Guadalupe tables decision on community choice energy

The Guadalupe City Council opted Tuesday to wait for more information before making a decision about whether to join Monterey Bay Community Power Authority‘s community choice energy program.

Community choice energy programs, which are government run, are an alternative to the investor-owned utility that allows local governments to purchase power on behalf of residents and businesses while still receiving transmission and distribution service from the existing utility provider.

Under the system, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. routes the MBCP-procured electricity through existing lines to customers and remains in charge of billing.

On Tuesday, the Guadalupe City Council voted 4-0 to table the vote until its next meeting on July 23. Councilman Eugene Costa Jr. was absent.

MBCP first began serving customers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties in 2018 and has since begun expanding its service area to the south.

Several cities in San Luis Obispo County, including Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles have signed on to become part of MBCP.

The Santa Maria City Council discussed joining MBCP during its May 21 meeting but did not take any action. Council members asked city staff to gather more information before they made a final decision.

If Guadalupe ultimately moved to join MBCB, households would be enrolled automatically but have the option to opt-out and continue receiving PG&E power.

Under MBCP’s standard plan, Guadalupe residents would receive 100% of their energy from carbon-free sources at the same rate that PG&E charges, said Marc Adato, energy public engagement associate with MBCP.

Around a third of MBCP’s electricity comes from renewable sources like solar and wind. The remainder comes from hydroelectric plants.

PG&E currently provides energy that is 80% carbon-free.

In addition, residents receive rebates on their bills, Adato said. The amount rebated to customers was around 3.7% during the last fiscal year and is expected to be 5% during 2019-20.

Three members of the public spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, all of whom either encouraged the council to do more research on MBCP or to stick with PG&E.

Andy Caldwell, of the Coalition for Labor, Agriculture and Business, said joining a community choice energy program would result in a loss of tax revenue paid by PG&E to local governments.

“Government in California makes its money off of income tax and property tax, and they’re not going to be getting that revenue in,” he said.

As a government agency, MBCP does not pay taxes.

During the meeting, council members said they were hesitant about making a decision with wide-ranging impact on the city and its residents without having more time for discussion.

Council members said they wanted to see whether Santa Maria chooses to join MBCP and learn more about a proposed Santa Barbara County community choice energy program before making a decision.

Councilwoman Gina Rubalcaba said she wasn’t comfortable moving forward with joining MBCP after one public hearing.

“I’m not one to rush into things that I think need more attention,” she said.

Councilman Tony Ramirez said it was important for more members of the public to be able to weigh in before the council made a decision.

“I feel like the public hasn’t had the opportunity to hear [about the MBCP program],” he said.

 

Guadalupe tables decision on community choice energy, by Razi Syed, Santa Maria Times, July 9, 2019.

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