego region. The airport has been managed by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority since 2003. The Airport Authority plans for and provides air transportation services to the region with safe, effective facilities that exceed customer expectations.

About ENGIE Storage Services NA LLC

ENGIE Storage helps power the world more efficiently and sustainably. As the nation’s number one distributed energy storage company, it serves energy producers, distributors, and consumers, including utilities, network operators, and energy consumers in business and government. Visit www.engiestorage.com to learn more.

ENGIE Storage is part of ENGIE North America Inc., which manages a range of energy businesses in the U.S. and Canada, including electricity generation, cogeneration, and energy storage; retail natural gas and electricity sales, and comprehensive services that help customers run facilities more efficiently and optimize energy use and expense. Nearly 100 percent of the company’s power generation portfolio is low carbon or renewable. Globally, ENGIE is the largest independent power producer and a leading energy efficiency services provider in the world, with operations in 70 countries employing 160,000 people, including 1,100 researchers. For more information on ENGIE North America, please visit our InstagramLinkedInTwitter, or Facebook pages or www.engie-na.com web site.

San Diego International Airport and ENGIE Storage Contract to Further Airport’s Strategic Energy Initiative, Press Release, Yahoo Finance, June 25, 2019.

San Diego Reports 17 More Solar Installations at City-Owned Facilities

San Diego reported the installation of solar panels on 17 more city-owned facilities in its drive to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

The latest milestone in the city’s clean-energy goal was announced Wednesday by Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

“We’re making investments today to create a cleaner San Diego and become one of the greenest cities in the world,” Faulconer said. “Adding more and more solar makes all the sense in the world as it reduces energy costs at city facilities and helps toward our goal of using 100 percent renewable energy.”

The city estimates the new solar installations will result in cost savings of about $12.5 million over the next 20 years.

The largest new installation is at Balboa Park’s Inspiration Point, where more than 2,900 panels have created a parking lot canopy. The canopy produces 1,547,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually — enough to power the equivalent of 131 homes for a year.

The city now has a total of 42 solar power installations at its facilities. Another 10 solar projects are in various stages of planning and design at police stations, recreation centers, libraries and other facilities.

“The installation of solar panels at existing parking lots and on rooftops is a smart way to take advantage of the city’s current infrastructure,” said Councilmember Mark Kersey. “These projects save the city money in the long run, which means more resources for core services like road repair.”

 

San Diego Reports 17 More Solar Installations at City-Owned Facilities, By Chris Jennewein, Times of San Diego, June 20, 2019.

Energy Independence Day coming to San Diego: 4th annual clean energy event has information, food, drinks, silent auction and more

Saturday, June 29, 2019 will mark the fourth annual Energy Independence Celebration, bringing together the San Diego community for a day of education, activities and delicious organic fare. In 2014, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors formally recognized local solar firm Sullivan Solar Power for leading the solar energy revolution and proclaimed June 30 as “Sullivan Solar Power Day” in San Diego. Since then, the company has brought together local organizations, nonprofits and businesses to celebrate moving the San Diego region towards 100 percent clean energy and achieving energy independence.

“Our region is finally moving decisively toward 100 percent clean energy” said Sophie Wolfram, program director for the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign. “We are excited to come together as a community to discuss the opportunities that our clean energy future with Community Choice will bring.”

This year’s Energy Independence Celebration will take place at Brian Malarkey’s Farmer and the Seahorse restaurant. The event is free to the public and guests will enjoy complimentary sustainably-sourced food, local craft beer and wine as well as the opportunity to mingle with dozens of cleantech businesses and nonprofit groups.

There will also be a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the Climate Action Campaign, whose mission is to stop climate change. Silent auction prizes include a one-night stay at the Pendry in San Diego, paddleboard vouchers, golf for two at Sycuan and much more.

Attendees will also get the chance to learn about emerging energy storage technologies during the Solar+Storage Cleantech Talk given by a nationally certified energy practitioner, and the Community Choice Energy Cleantech Talk given by Emily Wier, policy advisor for San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher , and Matthew Vasilakis, the climate justice advocate and organizer for Climate Action Campaign.

“We have a reason to celebrate,” said Daniel Sullivan, founder/president of Sullivan Solar Power. “Since our company was founded 15 years ago, we worked hard to see our City move toward a 100 percent clean energy future, and we want to share that achievement with all of our fellow San Diegans on June 29.”

The City has committed to 100 percent clean energy by 2035 and is preparing to launch its own Community Choice Energy program, offering less expensive and more sustainable energy options to residents. Last year, California also pledged to moving to 100 percent clean energy, by 2045, and Assemblymember Todd Gloria credits San Diego’s commitment as the foundation for California to target the same goal.

• IF YOU GO: The event will take place 4-6 p.m. Saturday, June 29, 2019 at at Brian Malarkey’s Farmer and the Seahorse, 10996 Torreyana Road, Suite 240, in La Jolla and is open to the public, but space is limited. Register at energyindependenceday.org Parking available onsite. To learn more about Sullivan Solar Power and its long-standing commitment to the community, call (858) 271-7758 and visit sullivansolarpower.com

 

Energy Independence Day coming to San Diego: 4th annual clean energy event has information, food, drinks, silent auction and more, by Sullivan Solar Power, La Jolla Light, June 18, 2019.

Utilities commission turns back SDG&E, keeps ‘high usage charge’ on bills

After thousands of San Diego Gas & Electric customers saw their bills go through the roof during last year’s sweltering summer, the utility asked the California Public Utilities Commission to suspend or eliminate a recently instituted “high usage charge” as a way to offer some financial relief.

But the commission, known as the CPUC for short, has rejected the petition, saying getting rid of the fee rule would not solve the problem and suggested SDG&E look at another option instead.

“Last summer was a challenge for our customers, particularly for people who experienced dramatic increases in their bills due, in part, to the high usage charge,” said Scott Crider, SDG&E’s vice president of customer services. “We heard their concerns and took action to have the (fee) removed on their behalf, but unfortunately the CPUC did not approve our request.”

The CPUC’s decision comes as SDG&E has been rolling out rate plans that don’t include the high usage charge.

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San Diego’s Climate Goals Require More Investment in Energy Storage

Last year, California raised the stakes in the fight against climate change, instituting a goal of reaching 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045, with at least 60 percent of that power coming from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

And more than a year before the state did so, the city of San Diego made a pioneering commitment to achieving its own goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, as outlined in the city’s Climate Action Plan.

Setting these lofty energy goals is the easy part. Building the infrastructure needed to integrate these clean energy sources onto the electric grid will be much harder, and the key actions are starting now.

At first blush, it might seem that building more solar and wind power capacity is all we need to do, but it’s not that simple. Renewable energy is intermittent by nature; when the sun goes down and on cloudy days, production from solar panels tapers off.

Fixing this problem requires investment on many fronts. Energy storage, in particular, is key.

Energy storage comes in many forms. Batteries are in the news often, and they have an important role to play. But battery systems are best for short-term storage, offering only a few hours of power. A true shift to renewables requires much longer-duration, bulk energy storage technology — with overnight capacities of eight hours — able to capture vast amounts of electricity when it is available and release it to the grid when more power is needed.

Currently, California’s electrical grid has little storage infrastructure built into it. Instead, it relies on natural gas-fired plants to switch on and off as needed. Making deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions requires new kinds of renewable gas, not to mention a much smaller role for these plants and heavier emphasis on storage to keep California’s grid reliable as we shift to renewables. In the last month alone, two major studies — one a white paper on the value of energy storage and the other an independent look at California’s global warming goals — have both underscored the need for much more investment in storage to meet our ambitious renewable energy goals.

To this end, the city of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority are assessing pumped-water energy storage as a way to integrate more renewable power, stabilize the power grid, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foster economic growth. Their proposed San Vicente Energy Storage Facility would take water from the existing San Vicente Reservoir and use electricity to pump it to a smaller, higher elevation reservoir. When the grid needs more electricity, water would be released from the upper reservoir through a hydropower generator, producing renewable energy for consumers. As a way to achieve bulk energy storage over many hours, pumped-water storage is by far the least expensive option. Moreover, these assets live a long time, and once they are paid off, they are even cheaper.

The San Vicente project could provide up to 500 megawatts of electricity — enough to power roughly over 300,000 homes for more than eight hours.

The San Vicente project and other major energy storage projects throughout the state create economic opportunities through workforce training, energy efficiency projects and development projects that are important elements of climate action plans. The positive ripple effects could be profound.

Fortunately, San Diego has proven time and again that it is all in when it comes to cutting greenhouse gases and creating clean energy jobs. In order to meet our goals, we need to invest in a variety of technologies — and energy storage is key.

Jason Anderson is president and CEO of Cleantech San Diego, a regional trade association. 

 

San Diego’s Climate Goals Require More Investment in Energy Storage, by Jason Anderson, Voice of San Diego, May 30, 2019.

Deadline is Friday to get a credit from SDG&E for driving an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid

Drivers of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, or EVs, have until Friday to apply for a credit on their San Diego Gas & Electric bills.

The size of the credit varies from year to year but in 2018, about 15,000 customers in SDG&E’s service territory saw $500 credited their accounts.

Called the Electric Vehicle Climate Credit, the program is administered by the California Air Resources Board as a way to encourage consumers to buy or lease EVs in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The size of the credit changes each year because it depends on how much revenue is raised through the sale of carbon credits in the Air Resources Board’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard program and the number of drivers who apply.

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