DANVILLE — Residents will have a chance to weigh in next week on a plan that could change how they get their electricity.
Danville and San Ramon, along with Contra Costa County and other East Bay municipalities, are studying whether to join an existing electricity cooperative or perhaps form their own.
Danville has approved spending $10,000 as its share to fund a $175,000 technical study being done on energy delivery, in conjunction with Contra Costa County, Brentwood, Concord, Clayton, Martinez, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill and Moraga. Those cities and towns either have, or soon will, receive presentations from county staff and consultants on various options for obtaining electricity.
The effort could include any or all of the cities taking part in the study; Antioch, Hercules, Oakley, Orinda and Pinole are also involved in the study, though they haven’t contributed money toward it, said Nat Rojanasathira, assistant to Danville’s town manager.
There are several possible future scenarios, said Jason Crapo, deputy director of the county’s Department of Conservation and Development. The county and participating cities could form a joint powers authority to buy power from preferred providers; the county and cities can join an existing operation, like Marin Clean Energy or Alameda County-based East Bay Community Energy; or could do nothing and continue the existing system in which PG&E provides and delivers electricity.
Whichever plan is selected, Crapo said, PG&E will deliver the power, even if that power is purchased from another provider.
“So far, our participation has strictly been to take part in the study,” with no further commitment, said Rojanasathira said.
The town was approached by Contra Costa County last year about either forming a new energy partnership, or joining an existing one, such as East Bay Community Energy, based in Alameda, or Marin Community Energy based in San Rafael.
Such partnerships enable cities, counties and other agencies to buy electricity in bulk from sources they prefer — typically clean sources such as solar, wind or hydro. Buying power in this way can save money, promote clean energy, or arrange for more reliable energy.
Five Contra Costa cities — Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Richmond, El Cerrito and San Pablo — have joined Marin Clean Energy.
Sandra Meyer, Walnut Creek’s community development director, said her city’s experience has been good since it joined MCE in September.
“It’s been a very smooth transition,” Meyer said. “It really does help in terms of reducing our total greenhouse emissions.”
In Walnut Creek, residential and commercial power users are now part of MCE, unless they opt out and choose to stick with PG&E. About 10 percent of the city’s electricity customers have chosen to stay with PG&E, she said. Rates, she said, have been comparable PG&E’s.
At a public workshop next week, officials from Danville, San Ramon and the county will hear comments on the draft technical study.
The public comment period for the draft study will close Jan. 31; the plan is for a final study to be presented in March and April for further consideration. A decision on how to proceed from there could come shortly after that.
Crapo said it’s too early to say which way the county and various cities might go on clean energy.
“It’s a somewhat complicated thing, and it takes time for people to absorb all the information,” he said. “It’s a significant change.”
Danville, San Ramon Consider Options for Buying Electricity, by Sam Richards, East Bay Times, January 14, 2017.