​Placer County Residents May Soon See Cheaper Electric Bills

Residents in multiple Placer County cities and towns began receiving letters over the weekend with the headline: “Your electricity service is about to get less expensive.”

The letters are part of an effort led by Placer County to switch all PG&E customers in Rocklin, Auburn, Colfax, Lincoln and Loomis, as well as unincorporated areas of the county, to a new community choice energy provider called Pioneer Community Energy.

“Pioneer is governed by a board of locally elected officials who have established the goal of providing electricity at rates lower than PG&E,” the letter said.

Pioneer will purchase its electricity needs on the open market. However, customers will still receive a bill from PG&E for use of the utilities’ transmission and distribution lines to deliver that electricity.

Enrollment is automatic for all customers served by Pioneer territory and will take effect in February.

However, customers do have the option of remaining with PG&E by notifying Pioneer.

Roseville residents are not included in this new plan because they already have a separate electric service provided by Roseville Electric Utility.

​Placer County Residents May Soon See Cheaper Electric Bills, by Mike TeSelle, KCRA 3, December 11, 2017.

NCPA to Provide Services for Community Choice Aggregation

The Northern California Power Agency on Nov. 15 said that it will be providing a variety of wholesale energy services to California’s Pioneer Community Energy.

Pioneer was established to provide local decision-making authority over electricity supply. Pioneer’s initial service territory will cover areas currently serviced by investor‐owned electric utility Pacific Gas & Electric.

State law passed in 2002 authorizes local governments in investor-owned service territories to establish their own programs to purchase electricity on behalf of their communities, which is commonly referred to as community choice aggregation or community choice energy.

Under this framework, the local government makes energy resource decisions, while the investor‐owned electric utility is still required to maintain the transmission and distribution system, including responding to outages, NCPA noted.

Pioneer is a joint power authority whose members include the County of Placer, the cities of Rocklin, Lincoln, Auburn, and Colfax, and the town of Loomis.

In late October, Pioneer’s governing board approved a service agreement that calls for NCPA to provide electricity scheduling and portfolio management services. NCPA said the agreement is an important step for Pioneer as it prepares to start providing electricity to its ratepayers in early 2018.

“This relationship is an ideal fit for NCPA and Pioneer,” said NCPA General Manager Randy Howard. “NCPA has been providing local communities and agencies with wholesale energy services since 1968. We have the expertise and the economies of scale to help ensure Pioneer is able to provide affordable, reliable, and clean electricity to its residents and businesses,” he said.

As more local governments consider community choice aggregation programs, they are looking to experienced agencies, such as NCPA, to help accomplish their program goals, NCPA said.

“NCPA also brings the added benefit of being a public agency subject to many of the same requirements and expectations that are placed on agencies such as Pioneer,” NCPA said in a news release.

Headquartered in Roseville, Calif., NCPA is a nonprofit joint powers agency established to construct and operate renewable and low‐emitting generating facilities and assist in meeting the wholesale energy needs of its 16 members.

SMUD to provide services to new community choice aggregation agency

In other recent CCA news from California, public power utility SMUD on Sept. 1 said that it had been selected to negotiate a services agreement to provide Valley Clean Energy Alliance with technical and energy services, data management/call center services, wholesale energy services, credit support services and up to five years of business operations support.

Valley Clean Energy Alliance is a new community choice aggregation joint powers agency. Valley Clean Energy Alliance is set to begin serving electricity customers located within the California cities of Davis and Woodland and unincorporated areas of Yolo County in the summer of 2018.

SMUD noted that this is its first services agreement in the fast-growing CCA market.

CCAs driving IOU retail electric load shift

An article in the latest issue of Public Power Magazine notes that an early 2017 white paper from the California Public Utilities Commission estimated that as much as 25 percent of the retail electric load of investor-owned utilities in California will shift to another source by the end of the year, and as much as 85 percent within the next decade.

A major contributing factor to this dramatic shift is the rapid rise in CCAs, the storynoted.

NCPA to Provide Services for Community Choice Aggregation, by Paul Ciampoli, American Public Power Association, November 20, 2017.

Boreal Mountain Resort Aims to ‘Play Forever’ with Environmental Initiative

With the final days of summer winding down, Boreal Mountain Resort and Woodward Tahoe opened its doors with $10 passes on Saturday, Sept. 17, for one final summer festival as the resort hosted its third annual Community Day event.

Hundreds of youngsters jammed into The Bunker at Woodward Tahoe to show off their skills in parkour, BMX, skateboarding, and more; while outside, others hopped onto Castle Peak chairlift to take advantage of the resort’s new mountain bike park, The Slabs.

While an explosion of action sports was taking place below, the centerpiece of this year’s festival was on the roof of The Bunker — the first phase of a project that will see the resort become the California ski industry’s largest onsite solar installation.

The project is part of POWDR Corp.’s — owner and operator of Boreal Mountain Resort and Woodward Tahoe — Play Forever, long-term initiative for sustainability at the resort on Donner Summit.

“We intend to play forever at POWDR, at Boreal, at Soda Springs, at Woodward Tahoe,” said Laura Schaffer, director of sustainability for POWDR, during the solar project’s dedication ceremony. “That means we have a responsibility to keep these places that we love around … for POWDR this commitment has been a huge part of our DNA from the beginning. Over the course of 10 years, we’ve reduced our overall carbon footprint by 49 percent. But that means the toughest 51 percent is yet to come.”

The project at Boreal is scheduled to be finished at the beginning of the 2017-18 winter season, according to a statement from POWDR, and is projected to generate more than 325,000 kWh of electricity annually, while offsetting more than 250 tons of carbon emissions.

Boreal also joins three other POWDR resorts that are installing their own solar projects — Kilington Ski Resort in Vermont, Pico Mountain Ski Area in Vermont, and Sun Country Tours in Bend, Oregon.

“Between those four different areas, we’ll be bringing on nearly 4 million kilowatt hours of clean energy in the coming the year,” Schaffer said. “For reference … the average household uses about 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year.”

At this point, there are 26 solar panels on the roof of The Bunker, with a total of 715 set to be installed by the end of the project.

“We’ve got 689 to go,” said Amy Ohran, general manager of Boreal Mountain Resort, during an address to the crowd. “This is going to be the largest solar installation in all of the California ski industry right here at Boreal Mountain Resort. What the equivalent of this power is … Woodward Tahoe will be more than 100 percent (generating) its own solar power.”

John Cumming, CEO of POWDR Corp., was also on hand during the dedication and highlighted the importance of reducing carbon emissions, while also encouraging the next generation to remain active in action sports.

“We think we’ve got a position as a private company where we can do things like build Woodward Tahoe, so we can all appreciate it and introduce it to our kids and share it for generations,” Cumming said. “But when it snows and how much it snows is a big factor. We decided to try and figure out a way to tax ourselves — our own company — to (reduce) our carbon footprint.”

The day’s festivities also included information booths and informative displays from Boarding for Breast Cancer, The High Five Foundation, Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe, GoPro, and more, with prizes and raffles being given away throughout the day. The Red Bull Air Force was also on hand with a pair of skydivers performing for the crowd.

Boreal Mountain Resort concluded last year’s ski and snowboard season with an open run from the top of the mountain to the bottom for the final day of riding on July 1 — the latest in resort history skiers and snowboarders have been able to ride down from the resort’s summit. Tickets for the 2017-18 ski and snowboard season are on sale now; while The Bunker at Woodward Tahoe will remain open year-round.

Boreal Mountain Resort Aims to ‘Play Forever’ with Environmental Initiative, by Justin Scacco, Sierra Sun, September 20, 2017.

Going Green: Group plans to help Nevada City reach its sustainability goals

A new committee has formed to help Nevada City reach its goal of relying solely on renewable sources for its energy use.

The “100% Renewables Committee” was recognized as an independent charter this week by the Nevada City Council.

According to group member Don Rivenes, the committee’s first task is to assess the city’s current progress in working toward its sustainability goals.

In August, the council passed a resolution establishing a goal for Nevada City’s electricity to come from 100 percent renewable sources by 2030 and for all its energy to come from 100 percent renewable sources by 2050.

At the time, Interim City Manager Catrina Olson couldn’t give an update on how the city was doing with its “energy action plan,” which was adopted in 2015. The plan set a “roadmap” for expanding energy-efficiency strategies and set a goal of reducing electricity use by 28 percent by 2020.

Olson said city staff hadn’t had an opportunity to make a comprehensive assessment of the current state of energy usage in Nevada City.

Rivenes said the new committee, which will meet twice-monthly, is ready to take on that task.

The next step, he said, is to begin discussing and implementing new strategies for energy efficiency.

He thinks the city’s goal of converting to 100 percent sources is feasible in the long term.

“In my opinion, we really have no choice because of climate change,” he said. “We have to do this kind of stuff.”

Going Green: Group plans to help Nevada City reach its sustainability goals, by Matthew Pera, The Union, October 29, 2017.

Lake Tahoe Unified School District Adopts ‘Green’ Resolution

The South Lake Tahoe Unified School District is getting a little greener.

Earlier this week, the board unanimously adopted a resolution supporting expanded energy efficiency programs and sustainability improvements, according to a press release. The resolution also supports green building practices, greater biking, walking and transit options for students, school lunches with more locally sourced and organic foods, additional school gardens and landscaping practices that minimize water and chemical use.

“It is great to see the school district take a strong position in support of sustainability, energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Rebecca Bryson, co-founder of Small World, a Tahoe-based parent advocacy organization, said in the press release. “The district’s leadership and direction will improve the environment for our students and community, and help prepare our students to land successful jobs in these fields in the future.”

The resolution comes less than six months after South Lake Tahoe became the 26th city in the U.S. to commit to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2032. That resolution was unanimously adopted by City Council back in April.

“Given the impact that climate change is already having on Lake Tahoe, it’s critical that we transition quickly to a 100 percent clean energy economy, and give our kids the education and tools they need to be part of the solution,” John Friedrich, spokesperson for Climate Parents and a Tahoe resident, said in the release. “The Lake Tahoe school district board just took an important step in this direction by pledging to expand energy efficiency programs and increase reliance on renewable energy, in line with the city of South Lake Tahoe’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy. We’re grateful for the leadership of the school district in doing the right thing for Tahoe kids and our environment.”

Lake Tahoe Unified School District Adopts ‘Green’ Resolution, by Staff, Tahoe Daily Tribune, October 17, 2017.

California’s Tree Die-Off Gives Life to New Business

Deep in California, in the Sierra National Forest, there are more dead trees than live ones. And figuring out what do with them is a towering task.

Forest Supervisor Dean Gould sees the evidence every day of the state’s massive tree die-off, a crisis that’s claimed more than 102-million trees over eight million acres in the past seven years.

“It’s unprecedented. A whole variety of conditions had to happen simultaneously and they did,” Gould said.

The biggest culprit: a severe drought, which left the trees vulnerable to beetles.

And all those dead trees are creating other concerns. “Now we have a lot of fuel on the ground,” Gould explained.

He says while many dead trees in remote areas will be left in place to decay, tens of millions of others that could topple onto roads and power lines or clog paths for firefighters, or fuel fires, have to go.

“If it’s in a highly accessible area, we want to get it down.”

Most of the dead trees are being trucked to biomass plants where organic matter is turned into energy.

At the Rio Bravo Rocklin Biomass plant in Placer County, plant manager Chris Quijano says his plant receives between 25 and 40 truckloads of California’s dead trees each day.

“It’s pretty available to us right now. It’s good fuel for the plant,” Quijano said.

“We take that woody waste material and put it in a boiler,” Quijano explained. He says the flame generates heat, which generates steam, which creates electricity.

Biomass is considered a renewable energy source, because plants can be replaced with new growth. Burning biomass releases carbon emissions.

California’s Tree Die-Off Gives Life to New Business, by Christin Ayers, KPIX, September 24, 2017.

Gone green: The Foothills Event Center invests in renewable energy

When Mardie Caldwell purchased and rehabilitated The Foothills Event Center in 2013, she says she had a vision for creating a warm, welcoming gathering place for the community in an environmentally friendly facility.

Changes, both small and large over the past few years have made that vision a reality.

A few weeks ago, a large solar array on the entire roof of the building was completed. It is now live and providing 85 percent of the electricity needs for the center, a news release states, in addition to those of Lifetime Adoption’s offices located upstairs.

“We started exploring solar when we first moved into the building,” Caldwell said. “There were so many immediate needs that we had to prioritize what made the most sense in terms of opening the facility. Safety issues were at the top of the list.”

The first green changes made were LED lighting to the parking lot lights. According to the release, vandals had removed copper wiring, rendering the lights completely useless when Caldwell acquired the property. This was the first step in making the property and building both safe and functional. Rewiring to traditional parking lot lights would have been more affordable, but Caldwell opted for an eco-friendly option.

At the same time, the building and landscaping all needed rehabilitation. After years of vacancy, both were showing signs of neglect. At one time, members of the community expressed concern for the plants that were withering in the summer months without water.

“I remember reading on Facebook about the plants, and it touched me that this community would have such concern for the trees and plants that were once flourishing,” she said. “Once we owned the property, it was a priority to get water to everything. And I’m happy to report that we were able to save many of the existing plants!”

Caldwell says many have been added, including irises and others donated from local gardeners.

In 2016, the interior lights were changed from fluorescent to LED with the ability to dim as needed for events.

“Some people want bright lights for meetings and business functions,” says Megan Swinney, venue manager for the facility. “Others, such as weddings, receptions, and concerts may want very dim lights. With the flexibility of our dimmable LED system, along with our colored lighting and spotlight options, we are able to meet most any request.”

With the installation of the solar panels, Caldwell said major upgrades for energy efficiency may be complete.

“This was a large, multi-year plan that I believe is now at completion,” she said. “Some systems needed replacement to function, others were a choice, like adding the solar array. All in all, I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to be able to host so many beautiful and happy functions, and do it in an environmentally conscious way.”

Gone Green: The Foothills Event Center invests in renewable energy, by The Foothills Event Center, The Union, August 17, 2017.

U.S. Surpasses 40 Cities Committed to 100% Renewables, Notes Sierra Club

On Thursday, just days after Orlando, Fla., established a similar goal, Nevada City, Calif., joined the growing list of U.S. cities that are officially committed to transition to 100% clean, renewable energy.

Surrounded by city council members, key members of the community and partners, Nevada City Mayor Duane Strawser announced the city’s near-unanimous vote to ensure that the city’s electricity will come entirely from renewable sources by 2030 and that all energy sources would be renewable by 2050.

According to the Sierra Club, Nevada City is now the 41st city in the U.S. to establish a 100% renewable energy goal, which also comes on the heels of similar pledges from other mountain communities, including South Lake Tahoe, Calif., and Park City, Utah.

“Nevada City’s commitment for 100 percent renewable energy is driven by our community,” said Mayor Strawser. “The passion for the natural environment and our responsibility to take care of it is part of the fabric of what makes Nevada City a very special place to live. I challenge other communities across the nation to join us in this goal.”

The Sierra Club says Nevada City’s resolution is grounded in a burning reality as the growing impacts of climate change threaten the mountain community. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record globally have occurred since the beginning of this century, and 2017 is predicted to be the second warmest on record.

“If this summer is any indicator of what climate change can mean for the future of our community, it is time to do all we can to avoid its impacts,” said Don Rivenes with the Nevada County Climate Change Coalition. “Over the last three years and particularly the last few months, we have seen citizens from across our community come together to tackle climate change by helping our city officials take bold action. We’re thrilled to see Nevada City commit to 100 percent renewable energy today.”

Nevada City has an existing Energy Action Plan (EAP) with a goal of a 28% reduction in electricity use by 2020. The resolution will lead the way toward updating the EAP to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

“The Sierra Nevada Alliance (SNA) is proud to work with cities like Nevada City,” said Jenny Hatch, SNA’s executive director. “Nevada City recognizes the many impacts on the local economy and environment that climate change will bring. At Sierra Nevada Alliance, we bring together the passion to fight climate change with the passion to protect our mountain communities to make an unstoppable force for change. That’s why it is no surprise that mountain cities are leading the way on renewable electricity.”

U.S. Surpasses 40 Cities Committed to 100% Renewables, Notes Sierra Club, by Joseph Bebon, Solar Industry, August 11, 2017.

California Survives the Eclipse without Losing Any Energy

FOLSOM, Calif. – When the moon partially obscured the sun here on Monday, dozens of engineers watched from a large, gray control room outside Sacramento.

Electric grid operators at the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which delivers 80 percent of the electricity in a state that has more solar energy capacity than every other state in the country combined, watched intently as solar generation began collapsing here at 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time as the shadow of the moon swept from west to east across the United States.

Above them hung a wall of screens charting the 26,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines winding through California. One screen showed the state losing half of its solar ability during the morning of the eclipse before spiking back up to normal. Grid operators didn’t don eclipse glasses but instead focused on the task at hand – working in a windowless room to keep the lights on elsewhere in California, without even seeing the event firsthand.

The scene offered a rare window into what might happen as the Golden State’s electric grid – and indeed the nation’s – becomes increasingly reliant on renewable sources like solar and wind to meet Americans’ energy needs while curbing the amount of greenhouse gases those needs generate.

Right now, solar energy provides only a small slice – slightly less than 1 percent in 2016 – of the electricity generated by utilities in the United States and nearly 10 percent in California alone. But that sliver, much as the crescent of the sun swells after a total eclipse, is only expected to grow as the price of solar panels continues plummeting.

Other states like North Carolina, which also sports many solar panels, had to adjust as Monday’s squeezed their energy supply for several hours.

For most of them, the eclipse went off without a hitch.

“Things went really, really well,” said Eric Schmitt, vice president of operations at the CAISO.

In California, hydroelectric and natural gas-fired power plants, along with power drawn from seven surrounding Western states as part of preexisting agreements, stepped in to make up for the loss of between 3,000 to 3,500 megawatts in solar power, according to initial estimates from the CAISO. FFor a cloudless August day, the grid operator estimated a loss of about 6,000 megawatts from both solar panels owned by homeowners and utility-scale solar facilities.

Nature helped, even if it blotted out the sun in the first place. The weather was generally mild statewide, meaning fewer Californians likely turned on their air conditioners. And elevated reservoirs at the Helms Pumped Storage Plant in the Sierra Nevada, for example, were flush with water from the rainy season that was used to power hydroelectric pumps.

California Survives the Eclipse without Losing Any Energy, by Dino Grandoni, The Washington Post, August 21, 2017.

City Council Votes to Join Energy Authority

Lincoln City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday night to join the Sierra Valley Energy Authority, a Joint Powers Agency (JPA) that might provide electricity at lower rates than PG&E.

Councilmen Gabriel Hydrick and Stan Nader voted against joining the Sierra Valley Energy Authority.

According to a report by Lincoln Economic Development manager Shawn Tillman, legislation passed in 2002 authorizes Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs to operate in California. The legislation allows cities, counties and Joint Powers Agencies to combine the electricity demand in its jurisdiction and obtain or generate power to meet those needs. The Community Choice Aggregation would be able to set rates, determine rebates and incentives and provide other energy-related programs.

PG&E would continue to provide transmission, distribution, maintenance and repair, and billing services.

Hydrick said he voted against joining the Sierra Valley Energy Authority because terrible consequences are likely when government interferes with the marketplace.

“If you think the water rate is convoluted, wait until you see this,” Hydrick said. “The city manager has been burned a couple of times and he’s set up to be burned.”

Nader said he would have liked more time to study the proposal.

“I understand that Placer County has electrical resources,” Nader said. “I’m troubled about government getting more and more into things private business does. I am uncomfortable seeing more and more government-run programs that should be done by private industry.”

According to Tillman’s report, the main benefits from joining the Joint Powers Agency are allowing consumers a choice of energy providers; allowing local control of rates and programs; the opportunity to develop local energy resources and job creation.

Lincoln Mayor Peter Gilbert said he was comfortable joining because he has confidence in the other cities participating in the Sierra Valley Energy Authority JPA. Gilbert said every city in Placer County has joined but Roseville, which has its own utility district.

“This thing has much more upside than downside,” Gilbert said. “Each individual user can opt in or out.”

Councilman Paul Joiner said joining would give Lincoln residents a choice. If the council had voted against joining, then Lincoln residents would not have had a choice to switch from PG&E to Sierra Valley Energy Authority.

“I’d rather be a part of this and retain some degree of control and give residents a choice,” Joiner said. “The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) already controls PG&E; there is no free market.”

Councilman Dan Karleskint said estimated savings to residential electricity customers, under the Sierra Valley Energy Authority, would likely be closer to one percent or one-and-one-half percent than the reported five percent.

The City Council will appoint a councilman to the Joint Powers Agency’s board at the council’s July 6 workshop.

City Council Votes to Join Energy Authority, by Steve Archer, Lincoln News Messenger, Jun 29, 2017.