Community Choice Energy Programs:
Existing and Prospective
The purpose of this page is to present a summary of programs that are currently offered by Community Choice Energy agencies as well as prospective programs that may be employed by such agencies to achieve a 100% clean, local energy portfolio at costs below either remote clean or remote fossil energy. Programs that foster the appropriate development of local energy resources maximize the benefits to local communities.
In addition to programs initiated and offered directly by Community Choice agencies, some energy programs administered by local governments, the state of California, or incumbent utilities, can be promoted and/or integrated as a resource available to customers of the Community Choice agency. Some examples of these kinds of programs follow immediately after the existing and prospective CCA programs presented below.
Current Community Choice Programs
In order to compete successfully, Community Choice agencies must do more than just buy wholesale and sell retail electricity. In addition to rate-setting authority, Community Choice agencies have the ability to offer special programs to their customers. Community Choice agencies can serve as platforms of innovation in the energy sector that bring benefits to local economies and the environment.
Below are some of the current programs offered by the existing Community Choice agencies operating in California. Please use these links for detailed, up-to-date information about each program.
- Energy Advisor Program
- Small Commercial Direct Install Program
- Furloughed Federal Workers Assistance
- Advanced Energy Rebuild Napa
- Electric Vehicle Rebates
- Multifamily Energy Savings Program
- Low Income Families and Tenants Pilot Program
- Small Commercial Energy Savings Program
- Advanced Energy Rebuild Sonoma
- Drive EV
- DIY Home Energy Toolkits
- Lead Locally pilot home program
- SCP Spirit of Entrepreneurship grant
Prospective Community Choice Programs
Below are some examples of prospective programs that Community Choice agencies may consider. Some of these are ideas that have not been tested. In cases where operational examples exist, links are provided.
Community Choice agencies have statutory authority to elect to receive funds for and administer energy efficiency programs for their customers. Millions of dollars are collected every year from a small fee on our utility bill for energy efficiency programs and other energy related activities. Thus far, only MCE Clean Energy has elected to take advantage of this opportunity (See MCE Energy Efficiency program above).
On-bill repayment (OBR) is a financing structure that enables home and building owners to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy generation projects through low cost loans from third party investors. The loans are repaid through customers’ utility bills and financed at a net savings to the customer. OBR allows for longer-term loans with lower interest rates. A good example is the Town of Windsor that administers their “Pay-As-You-Save” (PAYS) on-bill repayment program.
Revenue bonds finance income-producing projects and are secured by a specified revenue source, in the case of Community Choice agencies, the revenues from the sale of electricity. To date, no Community Choice agency has exercised this opportunity.
Community Choice Member Jurisdiction Engagement
The concept for this program is that each participating jurisdiction of a Community Choice agency has many publicly owned facilities that may serve as excellent host sites for Distributed Energy Resource deployment. Additionally, these jurisdictions can coordinate with private property owners on sites that have potential. Community Choice agencies can engage with member cities and counties to a) identify potential sites, b) characterize potential community benefits that might be realized with the project, c) determine the resource types that might be deployed, d) identify ideal financing options, and d) coordinate incentives for the system.
New Local Renewables Investment Program (Via crowd-funding)
The concept here is to establish a crowd funding program where investors who do not demand a high return on their investment are offered an opportunity to invest in local resource development, decoupled from their own energy usage and from any specific energy project. The program may include the establishment of, or alliance with, an existing crowd-funding enterprise or clean energy bank. The aim is a win/win/win for the investor who receives a return, the energy project developer, and for the Community Choice agency that achieves its goals.
Electric Vehicle (EV) Programs
Community Choice agencies can make support for EVs and EV charging infrastructure an ever-increasing part of their programs:
- Offering incentives for fleet conversions and charging stations
- Monetizing the grid balancing and ancillary services value of EV storage capacity
- Deploying and/or incentivizing solar parking shade structures combined with EV charging stations
Elements of this pathfinding endeavor for are currently being piloted by Sonoma Clean Power, MCE Energy, and Lancaster Choice Energy.
Microgrids are systems that include all elements of the larger electric grid, but that serve a single structure or localized area and are islandable meaning that they can operate independently of the larger grid if necessary. Microgrids and reduce the waste and inefficiency inherent in the seriously outdated electric grid, resulting in lower energy bills and cleaner power. Many examples of microgrids exist. Facilities that require uninterrupted power, such as hospitals and military installations, typically invest in microgrid technology. An excellent example is the UC San Diego microgrid.
Fuel Switching Incentives
Community Choice agencies can offer rebates for the purchase of electric heat pump space heating/cooling and water heating systems. Such systems eliminate the use of fossil gas for these purposes by switching to the use of the cleaner electricity offered by the Community Choice agency.
Behind-the-Meter Energy Installations (with the Community Choice agency or affiliated financial institution as the energy system owner)
A key advantage of behind-the-meter installations (co-locating the electricity generation with the electricity load) is the cost savings from eliminating transmission, distribution and high-tier/demand charges that combined can account for over half of the electricity bill. When the Community Choice agency is a collaborator in the financing of these installations and receives a portion of the solar lease payment, dollars remain local and the financial sustainability of the Community Choice agency is strengthened.
Bulk Equipment Purchasing
A Community Choice agency can use its net revenues to purchase carefully selected hardware at a reduced rate due to the bulk purchase, such as solar panels, that can be offered in a program that reduces the cost of installing solar.
Programs administered by others that may be supported by Community Choice agencies
Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to buildings via property tax bills. Property owners evaluate measures that achieve energy savings and receive 100% financing, repaid as a property tax assessment for up to 20 years.
The Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act allows counties, cities, special districts, and school districts to levy special taxes to finance a wide variety of public works, including parks, recreation centers, schools, libraries, etc. Senate Bill 555 adds the acquisition, installation, and improvement of energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to the types of facilities that a CFD may finance, or refinance, regardless of whether the buildings or property are privately or publicly owned.
The California Alternative Rates for Energy (CARE) and Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) programs for low-income customers
These state-funded programs provide discounts for low-income customers and are unaffected by Community Choice. Information on both programs can be found here.
Energy Efficiency programs administered by the utilities
The energy efficiency programs administered by the utilities such as PG&E’s Energy Watch and Southern California Edison’s Energy Saving and Assistance programs are paid for via the public purpose fees that we all pay on our utility bills. Information about these programs can be found at the websites of each utility and an overview can be found here.