Clean Energy Joint Venture Gains Support: San Mateo County Joint Powers Authority Formed to Buy Renewable Energy in Bulk

About 297,000 PG&E customers in San Mateo County could get their energy from renewable sources in less than a year under a joint powers authority being formed called Peninsula Clean Energy.

The Office of Sustainability has been granted $1.5 million to form the joint venture known as Community Choice Aggregation that is already in place in Marin and Sonoma counties.

The county will need at least three of 20 cities to join the JPA to get it off the ground. The hope, however, is that all cities will partner with the county to buy clean energy.

The JPA would allow its customers to buy renewable energy at competitive rates. In fact, customers who purchase 100 percent renewable energy from sources such as wind or solar will see their monthly electric bills rise by a modest $2, according to a technical study the Board of Supervisors heard Tuesday.

The idea is to dramatically reduce the county’s carbon footprint by releasing less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

“Climate change is the challenge of our lifetime and I think it’s a great idea to bring it to the county,” Supervisor Don Horsley said at the board meeting.

A JPA agreement is expected to be in place by the end of winter 2016 and the tentative plan is to start purchasing renewable energy next summer.

Supervisor Dave Pine brought the proposal to the board in December and the newly-formed Office of Sustainability, directed by Jim Eggemeyer, has been working on the first phase of the proposal since.

The second phase includes forming the JPA, which would be a nonprofit with a board made up of either elected city officials or appointees. The goal is to have it formed by March or April.

“I’m incredibly pleased with the progress since the first conversation. It seemed like a daunting task at first,” Pine said at the meeting.

City officials are keen to the idea, he said.

“There’s a tremendous degree of enthusiasm. It’s becoming real,” Pine said.

One of the best benefits of the JPA is that it will have “local control” over energy purchases.

The renewable energy will be delivered over Pacific Gas and Electric lines.

Local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1245 supports the JPA purchasing 100 percent renewable energy through the program, spokesman Landis Marttila told the board Tuesday.

The county has been looking at three scenarios to purchase renewable energy at either 35 percent, 50 percent or 100 percent.

The 100 percent scenario means zero emissions were generated during energy production.

Customers in the county who buy their power from companies such as SolarCity will not be affected by the proposal.

There are currently three aggregation programs operating in the state including Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Energy. A third, Lancaster Choice Energy in Los Angeles County just started.

Community Choice Aggregation allows a local government, or group of local governments, to pool the electricity demand of their residential, business and municipal accounts to purchase or develop power on their behalf.

The program could also lead to local job creation in the clean energy sector.

The rates for renewable energy in most instances are lower than or competitive with PG&E rates depending on the percentage being purchased.

Depending on the route the JPA takes, customers will have a choice to purchase a mix of energy or 100 percent renewable energy.

The biggest risk of the clean energy program is the uncertainty in rate prices and opt-out rate of customers.

If a city joins the JPA, residents in the city will have to opt out of the program if they want to stick with PG&E. If they do not opt out, then they will be delivered renewable energy from the sources from which the JPA buys.

While all current CCEs in California offer electricity rates lower than the utility, there is no guarantee of what future electricity prices may be, according to the Office of Sustainability.

Workshops and an extensive public outreach campaign are planned in the coming months to introduce the concept to the general public.

To learn more go to green.smcgov.org.

Clean Energy Joint Venture Gains Support: San Mateo County Joint Powers Authority Formed to Buy Renewable Energy in Bulk, by Bill Silverfarb, The Daily Journal, October 7, 2016.

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