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Businesses Urged To Help Valley Set Its Energy Future

The City of Hanford is on track to become the first Valley community to take more control of its energy sources and costs when it launches its Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program next year.

Other Valley communities are at various stages of considering whether to form CCAs, with Fresno, Huron, Clovis, Sanger, Parlier and Kerman among them.

Potentially, the programs could save residential customers a few dollars off their electric bills, and the savings could be considerably more for manufacturers and other businesses with heavy demand, a trio of men advocating for CCAs told attendees at a seminar during the recent Valley Made 5th Annual Manufacturing Summit in Fresno.

 

Setting an energy destiny

The actual savings would stem from the decisions made by the governing boards of the individual CCAs, which would be run by local government leaders.

Those decisions would include from where the CCAs buy power; how much of that power would come from solar, wind and other renewable sources or if generators burning fossil fuels and some waste products might be in the mix; and how any profits are spent.

Options for using those profits include reducing rates for customers or funding incentive programs for homes and businesses to become more energy efficient, the experts said.

In any of these decisions, business people should be at the table, whether it’s at the beginning stages, as Fresno is doing, or when its farther along, as in Hanford, or if an authority is fully formed, as in Marin and Lancaster, said Barry Vesser, deputy director of the nonprofit Center for Climate Protection in Santa Rosa, one of the invited speakers.

 

Business input crucial

“A CCA will allow Fresno to have a say in how that looks, not just leaving it to a state or major utility,” he said, adding that businesses need to be part of this if Fresno or any other Valley cities go forward, “because if you want the kind of program that will serve local business interests and will help grow the economy here, you want to be part of helping develop that.”

As for what CCAs are, they stem from a 2002 law passed by the California Legislature allowing communities in the state to combine the electricity loads of their residents and businesses into community-wide electricity aggregation programs.

Not that a CCA could completely break free from Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern Californian Edison or one of the other investor-owned utilities.

What the law does is give the CCAs more local control, specifically the ability to chose from where they buy power. They also have the authority to own and run their own electrical sources — including solar and wind farms — though so far the 19 existing CCAs in California largely buy their power from businesses that generate electricity, as PG&E mostly does, the advocates told the audience.

 

More flexibility

CCAs being able to choose from whom they buy their power creates a more competitive market, so the CCAs may negotiate more favorable rates for their electricity than the utilities could, explained Mike Dozier, a Clovis-based, independent energy consultant.

So communities can work with energy suppliers closer to their areas, helping keep the money they pay local, or they could pay for power generated from far away, he said.

The distance isn’t important from a technical standpoint, because a supplier doesn’t actually direct power to a particular city. Instead, the power is fed from the source into the electrical grids operated by the big utilities, and communities draw from it like farmers drawing their portions of the water they’re entitled to from a reservoir, Dozier explained.

This also allows individual power customers to decide to opt out of their respective CCAs and continue being customers of the utilities.

As such, even in a Valley community that forms a CCA, customers would still pay the electrical distribution costs — usually about 60 percent of an electric bill — and the utilities still own and maintain their electrical infrastructure and handle the customer billing, he said.

An effort had been underway years ago to create the state’s first CCA in the Valley, but the Great Recession helped ground it in 2008, Dozier said.

 

CCAs come into their own

The first started in Marin in 2010, and since then more have formed, serving 60 cities and parts of 20 counties.

The question of whether to start a CCA is likely to become more prevalent in Fresno and other communities that don’t have them, as this new system of contracting for electricity is gaining momentum.

A newly formed CCA in Los Angeles County is serving 32 cities, and expectations are that Fresno will more actively explore the possibility of forming one in the future. The speakers at the May 2 summit noted that some of the smaller communities interested may wait for Fresno to go forward and — if that happens — then join its CCA.

“And we project that by 2020, [CCAs] will be serving half of the load of the state of California.”

 

Savings in Hanford

Dozier said Hanford expects to cut electric bills by 10 percent once its CCA is up and running, adding that the chief driver to create the program was to reduce energy costs for Faraday Future, which has been building its first electric car manufacturing plant in a million-square-foot former tire plant on the city’s south end — though financial troubles have so far stalled the project.

While some savings may be considerably less — including the average 2.5 percent savings for Sonoma Clean Power customers — the CCA advocates said it’s important to note that the savings also are hedges against power utilities raising their rates.

“Can it save you money? Absolutely. If you look at PG&E’s record over the past 30 years, it’s basically a 4% [rate] increase every year,” Vesser said.

With the utility having filed for bankruptcy and facing billions of dollars in liabilities for reportedly causing a series of California wildfires in recent years — including the Camp Fire that destroyed more than 21,000 homes in parts of six counties in the northern part of the state — more rate hikes seem inevitable in the near future, he said.

 

Incentive opportunities

For businesses, the monthly electric bill savings may be less important than the programs the CCAs my impose that could draw new businesses or incentivize existing ones to stay.

Though the audience for the seminar was small, those in attendance seemed highly interested in what was said, among them Mike Betts, CEO of the Betts Co., a Fresno manufacturer of industrial springs and truck accessories.

“The real bottom-line issue for manufacturing is we’re paying three to five times more than we should be paying today,” when compared to electric rates in Texas, Oklahoma and many other parts of the country, as well as other countries, he said after the seminar.

While a 2.5-percent savings may not seem like much, if it allows communities to avoid yearly rate bumps by the utilities, the savings could cumulatively be significant, Betts said.

But if a CCA is formed in Fresno, “Maybe there should be some manufacturers on that board,” to help ensure the decisions it makes are good for businesses here, he noted.

“I like what Hanford is doing because of Faraday. It was focused on an economic incentive of doing business [there] for industry.”

As for whether manufacturers would favor a Fresno CCA, Betts said not enough discussion has occurred to get a good sense of that. But until that happens, “We’ve got to just get the facts, do the research, talk with the other cities that have CCAs.”

 

Businesses Urged To Help Valley Set Its Energy Future, by David Castellon, The Business Journal, June 4, 2019.

In 3 Years, Sonoma Clean Power Incentivized Over 1,250 Electric Vehicles

(SANTA ROSA, CA) – Sonoma Clean Power (SCP), the public electricity provider for Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, recently announced the results of its electric vehicle (EV) incentive program.

In an effort to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, SCP incentivized 1,258 electric vehicles for its customers over the last three years.

During each iteration of the Drive EV program, SCP customers were eligible to receive a combination of incentives, dealer discounts, and manufacturer discounts of up to $13,000 towards the purchase or lease of an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid.

While SCP’s primary role is to provide electricity and accelerate California’s transition to renewable energy, the agency’s Mission widens its responsibility to addressing the climate crisis as a whole.

Transportation is the leading source of community-wide emissions, not only in SCP’s service territory but in many cities and counties throughout the world.

“In Sonoma County alone, the transportation sector makes up 60% of emissions county-wide. EVs are a great first step in reducing transportation-related emissions,” said Nelson Lomeli, the Programs Manager of SCP’s Drive EV program.

Replacing a gas-powered vehicle with an electric vehicle, and charging it with cleaner electricity, is one of the most significant measures an individual can take to reduce their carbon footprint. For example, by charging an EV with SCP’s 100% renewable, locally-sourced EverGreen service, an individual can reduce their emissions by up to 98%.

Over the years, SCP saw a significant increase in the number of vehicles that were purchased with the program versus leased. In 2016, only 14% of the incentives went towards purchasing vehicles. However, in this last year, 53% of the incentives were used to purchase vehicles.

This trend supports the car industry’s prediction that more people will commit to making the switch to an electric vehicle as the technology, range, and batteries continue to improve.

After 3 successful years of the Drive EV program, SCP has chosen to direct its focus and funds to improving the network of public and workplace charging infrastructure in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. The agency believes that this effort is crucial if the region hopes to see a wide-spread adoption of electric vehicles.

“With the success of Drive EV, we have achieved our goal of market transformation. With all these new EVs on the road, we now want to shift focus on expanding charging infrastructure, which will lead to more EV adoption,” said Cordel Stillman, SCP’s Director of Programs.

SCP continues to explore innovative ideas and programs that allow its customers to reduce their emissions, with both convenience and financial benefits being key to participation.

One of the agency’s notable endeavors for 2019 will be the opening of an Advanced Energy Center in downtown Santa Rosa where the public will be able to test and purchase energy-efficient technology for their homes. Adoption of these technologies will be supported by incentives from manufacturers, SCP, and a grant from the California Energy Commission.

Other SCP programs include efforts to promote building electrification, solar battery storage for commercial businesses, energy and water conservation, and demand-response.

To view the results of the 2018 Drive EV program, visit DriveEV.org for an interactive dashboard.

About Sonoma Clean Power

Sonoma Clean Power is proud to serve the counties of Sonoma and Mendocino, as a self-funded, public electricity provider. Climate change affects everyone, so our programs are designed for everyone. SCP’s services are practical, affordable and inclusive, inviting everyone to be part of the transition toward a clean energy future. To learn more, visit sonomacleanpower.org or call 1 (855) 202-2139.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Kate Kelly, Director of Public Relations/Sonoma Clean Power

kkelly@sonomacleanpower.org | 707.978.3468

San Diego’s Next Steps for Achieving 100% Renewable Energy

The city of San Diego is taking its first steps toward running entirely on renewable energy.

The city passed a Community Choice Energy program, or CCE, in late February. CCEs are a city-run energy provider for residents. It is set to lower energy rates by five percent and help the city achieve its renewable energy goals, according to Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office.

The CCE is the first piece of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, or CAP, to be implemented. The CAP is a program working to run San Diego on 100 percent carbon-free electricity by the year 2035, about 10 years sooner than the state requires.

The CAP has set goals for San Diego to accomplish in their attempt to run entirely on renewable energy. The city wants to both increase the number of zero emission city owned vehicles to 50 percent, as well as decrease total greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by the year 2020, according to the CAP. By 2035, the CAP aims to “create new jobs in the renewable energy industry, improve public health and air quality, conserve water, more efficiently use existing resources, increase clean energy production,” according to the city’s CAP website.

Prior to its implementation, San Diegans only had one energy provider, San Diego Gas and Electric, or SDG&E.

“This will bring good old fashion competition and choice to the electricity businesses in San Diego,” said Masada Disenhouse, executive director and co-founder of the environmental organization San Diego 350, which advocates for a county-wide CCE . “And we know that we need it, right? Our rates are among the most expensive in the country.”

However, the CCE does not remove SDG&E from the equation. Regardless of which energy provider consumers opt for, SDG&E will still deliver energy to residents and retain responsibility for customer billing, according to city’s sustainability website.

“We don’t make money on the sale of electricity,” said Joseph Britton, the communications manager for SDG&E. “If the city or other jurisdictions choose to form a (CCE) we support that choice and we’ll assist them in the transition process. We anticipate that anywhere from 70 to 80 percent of our customer load will probably be on a (CCE) in the coming years.”

While city residents may now choose between energy providers, SDG&E still monopolizes the energy market in San Diego County, said Jim Desmond, the county supervisor for District 5, in a Feb. 26 board meeting about a county-wide CCE option.

San Diego County voted on a CCE one day after the city did. Their vote resulted in a 5-0 agreement to pursue community choice energy as an option for all 18 cities in San Diego County. The board of supervisors agreed to commission a business plan. It will be presented to the county in October, with updates occurring every two months.

“I think I would rather see a county wide (CCE) than one done by the city of San Diego and one done by Solana Beach and all of the other cities that are pursuing this…,” said Greg Cox, county supervisor for District 1 during the board meeting. “And at the same time, I think it’s important to make sure that there’s no one agency that’s going to be the proverbial 900-pound gorilla that’s basically going to dominate whatever’s going to happen.”

While no decision regarding county-wide community choice energy will be made until late 2019, this did not stop dozens of county residents from voicing their support during the public meeting. The extra time means the county can more thoroughly examine the impacts of a county-run CCE program.

“We can search far and wide for someone in opposition, there was no one here today, but probably we could find somebody if we dig around the bushes enough,” said Nathan Fletcher, county supervisor for District 4 during the board meeting.

This report was a collaboration between NBC 7 and the SDSU School of Journalism and Media Studies.

San Diego’s Next Steps for Achieving 100% Renewable Energy, by Chris Bremer, NBC San Diego 7, May 1, 2019.

CalCCA Statement on the Continuing Advancement of Community Choice Aggregation in San Diego

Concord, Calif. – The California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) has issued the following statement by Executive Director Beth Vaughan in response to the San Diego City Council voting on February 25 to give Mayor Kevin Faulconer a green light to negotiate the creation of a new joint powers authority (JPA) to implement a regional community choice aggregation (CCA) program. San Diego – California’s second-largest city – is an affiliate member of CalCCA.

“The California Community Choice Association congratulates San Diego as it moves ahead with the formation of a joint-powers authority to implement a community choice aggregation program as the preferred pathway to reach the city’s 100 percent renewable energy goal. We appreciate San Diego’s careful consideration of CCA with a focus on fiscal responsibility, competitive rates, economic development, local job creation, investment in communities of concern, and prioritization of local renewable energy development.”

Key points/links:

Under San Diego’s CCA timeline, the city plans to initiate CCA service in 2021. The city council would consider the approval of a JPA agreement in the third quarter of 2019 and submit a CCA implementation plan to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Environmental, community, labor, business, and climate and environmental justice organizations supported the resolution approved by the city council.
Several cities in the region are currently exploring the feasibility of CCA and have expressed interest in joining the JPA, according to city staff. These include Chula Vista, La Mesa, Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Oceanside. Public agencies that may consider joining the JPA or signing on as large customers include the Port, Airport, and County Water Authority. Cities in Orange County that are within SDG&E’s service territory may also have an interest in participating.
About CalCCA
Launched in 2016, the California Community Choice Association represents California’s community choice electricity providers before the state Legislature and at regulatory agencies, advocating for a level playing field and opposing policies that unfairly discriminate against CCAs and their customers. There are currently 19 operational CCA programs in California serving approximately 10 million customers.

For more information about CalCCA, visit www.cal-cca.org.

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Moody’s says bankruptcy court PG&E order credit positive for CCAs

A recent bankruptcy court order that maintains existing arrangements between community choice aggregators (CCAs) and investor-owned Pacific Gas & Electric is credit positive for CCAs in California, Moody’s Investors Service said.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California on Jan. 31 provided interim approvals, known as “first-day” orders, related to PG&E’s Jan. 29 bankruptcy filing.

The approved motions include an order to maintain existing arrangements between CCAs and PG&E, which is credit positive for Marin Clean Energy (MCE) and other CCAs in California.

“The order provides more stability to CCAs’ cash flow collections, which enables their power suppliers and other vendors to have greater certainty that CCA revenues and cash flow will remain unaffected by the utility’s bankruptcy filing,” Moody’s said in a Feb. 7 report.

Issuance of the order will facilitate the continued receipt of revenues and cash flows and should also be supportive of continued development of CCAs in PG&E’s service area, the rating agency said.

CCAs were established to provide electricity customers choice of generation supplier in the service areas of California’s investor-owned utilities.

Under the CCA business model, PG&E includes the charges for generation services provided by MCE on the monthly electricity bill that PG&E sends to customers. The customer pays the bill, and on a daily basis, PG&E transfers collected CCA generation revenues to MCE, Moody’s noted in the report.

The California Public Utilities Commission’s “Rule 23” established this process and governs the relationship between PG&E and all of the CCAs in California implementing the requirements of Assembly Bill 117, the state’s electricity aggregation choice statute.

“For the past eight years, MCE has benefited from the PG&E billing and collection process, leading to a very strong receivable collection record. In return, MCE and the other CCAs have paid PG&E a fee to handle the collection process, which they will continue to do during the bankruptcy process,” Moody’s said.

The bankruptcy court’s first-day order also included an acknowledgment that the revenues are not a part of PG&E’s estate, that PG&E must return to regular banking and billing operations, including remitting bill collections to CCAs and that CCA revenues cannot have a lien placed against them by the debtor-in-possession lender.

MCE is one of the 12 CCAs operating in PG&E’s service territory where PG&E provides transmission and distribution services. Together, the CCAs provide generation services to approximately 40% of the electric demand in PG&E’s service territory, “a level that we expect will grow,” the rating agency said.

Once a CCA is formed, it becomes the default provider for generation services in the defined area. CCA customers have the option to opt-out and return to PG&E for their generation service but most customers elect to stay with the CCA.

The CCA is unregulated on its cost recovery like public power utilities and has a local governance role in power supply planning, local greenhouse gas reduction policies and customer choice, Moody’s noted.

Moody’s Investors Service in 2018 issued the first ever credit rating for a CCA, a Baa2 rating and stable outlook for MCE, saying that MCE has an established operating record as a California Joint Powers Authority.

Facing billions of dollars in wildfire-related liabilities, PG&E Corporation and its primary operating subsidiary, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, on Jan. 29 filed voluntary petitions under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California.

Public power utilities working with CCAs

In California, several public power utilities and entities are moving to provide services to CCAs.

In September 2017, SMUD said that it had been selected to negotiate a services agreement to provide Valley Clean Energy Alliance, a new community choice aggregation joint powers agency, with technical and energy services, data management/call center services, wholesale energy services, credit support services and up to five years of business operations support.

Meanwhile, California-based East Bay Community Energy, selected the Northern California Power Agency to provide wholesale energy services.

In November, NCPA in late 2017 said that it will be providing a variety of wholesale energy services to California’s Pioneer Community Energy.

Association offers new CCA program membership category

The American Public Power Association has initiated a new category of membership for community choice aggregation programs.

 

Moody’s says bankruptcy court PG&E order credit positive for CCAs, by Paul Ciampoli, American Public Power Association, February 11, 2019.

What you need to know about Clean Power Alliance, SoCal’s newest electric company

Southern California Edison has been the region’s dominant electric utility for more than a century. But for nearly 1 million homes across the Southland, the days of Edison’s monopoly are ending.

Clean Power Alliance is becoming the default energy provider this month for residents of 29 cities, as well as unincorporated parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The government-run power agency launched for a small group of customers last year and will continue its rollout in May, when it expands service to 100,000 businesses.

If Clean Power Alliance is your new power company, you should have received notices in the mail by now. But you probably still have plenty of questions.

Here’s everything you need to know about the switch, including what it means for your electricity rates and why Edison isn’t going away entirely.

How do I know if Clean Power Alliance will be my new energy provider?

If you live in one of these cities, you’ll be switched to Clean Power Alliance service by the end of February: Agoura Hills, Alhambra, Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Camarillo, Carson, Claremont, Culver City, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Hawthorne, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Moorpark, Ojai, Oxnard, Paramount, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills Estates, Santa Monica, Sierra Madre, Simi Valley, South Pasadena, Temple City, Thousand Oaks, Ventura, West Hollywood and Whittier.

The February switch also applies to residents of unincorporated Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Westlake Village residents are on track to start receiving service from Clean Power Alliance in 2020.

Residents of cities with their own municipal power departments, such as Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale, will stick with their city-run energy provider.

Can I sign up for Clean Power Alliance if I’m an Edison customer living somewhere else?

No.

Why is this happening? Do I need to do anything?

You don’t need to do anything. Your electricity service will continue uninterrupted after you’re switched from Edison to Clean Power Alliance, which will happen automatically after your regularly scheduled meter reading in February.

This is happening because the 29 cities and two counties got together and created a community choice aggregator, or CCA. Forming a CCA allows local governments to decide what kinds of power to buy for their communities, how much to charge and what incentives to provide for going solar or reducing energy use.

California had 19 CCAs serving more than 8 million customers last year, but Clean Power Alliance will be the biggest one yet. Elsewhere in Southern California, local governments are making plans to form CCAs in Riverside County and San Diego, where Mayor Kevin Faulconer recently endorsed calls for community choice.

Am I going to pay more for electricity?

It depends what you want from Clean Power Alliance. The CCA offers three rate plans to its customers: One with a 36% renewable energy mix that the alliance says is 1% cheaper than Edison’s base rate, one with 50% renewables that’s on par with Edison, and one with 100% renewables that’s 9% more expensive than Edison.

Every city and county in Clean Power Alliance has chosen one of those plans as the default for its residents. Eight cities picked the cheapest option; nine cities, plus Ventura County, opted for the 100% renewables rate.

If you don’t like your local government’s choice, you can switch to another rate plan at any time. You can also opt out of Clean Power Alliance and return to Edison. Of the roughly 960,000 homes and businesses that will be eligible for Clean Power Alliance by the end of February, just 14,000, or less than 1.5%, have opted out.

So who’s setting my electricity rate now? And what will they do with my money?

Rates are set by Clean Power Alliance’s 31-member board of directors, with one representative from each city and county. The board is chaired by Diana Mahmud, a South Pasadena City Council member. Its monthly meetings are open to the public.

Clean Power Alliance has big plans for cleaning up the region’s energy supply, said Ted Bardacke, the alliance’s executive director and a former infrastructure director for L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Over time, that could mean incentives for customers to install electric water heaters or space heaters, reducing the need to burn natural gas in homes and other buildings. It could mean free or discounted electric vehicle chargers, or special electricity rates that encourage people to charge their EVs at home. It also could mean community battery installations that reduce the need for polluting, gas-fired “peaker” power plants.

“We’re very interested in projects that not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also reduce local air pollution, and that leads you to also improve public health,” Bardacke said.

Can I still put solar panels on my roof?

Yes. Clean Power Alliance offers a net metering rate plan for solar-powered homes and businesses just as Edison does, but with slightly more favorable terms.

Does community choice have any drawbacks?

So far, most CCAs seem to be living up to their promises of cleaner energy, lower rate options and local decision-making. But it’s yet to be seen how they’ll fare over the long term. Some renewable energy companies are worried the CCAs won’t be able to buy enough clean power over the next few years to meet the state’s climate change goals. The CCAs dispute that premise, saying they’re buying plenty of solar and wind energy.

Michael Picker, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, has also warned that the shift from monopoly utilities to more decentralized decision-making could have dangerous unintended consequences, such as a repeat of the state’s early-2000s energy crisis. The CCAs say that concern is hugely overblown.They point out that the state’s first community choice provider, Marin Clean Energy, launched in 2010, followed by Sonoma Clean Power in 2014 and Lancaster Choice Energy in 2015, and so far there have been no crises.

But 16 more CCAs have started serving customers in the last three years, and it’s hard to predict how things will shake out — especially as California’s energy sector is also reshaped by other forces, including a mandate of 100% clean power by 2045 and the bankruptcy filing of the state’s biggest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric.

Does community choice mean Edison is going away?

No. Edison will still be responsible for operating the poles and wires of the electric grid, and Clean Power Alliance customers will still pay the investor-owned utility for those services. Edison will still send out everyone’s bills too.

Clean Power Alliance customers will also see a new item on their bills: the “Power Charge Indifference Adjustment,” more commonly known as the exit fee. As the name suggests, it’s an additional monthly charge that CCA customers must pay Edison to cover the costs of long-term contracts signed by the utility years ago to provide electricity to all of its customers. State officials say it’s only fair for CCA customers to keep covering their share of those costs because Edison would otherwise have to increase rates for its remaining customers.

There’s an ongoing debate about how to calculate the exit fees, with CCAs arguing the investor-owned utilities are inflating the numbers. The Public Utilities Commission approved an increase in the exit fees last year, although the commission may continue to tweak that decision.

So that’s everything I’ll still be paying to Edison, right?

Not quite. For the next year, homes served by Clean Power Alliance will also pay an additional $100 million to Edison to help fill a hole in the company’s power budget. Edison said it spent about $815 million more than it expected on electricity in 2018, partly because of a summer heat wave. The utility asked the Public Utilities Commission for permission to charge some of those costs to homes leaving this month for Clean Power Alliance because Edison purchased the electricity on behalf of all its customers, including those now leaving.

The Public Utilities Commission approved that request in a 5-0 vote on Tuesday, over the objections of Clean Power Alliance. The community choice provider had said it would have to cut into its financial reserves to offer customers the rate savings it promised, while accounting for the additional $100 million they will now pay.

Cliff Rechtschaffen, a member of the Public Utilities Commission, said the additional charge will probably raise electricity prices for Edison and Clean Power Alliance customers by about 5% over the next year.

What you need to know about Clean Power Alliance, SoCal’s newest electric company, by Sammy Roth, The Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2019.

Marin energy aggregator could benefit from PG&E bankruptcy

MCE and the other eight community choice aggregators in Northern California will be watching closely if Pacific Gas and Electric Co. files for bankruptcy as expected on Tuesday.

Assembly Bill 117, which made it possible for local governments in California to buy electricity directly from suppliers and sell it to their residents, was passed by the Legislature in 2002 on the heels of the state’s failed experiment with deregulation of the electricity market and PG&E’s related bankruptcy in April 2001.

Community choice aggregators in Northern California focus exclusively on securing electricity for their customers. Transmission and distribution of the electricity as well as meter reading, billing and revenue collection are left up to the investor-owned utility, PG&E.

“CCAs will want to make sure there is no interruption in that revenue collection and billing process, and the transfer of revenue that keep the CCAs operating,” said Shawn Marshall of Mill Valley, executive director of LEAN Energy U.S., a nonprofit organization that supports the formation of CCAs nationwide.

She said CCAs will also want to make sure they and their customers are not asked to pick up the tab from contract restructuring due to the bankruptcy that may result in some PG&E power vendors “being forced to take a haircut.”

Longer term, however, a PG&E bankruptcy could benefit CCAs, Marshall said.

For example, she said some of PG&E’s transmission and distribution could be municipalized, allowing CCAs to get involved in that end of the business.

In a release issued on Dec. 21, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates PG&E and the CCAs, said it is considering a range of possibilities in response to PG&E’s tarnished safety record and threatened financial state due to related lawsuits. Those possibilities include reconstituting the company as a publicly owned utility.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which operates CleanPowerSF, San Francisco’s Community CCA program, has said it is exploring the possibility of acquiring or building electrical infrastructure assets.

Marshall said longer-term CCAs could also benefit if the bankruptcy proceeding results in the restructuring of some of PG&E’s older, more expensive contracts. That might result in customers leaving PG&E to join a CCA having to pay lower exit fees.

When a PG&E customer switches to MCE or another community choice supplier, PG&E is permitted to charge that customer an exit fee to compensate it for the power contracts it previously entered into to supply that customer electricity. The fee was imposed by the California Public Utilities Commission to ensure that customers remaining with the utilities do not end up footing the entire cost of the contracts.

Dawn Weisz, MCE’s chief executive, said the main thing CCA customers need to know is, “There won’t be any impacts to community choice aggregation customers due to this potential bankruptcy filing.”

“PG&E has stated publicly that they will continue in a business as usual fashion,” Weisz said. “The lights will stay on. This was the case when PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001, and we don’t expect anything different to happen here.”

Severin Borenstein, a business professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and faculty director of the Energy Institute there, said, “The bankruptcy itself is not going to change PG&E’s function as a transmission and distribution provider so it’s not going to hurt CCAs in an actual delivery sense.”

He doubts that many CCAs will want to get into the transmission and distribution business.

“They are not in a physical energy business, and I’m pretty sure they don’t want to be,” he said.

Borenstein, however, sees PG&E’s bankruptcy as an opportunity for CCAs to woo new customers. He said the filing will be a blow to PG&E’s reputation.

“Part of what has made the CCAs so attractive is they are viewed more positively by people in the towns which have joined,” Borenstein said. “So I think the bankruptcy will accelerate interest in CCAs.”

In addition, Borenstein said, “There is a real question regarding the investment of PG&E in renewables if they’re in bankruptcy.”

He said if PG&E has to cut back on investments in renewables that could serve to further differentiate the CCAs’ product.

“They already make a big deal of being much greener that PG&E, and the reality is the difference isn’t that large,” Borenstein said. “It could potentially become larger.”

MCE says 61 percent of its energy comes from renewable sources, while PG&E says 33 percent of its energy comes from renewable sources.

Weisz said MCE signed three new contracts with renewable energy producers at the end of the year. The producers — solar farms in Fresno County and Lancaster and a wind farm in Mohave – will deliver 728,000 megawatt hours of electricity annually.

If the PUC gives PG&E permission to pass along costs to ratepayers both PG&E and CCA customers will feel the pain equally. PG&E and CCAs charge different rates for their electricity, but all customers pay the same amount to maintain the electrical grid.

In December 2003, the PUC approved a bankruptcy plan that required PG&E’s customers to pay the company $7 billion to $8 billion over nine years. PG&E’s shareholders were required to contribute $2 billion in lost dividends.

“The collection of fees is bifurcated so customers are billed directly by PG&E for the transmission and distribution activity separate from the generation activity,” Weisz said.

Marshall said that also means that PG&E can’t blame increased competition from CCAs for its maintenance issues.

“The reason that PG&E is in the spot that it is in has nothing to do with emergence of community choice,” Marshall said. “It has everything to do with their maintenance of infrastructure, or lack thereof.”

 

Marin energy aggregator could benefit from PG&E bankruptcy, by Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal, January 27, 2019.

Santee votes to join La Mesa, Chula Vista in study to explore ‘community choice energy’

SANTEE, Calif. — Santee council members voted unanimously Wednesday night to move forward in partnership with Chula Vista and La Mesa to explore other, more affordable energy options for residents.

The idea of community choice aggregation or energy has been discussed for the last several years, but now this study would help determine if the option is realistic and possible for the cities.

“Community choice energy can provide cleaner power at lower rates. It’s hard to be against cleaner power and lower rates,” said Van Collinsworth, a Santee resident.

Nearly 20 similar programs have already been put into action throughout California.

“What they do is kind of take you away from the independent operator which is San Diego Gas and Electric and allow municipalities to have their own autonomy in energy,” said Santee Mayor John Minto.

Minto said the study voted on Wednesday evening is an essential next step.

“We are all looking forward to finding out more information so that we can make that final decision whether or not this is right for our city.”

The city of San Diego is expected to take a look at a similar proposal in the coming days.

 

Santee votes to join La Mesa, Chula Vista in study to explore ‘community choice energy’, by Kasia Gregorczyk, Fox 5 San Diego, January 23, 2019.

San Jose Clean Energy: What you need to know

Next month, San Jose will switch electricity suppliers — from PG&E to San Jose Clean Energy.

The change is part of the city’s broader goal to become more environmentally friendly. Although President Trump announced in June he was pulling out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change among almost 150 countries, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has said he still wants the city to meet the greenhouse gas emission targets outlined in the accord.

Thousands of residents and businesses will be affected by the switch from PG&E. Here’s what you need to know.

What is San Jose Clean Energy? 

San Jose Clean Energy (SJCE) is what’s known as a community choice energy program. There are several such programs of locally controlled electricity providers in the region, including Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Peninsula Clean Energy.

Why is San Jose switching? 

As a nonprofit, SJCE aims to provide cleaner energy options to customers than PG&E does, for roughly the same price. Right now, according to the city, only about a third of PG&E’s energy is from renewable sources and about 78 percent is carbon free.

San Jose is offering two choices: Green Source is about 45 percent renewable energy and at least 80 percent carbon free; Total Green is 100 percent carbon free and 100 percent renewable.

What will it cost?  

The program will cost about 1 percent less than what PG&E charges. The city estimates that the average Green Source cost will be about $109.49 a month, compared to PG&E’s $109.97. Total Green will cost a few dollars more, about $113.94.

Will rates go up? 

Electricity prices vary, but the city says the current SJCE rates are expected to remain steady until at least the spring of 2020. The program’s goal is to always be as competitive with PG&E’s rates as possible, and while that company has shareholders, SJCE is a nonprofit that does not.

What do I have to do to sign up?

Nothing. In February, residents and businesses in San Jose will automatically be enrolled in the Green Source program. People who want to sign up for Total Green can upgrade and those who want to stick with PG&E can opt out.

Really? Everyone is automatically signed up? 

Well, almost, but not quite. Residents who have rooftop solar panels will not automatically be enrolled in Green Source. The city says it expects to enroll those customers in the program in 2020, when “we can be certain you will receive a fair value for the solar you generate.” Residents can still sign up for Total Green, however, and commercial customers with solar can participate in SJCE.

So I won’t hear from PG&E anymore? 

SJCE will generate the electricity but PG&E will still transmit and distribute it in San Jose. PG&E will also still handle customer and billing services, so your bill will still come from PG&E. The company will also still be responsible for maintaining power lines and providing natural gas services.

Will my bill look different? 

Yes. PG&E charges what’s commonly known as an “exit fee” to people who participate in a community choice program. The reason PG&E says that’s necessary is because it has already purchased power for customers who will switch to a community choice program. But even with the fee, the total bill should still be slightly lower.

Wait, didn’t PG&E just announce that it’s filing for bankruptcy?

Yes, the company is planning to file for Chapter 11 protection. It faces potentially billions of dollars in costs tied to wildfires that have ravaged the state in the past several years. But the company has told San Jose there will be no interruption in power service for customers and SJCE is expected to launch in February as planned, said Zach Struyk, a deputy director with SJCE.

The future of PG&E remains unclear, but the city said in a statement that SJCE and other community choice programs are “closely monitoring the situation and evaluating potential impacts” on customers.

Is this really helping the environment? 

Yes. The city expects to see an 18 percent initial reduction in what are known as GHG emissions. That’s like getting 35,000 cars off the road.

Where can I get more information?

The website sanjosecleanenergy.org has more information about the program. People with specific questions can call 833-432-2454 or email customerservice@sanjosecleanenergy.org. The city is also hosting a series of community events through March to discuss the program.

 

San Jose Clean Energy: What you need to know, by Emily Deruy, The Mercury News, January 19, 2019.

 

Alternative energy provider smart way to go

Every household in Agoura Hills has an exciting new opportunity to make a tangible difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air and water quality, all while saving money.

Residents have begun to receive mailers announcing the move to a new energy provider called Clean Power Alliance. Starting in February, our city, along with 30 other communities across Los Angeles and Ventura counties, will launch a community choice energy program that will offer cleaner, more renewable power at competitive rates.

How will it work?

Simply put, Clean Power Alliance purchases clean power and delivers it to your home via existing Southern California Edison lines. SCE will continue to send one bill and resolve any service issues, as before. Financial assistance programs will remain intact and you’ll still have access to rebates and incentives.

What will change?

You now have choice. Customers will have a menu of energy options to choose from.

Lean Power: This is the default rate option for Agoura Hills residents, providing 36 percent renewable content at the lowest possible cost, a 1 to 2 percent savings over SCE’s standard rates.

Clean Power: Purchase 50 percent renewable content at either no cost difference or up to a 1 percent savings compared to SCE’s standard rates.

100 percent Green Power: This will cost about 7 to 9 percent more than SCE’s base rates, but will deliver nearly three times the amount of renewables. And, it’s about 5 percent less expensive than SCE’s 100 percent Green rate.

What do you have to do?

Nothing, unless you want to change your default option. Agoura Hills residential customers will be automatically enrolled in Lean Power, but you can easily make your own energy choice or opt out entirely and return to SCE as your energy supplier. Just go to cleanpoweralliance.org or call (888) 585-3788. Business customers will be enrolled in May.

Why did Agoura Hills choose 36 percent Lean Power as the default?

We anticipate that this service level will allow Agoura Hills residents to realize a cost savings even if SCE raises transmission rates to recoup losses from the California wildfires. That said, we encourage as many residents as possible to opt up to 100 percent Green Power if you can afford the slight increase. It’s an investment in our future.

Unsure which rate is best for you?

Grab your latest bill and head to the online bill calculator to compare and decide. Whether you enjoy the costs savings, go for 100 percent Green, or find your balance in the middle, it’s your choice.

Watch for more mailers coming soon. In the meantime, feel free to reach out or go to cleanpoweralliance.org for more details.

Klein Lopez is an Agoura Hills City Councilmember and the city’s board member on the Clean Power Alliance. She can be reached at dlopez@ ci.agoura-hills.ca.us.

 

Alternative energy provider smart way to go, by Klein Lopez, The Acorn, January 17, 2019.