Symposium inspires innovation and camaraderie

Pictured above: Dawn Weisz (CEO Marin Clean Energy), Geof Syphers (CEO Sonoma Clean Power), Cathy DeFalco (Energy Manager, Lancaster Choice Energy), and Ann Hancock (Executive Director, Center for Climate Protection). Photo by Karen Preuss

Pictured above: Dawn Weisz (CEO Marin Clean Energy), Geof Syphers (CEO Sonoma Clean Power), Cathy DeFalco (Energy Manager, Lancaster Choice Energy), and Ann Hancock (Executive Director, Center for Climate Protection). Photo by Karen Preuss

Innovation, inspiration, and camaraderie emerged as themes defining the Center for Climate Protection’s second Business of Local Energy Symposium, held March 4, 2016. Titled “Creating the Clean Energy Economy,” the Symposium’s keynote speakers and panel discussions focused on Community Choice energy and how to optimize competition and choice for significant greenhouse gas reduction, energy resiliency, and local economic gain.

The event was held in San Jose, California’s technology innovation hub, and attracted a sold-out crowd of 350 people from all over California, including 48 speakers who discussed Community Choice from diverse perspectives and areas of expertise. The program was uniquely designed to inform attendees along the entire spectrum of Community Choice interests and expertise – those in the early investigative stages, elected officials in the process of setting up a program, and energy entrepreneurs developing technology to green the grid – to spark creative discussions and innovative solutions.

Clean energy IS the future, and Community Choice is propelling progress to meet carbon reduction goals at the speed and scale required. Today, clean energy is a $1.4 trillion dollar global industry – almost twice the size of the airline industry. Community Choice facilitates the public-private partnership that ensures that the new clean energy economy is a revolution that includes everyone.

With three plenary sessions and ten breakout panel discussions, the Symposium’s content was remarkably rich. We look forward to sharing more details with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we offer some highlights from some of our speakers and attendees:

Angelina Galiteva, Board of Governors, California Independent System Operator, spoke about the agility and ability of Community Choice programs to be progressive. She suggested that programs can tackle the transportation and energy problems together and suggested the idea of Community Choice programs giving customers electric vehicles to promote vehicle-to-grid integration.

Carla Peterman, Commissioner, California Public Utility Commission, spoke to the contentious issue of the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA) rate, essentially an exit fee assessed on CCE customers, which she said is meant to serve as a mechanism to keep customers indifferent to their energy provider. In response to the “uniquely large volume of calls and letters” she received about the PCIA rate increase, she encouraged participants to attend the PUC’s workshop on March 8 to assess the fairness and effectiveness of the PCIA.

Mark Ferron, Board of Governors, California Independent System Operatorboard, spoke about today’s positive energy trend to “decarbonize and decentralize.” He said that California can “reduce its carbon output by regionalizing the grid.” While there are regulatory and technical challenges to distributed generation like roof top solar, he pointed to networked storage solutions like electric vehicles to stabilize the grid. “I’m extremely optimistic about the future. We in California are an example. As we work through the challenges, we can be a guidestar for the rest of the nation.”

Dawn Weisz, CEO, Marin Clean Energy: “People are paying attention. People are looking for solutions,” said Ms. Weisz said of the growth and potential of Community Choice energy programs. Under her leadership, Marin Clean Power, is preparing to launch a pilot program that incentivizes home energy storage services for the grid.

Geof Syphers, CEO, Sonoma Clean Power: “To help the climate, you need to not only add renewables, but you need to turn off the fossils.” Mr. Syphers encouraged us to focus on the end goal of creating affordable energy that is zero carbon and working backward from there – how do we get there? We need to work together to get solutions off the ground and fuel switch at all levels of human activity.

Rusty Klassen, Senior Strategic Advisor, Policy and Energy: As moderator on the Financing panel, Mr. Klassen discussed the possibility of forming regional Joint Power Authorities (JPA) that could aggregate several Community Choice operators and make it easier to obtain financing. Ian Parker from Goldman Sachs agreed saying that such an entity would reduce risk for institutional investors and make it easier for them to lend.

Dolores Weller, Director, Central Valley Air Quality Coalition, said that she hopes that Community Choice “can bring together unconventional partners” to meet the unmet needs of residents in the Central Valley.

Barry Vesser, Deputy Director for the Center for Climate Protection and organizer of the event: In his closing remarks, Mr. Vesser brought the energy discussion back to the looming threat of climate change and our global challenge to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, or preferably, below 1.5 degrees. He commented on the historic Paris agreement and called it an important first step. “Having admitted that we have a problem is the first step in the biggest Twelve Step program that the world has ever seen. The next is having a plan for recovery, no matter how inadequate.”

Not only was the event about creating a clean energy future, but Symposium attendees generated their own energy in the room. The enthusiasm and optimism circulating throughout the plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and in the conversations between sessions was positively electrifying. If the feedback that we’ve received from Symposium attendees is any indication of action on the horizon, we have a lot to look forward to:

  • “Thank you for assembling such an expert and enthusiastic group and for such productive content.”
  • “A blueprint for the world!”
  • “Great job – very organized and timing was impressive. Lots of great information sharing.”
  • “I learned so much that I can bring back to my county as we consider and investigate CCAs.”
  • “Always so good, productive, fun and educational to get this community together. I also particularly appreciate the spirit of sharing, mutual support, collaboration that the CCP team imbues in the whole event.”
  • “Please do it again!”
  • “The work of not-for-profits like CCP and all of the CCAs is driving innovation in energy choice and technology finance – NOT Wall St.”
  • “A fabulous symposium…”


To all attendees, we reaffirm to you: it takes a village. We are thankful to be working with you.

When Communities Choose Their Energy, They Get a Better Deal

“Silicon Valley continues to lead the nation in the transition to a clean energy economy. In addition to driving innovation at some of the world’s leading cleantech companies, residents and businesses in the region will soon be able to participate in community choice energy programs providing new energy offerings from clean and renewable sources.

The Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority was formed to develop just such a program. This new community choice program will serve business and residential energy customers in the cities of Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Cupertino, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, Campbell, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Los Gatos, Morgan Hill and unincorporated Santa Clara County. And it isn’t the only one in formation. San Mateo County and San Francisco have plans to launch community choice programs in 2016. In addition, the San Jose City Council will be taking up the matter shortly. In total, community choice energy programs are currently at some stage of development across nearly 80 communities in California.”

Read more from Jigar Shah and Russ Hancock in Green Tech Media.

Cities moving to clean energy: Twenty municipalities sign on to new county program, PG&E launches solar program

“Nearly 300,000 PG&E customers in San Mateo County will get their energy from renewable sources by the end of the year as all 20 of the county’s cities have agreed to form a joint powers agency with the county to buy clean power in bulk.”

Cities moving to clean energy: Twenty municipalities sign on to new county program, PG&E launches solar program, by Bill Silverfarb, The Daily Journal, February 15, 2016.

Mercury News editorial: San Jose should opt for clean energy plan

by Ann Hancock and Jeff Byron

 “San Jose cannot meet its longstanding goal of maximizing the use of renewable energy without a substantial shift in the way it procures power. But it has limited resources to devote to the kind of Community Choice energy plan that other Bay Area cities and counties are adopting to buy more power from renewable sources than PG&E generally provides.

The San Jose City Council can try something different Tuesday. It can seek private partners to run the Community Choice program instead of adding city employees to do it. The Council should approve a request for proposals to find a partner to cover the costs and share in the revenue.”

Read the rest of the San Jose Mercury News’ Editorial published on February 29, 2016.

SoCal Edison to Renew County Franchise

Southern California Edison to renew its franchise contract with Kings County to provide electricity to Hanford and Armona for the next 30 years.

“In exchange for letting the utility operate, the county gets 2 percent of SCE’s gross annual receipts arising from the utility’s uses under the franchise, which mainly involves the sale of electricity to local customers.”

SoCal Edison to renew county franchise, by Seth Nidever, The Sentinel, April 23, 2016.

Silicon Valley benefits from community choice in energy

“Big and positive changes are underway in Silicon Valley for renewable energy.

Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and their cities are voting to establish Community Choice Energy programs, laying the foundation for the 21st Century energy system. In place of the old, centralized, linear, fossil-fueled system, a new structure that is like an Internet of energy is emerging — intelligent and interactive, distributed, efficient, resilient and fueled by renewables.”

Read more from Jeff Byron and Ann Hancock, San Jose Mercury, February 26, 2016

Sonoma Clean Power continues to lead the way on clean power and low rates

sonoma-clean-power-logoSonoma Clean Power launched in 2014 with rates below PG&E. SCP’s standard plan is to set rates once per year. When it had its first chance to raise rates in April 2015, it chose to keep them unchanged from the previous year. This year the staff proposal is to actually reduce rates. As things stand, the average SCP customer generation rates are about 1% below PG&E’s comparable rates. The proposed rate reduction would double that savings.

On the greenhouse gas and clean power front, SCP has surpassed the state mandated 33% renewable content by 2020 with a 36% renewable energy content, six years ahead of schedule. SCP’s overall portfolio is about 80% greenhouse gas free, 48% below PG&E’s greenhouse gas content.

Unfortunately, the decades-long trend of the three large utilities to increase their rates, usually more than once per year, has continued. On January 1st a sharp increase in PG&E rates and increased PG&E fees on other service providers like Sonoma Clean Power, caused many energy customers to notice, as pointed out in a recent article in the Press Democrat. PG&E is on track to meet the state renewable energy standard by 2020 with a current portfolio that includes about 27% renewable energy.

The next Ratepayer Advisory Committee meeting will be on April 12th when the staff proposal will be reviewed one last time prior to going to the SCP Governing Board, and of course, Sonoma Clean Power’s meetings are open to the public. See you there!

Stanford Students Help East Palo Alto Initiate New Renewable Energy Program

After a quarter-long collaboration between Stanford graduate students and city staff, East Palo Alto has become a founding member of Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE). This new non-profit seeks to provide San Mateo County residents with renewable energy at low cost.

Peninsula Clean Energy’s new “community choice energy” (CCE) program will take effect in August 2016. CCEs, also known as community choice aggregation, allow localities to combine their electricity demands and purchase energy directly from electricity providers. East Palo Alto’s electricity will continue to be distributed over existing lines by the current utility provider, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), but PCE membership will allow the city to decide where to procure its electricity. It can also determine how much of its energy will be renewable. The local control granted by CCEs also allows localities to invest surplus funds in local clean energy projects.

East Palo Alto residents will be automatically enrolled in PCE but can choose to opt out. Other founding members include Atherton, Half Moon Bay, Menlo Park and San Mateo, with seven other Bay Area cities currently in the deliberation process.

The East Palo Alto City Council made the decision after recommendations from city manager Carlos Martinez and finance director Brenda Olwin who collaborated with a four-person team of Stanford first-year civil and environmental engineering graduate students to evaluate the costs and benefits of joining PCE. The team members, Lauren Shwisberg, Perry Simmons, Terra Weeks and Tha Zin, began their research in the first weeks of fall quarter. Their project was one of several that arose from the Energy Transformation Collaborative (ENVRES 201), a project-based course supported by Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy.

The Energy Transformation Collaborative splits the class into project teams, each focused on one broad area of energy policy (water use, electricity, buildings and transportation). This year, former U.S. Assistant Energy Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner joined consulting professor Stefan Heck and teaching assistant Rob Best ’16 in teaching the course.

Stanford Students Help East Palo Alto Initiate New Renewable Energy Program, by Francesca Lupia, The Stanford Daily, February 17, 2016.

San Bernardino County Energy Symposium Draws Desert Preservation Activists and Elected Officials

Woody at SBern Symp

Woody Hastings (front row left) and Bill Powers (front row right) share their experience and knowledge of the renewable energy model known as Community Choice Aggregation while state, county, water and business leaders listen and take note.

Photo caption: Woody Hastings (front row left) and Bill Powers (front row right) share their experience and knowledge of the renewable energy model known as Community Choice Aggregation while state, county, water and business leaders listen and take note.

About 100 community leaders and clean energy advocates convened for a Local Energy Symposium on January 25th, hosted by the Morongo Basin Conservation Association in Yucca Valley, not far from Joshua Tree National Monument. Earlier in the day, a smaller group of elected officials, water agency representatives, and other stakeholders attended a question-and-answer session focused on Community Choice energy.

It was great to be there with my colleagues Barbara Boswell of Lancaster Choice Energy and Bill Powers, legendary San Diego-based energy engineer, to share our thoughts about Community Choice with the desert community.

The purpose of the Local Energy Symposium was to seek an answer to the question, “Is Community Choice [energy] the smart renewable energy option for the Morongo Basin?” If the spirit of the question-and-answer period was any indication, there is a lot of promise for the Morongo Basin and surrounding region.

Local Radio Station Z107.7FM was on hand to report on the event and share some of the potential benefits of Community Choice energy. One of the top reasons that the region is interested in Community Choice is that they have not been benefitting from the large-scale solar and wind projects and transmission lines in the region. The hope is that with a local Community Choice agency, some of these projects could be developed in a way that creates local jobs and circulates more dollars in the local economy. Further down the road, it is hoped that such an agency would take on more of the decision-making about what kinds of renewable energy projects are developed in the service territory. The more power that is derived from local renewable sources, the less need for long distance transmission lines and towers marring the pristine desert views.

In other areas of San Bernardino County, the City of Fontana has contracted with Good Energy to produce a Technical Study for a possible Community Choice program. And the San Bernardino County Association of Governmentsis pursuing a countywide assessment.

Stay tuned for more exciting news and updates from the desert communities of San Bernardino County!


Energy Democracy: Inside Californians’ Game-Changing Plan for Community-Owned Power

Great article written by Al Weinrub covering the history and benefits of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). He covers the past, present, and future challenges facing CCA. He quotes Clean Power Exchange’s own Woody Hastings on community control and CCA potential for purchasing energy from cleaner sources.

“Nevertheless, the challenges of implementing Community Choice are many. Community Choice energy represents an assertion of community control over energy resources, similar to assertions of community control over water, land, and other vital resources. In the case of energy, and electricity in particular, that control could mean a transition away from fossil and nuclear power and a transition away from the centralized corporate renewable energy model: big solar plantations, big wind farms, and big environmentally destructive transmission lines.”

Energy Democracy: Inside Californians’ Game-Changing Plan for Community-Owned Power, by Al Weinrub, Yes! Magazine, November 12, 2015.