Officials show interest in local energy production
by Luis Hernandez, Visalia Times-Delta, August 26, 2016
A survey commissioned by a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit organization found residents in three Central Valley counties want a choice on their electricity service provider.
The survey, which questioned residents in Tulare, Fresno and San Joaquin counties, also found residents want energy from clean sources and reduction of greenhouse gases. The same survey found 30 percent of residents won’t pay for more clean power and about just as many, 28 percent of those questioned, are unhappy with their energy bill.
“Energy is a lot like water in that it is a resource upon which our lives and economies are built,” said Mike Dozier, executive director of the Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State. “People in the San Joaquin Valley understand that we need to make some real changes to ensure a sustainable future — both economically and environmentally.”
Dozier continued: “There’s no better time to explore that here than now.”
Clean Power Exchange, a program of the Center for Climate Protection, had the survey completed. It was completed, by phone, between March and April.
Ann Hancock, Executive Director of the Center for Climate Protection, said she was pleased with the survey’s results because they show Valley residents are concerned about climate change and finding solutions to lower emissions.
And because of that attitude, Hancock said Valley residents may see benefits from Community Choice Energy, also known as Community Choice Aggregation, a locally-governed program that buys and generates electricity for businesses and residents. Currently, CCAs are in use in Marin and Sonoma counties as well as Lancaster and San Francisco. Another CCA will start in San Mateo later on this year and several are scheduled for 2017.
“These new, locally-owned not-for-profit agencies have been proving since 2010 that cleaner electricity can be provided at lower rates than the large utilities,” Hancock said.
Southern California Edison services most of Tulare County. If a CCA were to be established, SCE would likely lose customers.
In an email, SCE Spokesperson Robert Laffoon-Villegas sent a link to the company’s website that explains the company’s position on CCAs.
“Beyond that, we would not be able to speculate on the interest in CCA or on the specific plans of independent entities in our territory,” Laffoon-Villegas said.
According to the website, state law allows CCAs, which purchase and sell electricity to customers in their service area. The CCA is responsible for producing and providing for customers’ needs. The CCA, however, must meet financial and technical requirements with SCE.
The Tulare City School District’s three-phase, $10-million project to install solar panels is a local example of an agency moving away from SCE.
Joyce Nunes, the assistant superintendent of business, said all 15 schools and the district office have solar panels installed. The district used several sources, including a no-interest loan and money from Proposition 39, to finance the project.
Each system installed was tailored to the site’s electrical needs, Nunes said.
“A study was done before the project,” she said. “The panels were installed to provide a maximum angle for solar collection.”
In most cases, the panels were installed on top of structures in parking lots. The structures also provide shade.
Nunes said the panels are used year around and are expected to save nearly $800,000 annually.
“We are producing energy,” she said.
Visalia Unified School District was ahead of the curve and had solar installed almost every school.
More than $500,000 was saved in energy costs during the 2014-15 fiscal year, while a rebate of $446,119 was also generated.
Back to Community Choice Energy
Woody Hastings, coordinator of the survey project, said there are plans to present the survey’s findings before local governing boards. He said the survey was completed in the three counties because they are good representatives of the Central Valley.
Already, Supervisors Steve Worthley and Visalia Councilmember Greg Collins have shown interest.
“We have a lot of concerns in Tulare and energy rates is one of them,” Worthley said. “I am interested in exploring the economics of this new program for our residents.”
Collins said he wants to know more about CCAs.
“Community Choice Energy sounds promising,” he said. “Especially if we can identify some co-benefits with water.”
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