County Flips the Switch on Clean Energy: Peninsula Clean Energy Launches

San Mateo County flipped the switch Thursday away from Pacific Gas and Electric toward greener options provided by Peninsula Clean Energy.

“This is a historic day,” Supervisor Dave Pine said. “PCE will provide substantially cleaner energy at lower and competitive prices.”

The county and all 20 cities formed the joint powers agency to buy cleaner energy in bulk from providers other than PG&E.

Pine’s office led the move toward community choice aggregation nearly two years ago. PCE will reduce the county’s carbon emissions, Pine said.

So far, about 78,000 customers have been enrolled in the first phase of the rollout.

The remainder, including larger commercial and agriculture customers, will be enrolled in phase two starting in April.

The agency is currently contracting with Direct Energy as its supplier for procurement. Eventually, PCE hopes to generate its own power, said Chief Executive Officer Jan Pepper.

“This is my dream job to join a startup public agency to provide clean and green energy,” Pepper said at a press conference held at the County Center in downtown Redwood City.

Customers are automatically enrolled for a 50 percent renewable option and may go up to a 100 percent option, which will be delivered by PG&E on its transmission lines. They also have the option to opt out and return to PG&E. The bills will still come from PG&E and will remain the same with the exception of one line that shows the source of generation, which will be PCE, Pepper said.

Pine is the chair for the joint powers agency and elected officials from each city will hold a seat on the board.

Early adopter Janet Creech said the move will keep profits out of the pockets of PG&E shareholders and lead to local job creation.

The Sierra Club’s Gladwyn D’Souza said the switch will help save the environment and move away from “dangerous fuels.”

“This is our ticket to decarbonizing our local grid,” D’Souza said.

The service officially launched Monday.

Customers are automatically enrolled in the ECOplus option which provides 50 percent renewable at a cost just lower than PG&E. The ECO100 option provides 100 percent renewable energy at a slight premium.

The agency provides local control in the county’s effort to combat climate change, said Supervisor Carole Groom, who worked with Pine to form the agency.

PCE is modeled after community choice aggregation, CCA, programs in Marin and Sonoma counties.

CCA is a state policy that enables local governments to determine total electricity demand within their jurisdictions to buy alternative energy supplies.

San Mateo County is the fifth in the state to start its own power buying agency.

County Flips the Switch on Clean Energy: Peninsula Clean Energy Launches, by Bill Silverfarb, The Daily Journal, October 7, 2016.  

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