A year into business, Valley Clean Energy recently took steps toward bringing goals set in its mission statement to fruition.
The nonprofit public agency launched in June 2018, providing clean electricity in Woodland, Davis and unincorporated Yolo County.
“Our original vision focused on providing certain benefits that customers didn’t feel they had under one provider including more local control, sustainability, competitive rates, customer choice and reinvestment in the community,” said Jim Parks, director of customer care and marketing.
Hitting on promises of competitive rates and local spending, a dividend program will begin in the fall — sharing company revenue with clientele when VCE meets financial goals. The money will be credited to residential customers once a year on their October bills and twice a year on non-residential customers’ October and April bills.
The board will determine the percentage of cash reserves that will be allocated to dividends “ensuring both optimal program health and customer benefit,” according to a release.
On VCE’s first 12 months, Parks said “Things have gone quite well … I would like to say it’s gone exceedingly well all the time, but there have been some bumps in the road.”
A concern that existed in fall was the possibility of a sizable Power Charge Indifference Adjustment exit fee increase that didn’t end up happening.
As of July, VCE’s residential rate for the standard service level, including the PCIA charge, matched Pacific Gas & Electric’s although it provides 42% renewable energy compared to PG&E’s 33%, according to Parks. Paying the same amount for greener power with the possibility of a bonus in the form of the dividend is a way the provider is highlighting its perks.
VCE’s standard service is also 75% carbon-free.
Another incident that caused “some worries upfront” was PG&E’s bankruptcy filing in early 2019. The two agencies are interconnected as PG&E handles transmission/delivery, billing, and some customer service in the area — essentially meaning VCE’s money flows through them.
In spite of the filing, Parks doesn’t seem too concerned.
“Moving forward, I don’t anticipate any big problems or issues,” he said.
VCE is the product of a California law passed in 2002 that allowed cities and counties to form Community Choice Aggregation/Energy programs to purchase electricity on behalf of residents and businesses, according to the business’ website. When it began last summer, VCE was one of 19 operational CCEs in the state.
Overall, people have been happy with what’s being offered, according to Parks.
The biggest complaint he’s heard is that some folks don’t like the fact that they were automatically enrolled, a policy that is pursuant to the law. Serving a population of roughly 163,000, the opt-out rate is 7.7%, Parks said.
The company has spoken with representatives from the cities of West Sacramento, Winters and Stockton as well as Butte County about their interest in joining forces. The process of getting involved includes the completion of a feasibility study and about a year waiting period.
As of now, VCE is “beginning discussions on how we can give back to the community,” Parks explained.
A recent release stated that existing PG&E solar net energy metering customers who have not been enrolled in VCE service yet will begin being automatically registered beginning in January. More information will be available at public meetings scheduled for October and in mailers sent directly to those who will be affected.
Valley Clean Energy reaches one year mark, by Heather Kemp, Daily Democrat, July 31, 2019.