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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.

 

Silicon Valley Community Choice Programs Moving Forward: Two CEOs Hired

San-Mateo-Peninsula Clean EnergyPeninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy, both newly formed, took substantial strides in recent weeks toward preparing their programs for launch. The nascent effort in San Jose is also moving down the tracks.

Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE), encompassing all twenty cities plus the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County, established its joint powers authority (the governance structure for the utility) in March. One of its board’s first decisions was to adopt a fast-track launch schedule that will start enrolling customers on October 1 of this year. To accomplish this rapid ramp-up schedule, in April they hired Noble Americas Energy Solutions to handle their data management services and call center. They also hired the marketing company Circlepoint to coordinate customer engagement.

At its board meeting on May 12th, PCE’s chair, San Mateo County Supervisor Dave Pine, announced the hiring of Jan Pepper as the organization’s first CEO. Pepper has a long history of work in the energy field including serving most recently as the Electric Division Manager of Silicon Valley Power (the city of Santa Clara’s municipal utility). Previously she worked as Assistant General Manager of Alameda Municipal Power, was the president of three energy companies, and served as a member of the board of directors of the Power Association of Northern California. Currently she also sits on the Los Altos city council.

PCE’s community choice energy program will feature several distinctive attributes:

  • The program will offer member cities the option to automatically enroll their residents and businesses into a default 100% renewable energy package. (The town of Portola Valley has expressed interest in this option and several other cities are also considering it.) Customers enrolled under this arrangement will have the choice of “opting down” to a less expensive, 50% default renewable energy package. It is currently estimated that customers living in average-sized residential homes who choose the 100% option will pay about $5 more per month than they presently pay for PG&E’s electricity.
  • Although the program will launch in three phases over PCE’s first year of operation, residential customers who are enthusiastic about joining will be able to do so as “early adopters” during the first phase of enrollment starting October 1.
  • PCE is encouraging the cities in its program to select the 100% renewable energy package for their municipal operations.

 

SVCE-logoSilicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE), which includes twelve cities in Santa Clara County, held the second meeting of its board of directors on May 11. During the meeting the board formally selected Tom Habashi as its CEO. Habashi served, until recently, as the Director of Roseville, CA’s municipal utility for a dozen years and prior to that, he was Assistant Director of Resource Management for the City of Palo Alto Utility for 14 years. He will start work for SVCE later this month.

Additionally, at its meeting, SVCE’s board selected Cupertino city council member Rod Sinks as its chair and Rob Rennie, city council member from Los Gatos, as its vice chair.

SVCE is taking a slower path to starting their program compared to the fast track selected by Peninsula Clean Energy. The board has not yet established its default renewable energy package and will do so after the first of the year. Following that, they hope to launch their program on April 1, 2017. They expect to do so in three phases but have not yet set the timing of those phases, which could be between seven and nineteen months. To help the board make decisions on these matters, this summer they will conduct a survey of residents and businesses in their service area. In coming months they will also explore various start-up financing options.

 

dh_siliconvalley_2_677x380_FitToBoxSmallDimension_CenterThe City of San Jose has issued its Request for Proposal for their community choice energy program.  Proposals are due on May 27.  San Jose is seeking proposals from qualified firms to provide consulting services supporting San José Clean Energy, including development of a technical study and assisting with community engagement planning and implementation. To avoid conflict of interest, the city has decided that the consultant who works on the technical study will be precluded from submitting proposals or bids as a prime contractor or subcontractor for the program. The technical study is planned to be ready by the end of November 2016. Link to the RFP.

 

What’s New with Community Choice Energy in San Jose?

By Ruth Merino, Chair of San Jose Community Energy

Community Choice Energy in San Jose is moving forward with approval for exploring the program from the City Council. This past year, San Jose Community Energy, a group of San Jose residents, worked closely with the Center for Climate Protection to advocate for a Community Choice Energy (CCE) program and perform community and business outreach. The Climate Center had already been doing advocacy and outreach work in San Jose for several years.

san jose community choice - vote

Green dots show “yes” votes for Community Choice

On March 1st of this year, the City Council took a significant step and approved a report from the City’s Environmental Services Department (ESD) recommending the issuance of a CCE Request for Proposal (RFP). The RFP will be issued for an entity to provide comprehensive CCE development (including a technical study and community outreach), finance, launch, and to operate a CCE program at rates competitive with PG&E. The City Council also asked for an analysis and comparison using the technical study data of a “public option,” i.e., a CCE program to be operated by the City.

On March 29, the City Council approved Mayor Sam Liccardo’s annual City budget message, which included $300,000 and a proposal to modify the March 1st Council action. The budget allocation and modification would direct staff to release an RFP for a technical study, rather than a more comprehensive service-provision proposal with a technical study. The funding is to be included in the next budget, which begins on July 1, 2016. The Mayor’s budget message direction will be used by the City Manager in May to prepare the City’s next budget. The City Manager’s proposed budget will be considered for City Council approval at the end of June.

Mayor Liccardo noted in his budget message that as part of the process to explore CCE in efforts to achieve the City’s ambitious renewable energy goals, “a technical study must be conducted to determine the feasibility for launching a CCA [CCE] in San Jose. This critical analysis would analyze such issues as financial viability, energy loads, our customer base, rate competitiveness, governance models, renewable energy scenarios, and employment impacts.” We anticipate that the City Council will approve the funding in June and that the City’s ESD will issue a Request for Proposal and Qualifications for the technical study this summer.

Ruth Merino, head of San Jose Community Energy, and Margaret Bruce, our expert Silicon Valley consultant give thumbs up following the vote.

Ruth Merino, head of San Jose Community Energy, and Margaret Bruce,
our expert Silicon Valley consultant give thumbs up following the vote.

Ruth Merino is the Chair of San Jose Community Energy. If you are interested in learning more about SJCE, which meets monthly, please visit www.sanjosecommunityenergy.org or e-mail Ruth at info@sanjosecommunityenergy.org