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.

Valley Fire: This could be the face of our future

I am so grateful for the rain that fell yesterday, so unusual for California in September.

In these last months, I feel like I’ve had front row seats to the climate disaster unfolding as fire ravages our state, unable to do anything about it. The intensity and proximity of the Valley fire in Lake County has really brought this home. It’s not fair to attribute the fire to climate change. But the extremely dry conditions of vegetation, after four years of drought, are consistent with what we can expect going forward if climate change goes unabated. Climate Scientists say that climate change is responsible for at least a 15% increase in the intensity of California’s drought. They explain that a warmer climate causes increased evaporation, which means that even when rain and snow fall, less stays on – and in – the ground and plants, making for extremely volatile fuel loads. This is what has made this year’s fire season – and especially the Valley fire – so unprecedented.

The Valley fire exploded from 400 acres midday on Saturday to 40,000 acres by Sunday morning, overrunning the community of Middletown and consuming hundreds of homes in its path. Firefighters worked valiantly to save many of the public buildings, including the school, but the devastation was horrific.

Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said of the Valley fire and the Butte fire, “The fires are spreading faster than I have seen in my 30 years.

Thankfully, the weather is giving firefighters a break. The fire has already burned 70,000 acres and is the third significant fire in Lake County in two months. Altogether, more than 164,000 acres have burned.

As you look at the ash-colored rubble and twisted steel of the Middletown wreckage, you have to ask yourself: “How many warnings do we need before we take significant action?” The slow motion train wreck is in progress. We need to do something now, if we don’t want this to become the new normal.

Valley Fire: This could be the face of our future, by Barry Vesser, Center for Climate Protection, September 16, 2015.

Preventing the Zombie Apocalypse

As Halloween approaches, it seems fitting to revisit recent advice from the energy experts at the Rocky Mountain Institute. If you want to keep the lights on when zombies or other calamities come knocking at your door, it might be a good idea to have invested in microgrid technology.

It’s a scary thought to think of the power going out when you need it most – during storms, natural disasters, and of course, on Halloween night. Microgrid technology has the reassuring feature of being able to continuing to operate when all else fails. A case in point is the fact that during Superstorm Sandy, the lights stayed on at New York University’s Washington Square Campus thanks to its microgrid system.

Smart microgrids are modern, small-scale versions of the larger centralized electricity system. They feature every component of the larger system, meaning that they generate, distribute, and regulate the flow of electricity to consumers, but they do so on a localized basis with cleaner generation technology.

Even when zombies are not on the attack, microgrids can be designed to achieve specific community-based local goals such as greenhouse gas emission reduction, diversification of energy sources, reliability, and cost reduction. Smart microgrids are an ideal way to integrate renewable resources on the community level and allow for customer participation in the electricity enterprise.

The truly scary thing is the aging, antiquated, vulnerable electric grid that has not changed in one hundred years, and on a daily basis leaves us short-changed in terms of the potential benefits that can be obtained by developing smart, efficient microgrids. The Climate Protection Campaign has embarked on a program to explore how California communities can accelerate the development of this exciting new technology – before it’s too late!

Preventing the Zombie Apocalypse, by Woody Hastings, Center for Climate Protection, October 22, 2017.