CPX Job Announcement: Stockton/San Joaquin County Community Outreach Specialist

The Climate Center seeks a qualified individual interested in serving as a part-time “Community Outreach Specialist” to advance Community Choice Energy in the City of Stockton as part of its statewide Clean Power Exchange (CPX) program.

 The program goal is to establish a Community Choice Energy agency (CCA) to serve Stockton business and residential customers. The CPX program marries two critical issues, climate protection and social justice, and emphasizes information sharing via the CPX website. More program information can be found at: https://cleanpowerexchange.org/central-valley/

Key activities within this position include:

  • Representing the Center and the CPX program to local elected officials and government staff 
  • Note your association with the Center/CPX on matters related to CCA 
  • Attend city council meetings and make presentations, as appropriate 
  • Write articles/blogs on a regular basis on topics related to CCA and recruit other community members to do the same 
  • Use social media to build support for Community Choice Energy 
  • Provide updates to Center staff at least weekly about relevant developments including news articles, Stockton city council agendas and/or minutes, business communications, etc. 

For the full job description and information on how to apply, please click here.

Fresno Is Weighing Community Choice Aggregate Energy, Giving Residents Options For Their Utilities

Editor’s note: Destiny Rodriguez of The Climate Center is referred to in this interview as Destiny Martinez. This is incorrect. 

In most Central Valley communities, there’s only one electric and gas utility. For most of the San Joaquin Valley, it’s Pacific Gas and Electric; if you live in the southeast region, the utility might be Southern California Edison. And unless you have solar panels to offset some of the cost, you have no control over the rates set, which are proposed by the utility and approved by the California Public Utilities Commission. Over the last few months, the City of Fresno has been considering an alternative to PG&E called community choice aggregate energy, or CCA.

Fresno Councilman Luis Chavez has already voiced his support for the program, which allows municipalities to have more control over where energy comes from, and how much it costs. However, the council is a long way from making a final decision on whether to adopt the program.

First the council has to complete a technical study, which will help determine the costs of CCA.

Listen to the interview above to hear an overview of CCA, and how Fresno lawmakers are considering if it’s right for the city.

Fresno Is Weighing Community Choice Aggregate Energy, Giving Residents Options For Their Utilities, By Laura Tsutsui, Valley Public Radio, September 27, 2019.

CalCom Energy’s $100M Fund Targets Farms for Solar-Battery Systems

In California, it’s not just vulnerable families and critical services that could use battery-backed solar systems to ride through wildfire-prevention power outages. Farms also have critical energy needs, like pumping water to crops on set schedules, or chilling them after harvest, that could face significant disruption under the state’s new wildfire prevention regime.

CalCom Energy, a long-time solar and energy services provider for California’s agricultural sector, thinks it has a solution. This week, the Fresno-based developer launched a $100 million Agriculture Energy Infrastructure Fund, aimed at combining low-cost solar power-purchase agreements with the backup power of energy storage.

The fund, developed in partnership with Symbiont Energy and Live Oak Bank, marks CalCom’s first foray into owning the systems it develops, David Williams, CalCom’s chief commercial officer, noted in Wednesday’s press release. But it’s far from CalCom’s first foray into solving the farm-specific energy challenges facing its customers in the state’s Central Valley.

Since its 2012 founding as CalCom Solar, the Fresno, Calif.-based company has developed more than 200 megawatts of clean energy projects, largely solar projects for farms and water districts. In fact, it’s one of the largest commercial solar developers in the territory of Pacific Gas & Electric, the Northern California utility now in bankruptcy reorganization under the weight of tens of billions of dollars in liabilities from deadly wildfires started by its power lines in 2017 and 2018.

Like many California solar developers, energy storage is playing an ever-increasing role in CalCom’s projects, leading it to rebrand as CalCom Energy last year. Changes to California’s net metering regime, including time-of-use (TOU) rates that reduce the value of midday energy and increase its cost in late afternoon and evening hours, have an outsize effect on commercial solar projects like CalCom’s that rely on meter aggregation for valuing their production.

CalCom also provides metering and billing analysis through its Energy Services management platform, to allow its customers to better manage how they consume electricity in relation to their solar-generated and battery-stored resources. For example, big Salinas Valley grower and shipper D’Arrigo Bros. of California, which has installed about 5.5 megawatts of solar PV through CalCom, has also added two 520-kilowatt batteries at its central cooling facility, to reduce demand charges, shift energy to different TOU periods, and provide backup power to critical loads.

But batteries have become even more critical under the much-expanded wildfire prevention “public safety power shutoff” regimes put in place by PG&E and other California utilities under state regulatory mandate this year. Agricultural customers are huge electricity users, largely to move water — pumping and treating water uses roughly one-sixth of the state’s electricity supply.

In fact, water treatment plants and other water infrastructure are among the classes of “critical services” that have been earmarked for special treatment under the California Public Utilities Commission’s latest revisions to the Self-Generation Incentive Program, which also included $100 million in incentives for disadvantaged or medically vulnerable customers who live in high-fire-threat parts of the state.

But farmers are also dependent on steady and reliable electricity to meet water-pumping schedules that are often fixed by law, or by the needs of its crops and the growing season. Solar-plus-storage projects that promise to reduce overall electric bills, as well as provide backup power, are becoming a far more attractive option than installing expensive and polluting backup generators to insure against a crop-ruining power outage.

 

 CalCom Energy’s $100M Fund Targets Farms for Solar-Battery Systems, by Jeff St. John, Greentech Media, September 26, 2019.

CalCom Energy’s $100M Fund Targets Farms for Solar-Battery Systems

In California, it’s not just vulnerable families and critical services that could use battery-backed solar systems to ride through wildfire-prevention power outages. Farms also have critical energy needs, like pumping water to crops on set schedules, or chilling them after harvest, that could face significant disruption under the state’s new wildfire prevention regime.

CalCom Energy, a long-time solar and energy services provider for California’s agricultural sector, thinks it has a solution. This week, the Fresno-based developer launched a $100 million Agriculture Energy Infrastructure Fund, aimed at combining low-cost solar power-purchase agreements with the backup power of energy storage.

The fund, developed in partnership with Symbiont Energy and Live Oak Bank, marks CalCom’s first foray into owning the systems it develops, David Williams, CalCom’s chief commercial officer, noted in Wednesday’s press release. But it’s far from CalCom’s first foray into solving the farm-specific energy challenges facing its customers in the state’s Central Valley.

Since its 2012 founding as CalCom Solar, the Fresno, Calif.-based company has developed more than 200 megawatts of clean energy projects, largely solar projects for farms and water districts. In fact, it’s one of the largest commercial solar developers in the territory of Pacific Gas & Electric, the Northern California utility now in bankruptcy reorganization under the weight of tens of billions of dollars in liabilities from deadly wildfires started by its power lines in 2017 and 2018.

Like many California solar developers, energy storage is playing an ever-increasing role in CalCom’s projects, leading it to rebrand as CalCom Energy last year. Changes to California’s net metering regime, including time-of-use (TOU) rates that reduce the value of midday energy and increase its cost in late afternoon and evening hours, have an outsize effect on commercial solar projects like CalCom’s that rely on meter aggregation for valuing their production.

CalCom also provides metering and billing analysis through its Energy Services management platform, to allow its customers to better manage how they consume electricity in relation to their solar-generated and battery-stored resources. For example, big Salinas Valley grower and shipper D’Arrigo Bros. of California, which has installed about 5.5 megawatts of solar PV through CalCom, has also added two 520-kilowatt batteries at its central cooling facility, to reduce demand charges, shift energy to different TOU periods, and provide backup power to critical loads.

But batteries have become even more critical under the much-expanded wildfire prevention “public safety power shutoff” regimes put in place by PG&E and other California utilities under state regulatory mandate this year. Agricultural customers are huge electricity users, largely to move water — pumping and treating water uses roughly one-sixth of the state’s electricity supply.

In fact, water treatment plants and other water infrastructure are among the classes of “critical services” that have been earmarked for special treatment under the California Public Utilities Commission’s latest revisions to the Self-Generation Incentive Program, which also included $100 million in incentives for disadvantaged or medically vulnerable customers who live in high-fire-threat parts of the state.

But farmers are also dependent on steady and reliable electricity to meet water-pumping schedules that are often fixed by law, or by the needs of its crops and the growing season. Solar-plus-storage projects that promise to reduce overall electric bills, as well as provide backup power, are becoming a far more attractive option than installing expensive and polluting backup generators to insure against a crop-ruining power outage.

 

CalCom Energy’s $100M Fund Targets Farms for Solar-Battery Systems, by Jeff St. John, Greentech Media, September 26, 2019.

San Joaquin plan would equip all churches with solar power to transition diocese off fossil fuels

San Joaquin has a goal: to become The Episcopal Church’s first solar-powered diocese.

The Diocese of San Joaquin, located in California’s Central Valley and Sierra Nevada, has 22 faith communities and an abundance of sun. This year, it put in motion plans to bring solar panels to all or nearly all of those communities. By the end of 2020, Bishop David Rice hopes those solar panels will be installed and generating enough power to offset the energy usage of all Episcopal properties in the diocese.

“There’s a real yearning in the Central Valley and the High Sierras to ensure that our part of The Episcopal Church is giving real care to creation, and we see this solar project as an extension of that,” Rice said in an interview with Episcopal News Service.

By providing space on their roofs or lots for solar power generation, the churches also may save a bit on their energy costs, but more importantly, the project is structured so that third-party developers will cover the expense of transitioning the diocese off fossil fuels. Rice also hopes that San Joaquin’s example will lead other dioceses to pursue similar projects tailored to their local environments.

Few environments in the United States are as full of sunshine as the Diocese of San Joaquin. Cloudy days are the exception in the region. Fresno, the largest city in the diocese, boasts an average of 267 days a year with clear or partly cloudy skies, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, which ranks Fresno as the country’s seventh sunniest major city. Sunshine is particularly abundant in the summer months.

Given those conditions, solar power already is a significant part of the region’s landscape, with buildings from churches to schools to warehouses topped with panels. Cal Harling, a renewable energy consultant hired by the diocese, said San Joaquin’s plans are more ambitious than most.

Other churches have invested in solar, Harling said, “but I’m not sure they’ve done it on the level that San Joaquin is thinking about. It’s an approach that, quite frankly, large commercial companies use.”

Think of a retail chain like Walmart or Home Depot deciding to outfit all its warehouses with solar panels, he said. Harling is approaching the diocese’s needs in a similar way, negotiating financing with the diocese’s solar power partners for a regional project, as opposed to having individual congregations make their own panel purchases.

Harling explained to ENS that it is based on the general principle that all partners in the development bring something to the table: The diocese provides a location for the solar panels. A developer and financer commit to funding and installing the panels. A utility agrees to acquire the energy generated by the project for a certain rate over a period of time, usually 20 to 30 years, since solar panels begin degrading as they age beyond that, Harling said.

“Everybody gains value out of it,” he said.

One of the catalysts for San Joaquin’s project was The Episcopal Church’s Creation Care Pledge, in which more than 1,000 people during Advent and Easter committed to taking actions to improve or preserve the environment. While that call to action was “stirring the hearts” in Rice’s diocese, he and others there saw solar power as one way to do more.

“This seemed to be a faithful, natural next step for us,” Rice said. “There’s a lot of sun here.”

Harling, who knew the diocese’s chancellor, began discussing solar options with diocesan leaders early this year and was asked to draft a proposal outlining his approach to financing a diocese-wide solar project. He presented his proposal to the Diocesan Council in June and received approval to conduct a feasibility study at each of the diocese’s locations.

Each location is unique. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bakersfield – only 93 cloudy days a year – already has solar panels on-site. The panels were installed on a shade structure built last year over part of the congregation’s parking lot.

“It’s a great use of the space,” said the Rev. Luis Rodriguez, priest-in-charge at St. Paul’s. “People are excited about it. I think there’s a sense of responsibility, global responsibility, and I think that feels good to people.”

Other congregations may only have limited space in which to install new panels, but even smaller components will generate renewable power. Taken as a whole, Harling determined that installing solar panels across diocesan properties could generate close to a million kilowatt hours of power in a year, the equivalent of a 600-kilowatt power system, Harling said.

With that much power, it’s possible that the diocese will reduce its reliance on fossil fuels to zero, he said.

Rice is pushing the diocese to move fast in implementing the project. The diocese’s Episcopal Conference Center near Yosemite National Park in Oakhurst is a large property with significant room for solar panel coverage. St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Fresno is another prime site for solar installation.

“There’s a sense of urgency for us to get on this,” Rice said, adding that clean energy is not just a political issue for the church. “This is about faith for us.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

 

San Joaquin plan would equip all churches with solar power to transition diocese off fossil fuels, by David Paulsen, Episcopal News Service, September 10, 2019.

Last electric bus in Transit fleet makes its way to Porterville

GreenPower Motor Company Inc.  announced on Monday, it has delivered the 10th and final EV350 electric bus to Porterville Transit.

As previously announced, Porterville and GreenPower received grant funding of $9.5 million through the California Air Resources Board’s (“CARB”) Zero Emissions Bus and Truck Pilot Program. This grant funding covered the purchase of 10 EV350 40-foot low floor battery-electric transit buses featuring an industry-leading range of 250 miles on a single charge.

“Porterville Transit is well on its way to deploying the nation’s first 100 percent electric fleet,” said Brendan Riley, President of GreenPower. “This city – located in the heart of Central California – is showing other rural areas across the country that electric buses are not only for urban city centers but can be successfully used almost anywhere. We’re very proud to have our EV350’s showcased in this manner.”

“The City of Porterville is pleased to partner with GreenPower Motor Company, San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, and the California Air Resources Board to offer a clean, zero-emission, 100 percent battery-electric mobility to the residents of our community,” Porterville Department of Transportation Director Richard Tree said. “Theses electric transit buses will operate daily on all nine routes of the Porterville Transit system and will showcase the practicality and economic viability of wide-spread adoption of zero-emission heavy-duty transit buses. These new buses have performed extremely well, delivering industry-leading range, and have received high praises from our passengers.”

GreenPower is also assisting Porterville with the installation of charging infrastructure and upon the anticipated completion this fall, Porterville will have replaced its legacy CNG bus fleet and fueling infrastructure.

“The City has also partnered with GreenPower to showcase some of the most sophisticated charging stations in the nation,” Tree said. “Once the charging station infrastructure has been completed, we expect to be able to charge our entire fleet in less than three hours, utilizing smart charging capabilities, to lower our operational costs. GreenPower has been a strategic partner in the development of an intelligent approach to the electric vehicle management. 

            “The City is extremely fortune to have a local manufacturer that has worked closely, from the very beginning, to ensure our success.”

The EV350 is a purpose-built forty-foot zero emissions low floor transit bus that can meet the operational demands of any end user with unparalleled range and reliability. The EV350 can be configured to seat up to 39 passengers, including two wheelchair passengers, and features 432kWh of batteries. The EV350 is eligible for a base voucher of $150,000 from the California HVIP program and an additional voucher of $15,000 when the vehicle is operated within communities that qualify.

In addition to converting its entire fleet of buses to electric, Porterville is working to build a fleet of other electric vehicles that can be used in the future for on-demand ride sharing services. Porterville’s Transit system is the first of its kind not only in the Central Valley or California, but it’s the first in the nation. The Porterville Transit system is considered to be ahead of the game when compared to bigger cities.

 

Last electric bus in Transit fleet makes its way to Porterville, The Porterville Recorder Staff, The Porterville Recorder, September 10, 2019.

Waiting list grows for electric cars in the Valley

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — Electric cars are a rare, but sought-out sight at Honda North in Clovis.

“We’re talking about one car a month coming into our dealership, and we’re one of the only dealerships that sell the electric-only Clarity electric vehicle,” said Joel Carlson, General Sales Manager of Honda North.

The dealership only has one hybrid Honda Clarity on the lot, but it’s not for sale. Carlson says they use it to give test drives to those interested in one. Honda North’s waitlist for a Clarity is already 30 people long.

“On a main charge you can get 90 miles, but depending on your driving habits, the range is 70-95 miles,” Carlson said.

Incentives are encouraging Californians to go green with local and state rebates and tax credits.

At Honda, a Clarity lease is $199 a month with a down payment of about $1,500.

Honda isn’t the only place selling electric vehicles; in fact, most brands now have at least one. That includes Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Fiat, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Nissan, Porsche, Smart, Tesla, and Volkswagen.

Over at Hedrick’s Chevrolet, the Chevy Bolt is on display.

“We sell a few of them because we ,have people that are concerned about the environment. With zero pollution, it has a niche market,” said Brett Hedrick, co-owner of Hedrick’s Chevrolet.

The Bolt can go 240 miles on one charge.

Hedrick says the incentives are helping drive sales.

“Most Bolt’s run in the $30,000s to $40,000s and you have about $10,000, depends on what you qualify for, in government rebates,” Hedrick said.

Air quality officials say people can take advantage of the “Drive Clean in the San Joaquin” rebate program, where they can get $3,000 back. The state has a clean program which gives an additional $2,500 back.

“A great way to do that is to go electric because you have no emissions to add to the Valley’s polluted air,” said Anthony Presto with Valley Air District.

Air officials say more charging stations are being set up to help drivers get to their destinations.

In addition to the car rebates, the Valley Air District also offers incentives to businesses and agencies. They’ll give a $5,000 grant to put in a charging station.

 

Waiting list grows for electric cars in the Valley, by Amanda Venegas, ABC 30, September 4, 2019.

Want to save money on your power bill? Fresno councilmember wants to go around PG&E

CPX Editor’s Note: A statistical error was made in this article. While Community Choice agencies in California offer competitive rates, a 20% discount rate is an overestimation.

 

Video from The Fresno Bee
Fresno Councilmember Luis Chavez said he’s spearheading an effort to give residents a potentially cheaper energy provider than Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Chavez said Fresno residents could save an average of 20% on their monthly bills if they can buy their energy through what’s called a “community choice agency.” There are 19 of them in the state.

Chavez said he thinks Fresno would have an appetite for a new option especially following the controversies PG&E has seen in recent years.

The company is coming off several years of major disasters including the Camp Fire in Paradise last year and other major fires in recent years across the state. Then there was the fatal San Bruno PG&E explosion in 2010.

PG&E this month brought its listening tour to Fresno ahead of an effort by the company to raise rates for consumers throughout the state next year to help pay for wildfire risk management and insurance.

“Right now you have a situation where a private company that answers to shareholders can raise rates because of mismanagement,” Chavez said.

Read more

Solar is coming to all new California homes. How many in Fresno already get power from sun?

More than 1 million California homes are already soaking up sunshine with solar panels to generate electricity. Next year, that number will surge as new building standards take effect requiring all new homes permitted after Jan. 1 to have solar photovoltaic systems.

In Fresno, which already has the third-highest number of homes in California with rooftop solar panels, the number continues to grow even before the new California Energy Commission standards take full effect. Through the first six months of 2019, the city issued permits for more than 1,640 residential solar systems as additions or alterations to existing homes. That doesn’t count solar panels that home builders or developers are already offering as a feature on new homes.

As of June 30, more than 23,300 Fresno homes had solar systems in operation under the state’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) program. That’s third behind only San Diego and Bakersfield among California cities, according to data from Go Solar California. The total electrical output capacity of Fresno’s residential solar panel systems amounted to almost 148,700 kilowatts of direct current (DC) power. That’s about 144,000 kilowatts of alternating current or AC electricity after it’s converted from DC.

Read more

Community Choice Energy Factfinding Tour

Fresno Policymakers Visit Operational Agencies

On August 7 and 8, three representatives from the Fresno City Council traveled to Alameda and Sonoma counties for a tour of the operational Community Choice agencies (CCAs) in those counties, East Bay Community Energy, and Sonoma Clean Power.

Representatives included Luis Chavez, President of the Fresno City Council, Dolores Barajas, Chief of Staff to Councilmember Miguel Arias, and Aida Macedo, Chief of Staff to Councilmember Nelson Esparza.

The tour included visits with governing board members and staff, visits to commercial customers of the CCAs, and a visit to a solar array that is part of the power mix of Sonoma Clean Power. Ah, and once in Sonoma County, a bit of wine tasting at the vineyard of a happy CCA customer.

Visiting East Bay Community Energy. From L-to-R: Jessie Denver, Luis Chavez, Annie Henderson, Alex DiGiorgio, Nick Chaset, Taj Ait-Laoussine, Deidre Sanders, Aida Macedo, Dolores Barajas

“Meeting with the Governing Board members and staff in their own offices to hear directly from them about what it takes to run a Community Choice agency and about the programs they offer their communities, really helped me gain a better understanding of how a CCA might be good for Fresno,” stated Fresno Council President Luis Chavez. He added, “I also discovered a great tiramisu at an Italian restaurant in Santa Rosa!”

Earlier this year, the Fresno City Council held a workshop on Community Choice Energy which led more recently to the City allocating funds to secure a Community Choice technical study. The purpose of the tour was to allow the councilmembers to gain a fuller understanding of what Community Choice Aggregation is all about by actually walking into their offices and meeting with their leadership and staff.

“Thank you for organizing such a great and informative trip for us. I enjoyed meeting all of you and look forward to our partnership,” stated Aida Macedo of Councilmember Esparza’s office. She added that “the tour really opened my eyes to the intentional and important work that Community Choice Energy agencies are doing for communities, government, and the environment.”

Tour organizers felt it was a success and may arrange another tour in the future, so if you are a local government elected official interested in learning more about Community Choice, let us know!

One final note… news, information, and resources specifically about the prospects for Community Choice Energy in the San Joaquin Valley can be found on our dedicated webpage for that info.