New Cities Join EBCE

EBCE is expanding, as the cities of Tracy, Pleasanton, and Newark have committed to starting energy service with EBCE next year.

Pleasanton and Newark are the final remaining Alameda County cities to join (with the exception of the city of Alameda, which has its own municipal utility).  Tracy is the first city in San Joaquin County to join a CCA, and the first EBCE member city that is not in Alameda County.

The state utility commission certified the change to the EBCE Joint Powers Authority agreement in March.  Enrollment of customers in the three cities will begin in 2021. Each city now has a seat on the EBCE board of directors.  New directors were sworn in on April 22, during an online meeting of the board.

New directors are Dan Tavares Arriola from Tracy, Jerry Pentin from Pleasanton, and Mike Hannon from Newark.  All are members of the city council from their respective cities.

 

 

Dan Tavares Arriola was elected to the Tracy City Council in 2018, and also works as a Deputy District Attorney for San Joaquin County. At 29 years old, he is likely Tracy’s youngest-ever Council Member.  A Tracy native, he was valedictorian of the Political Science department at UCLA in 2011 and the Student Body President of USC Law School in 2014. He was elected to the Tracy school board in 2016, and serves on the board of the Tracy Chamber of Commerce.

 

 

 

 

 

Jerry Pentin was elected to the Pleasanton City Council in November 2012 and previously served on the Planning Commission, the Parks and Recreation Commission, and the city’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee.  He is also the owner of Spring Street Studios HD in Pleasanton, where he produces and directs documentary, corporate, and environmental program media for web and broadcast.

 

 

 

 

Mike Hannon represents Newark on the EBCE board.  Hannon was elected to the Newark city council in 2014, after serving on the Planning Commission. He retired in 2011 from the City of San Jose after almost 27 years where he was Deputy Director in the Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Department, serving as the Code Enforcement Official. He managed a staff of approximately 100 and an annual budget of $10 million.

 

 

The three cities have a combined population of 222,000, with potentially 75,719 new customer accounts for EBCE.  This would boost the number of EBCE customers by 13.7 percent, assuming none opt out of EBCE service.  If all customers in the three cities do join, it would increase EBCE’s electricity demand just over one terawatt-hour (billion kilowatt-hours), or an 18.3 percent increase.

Almost 90 percent of new customers would be in the residential sector, accounting for about 40 percent of new power demand. About half of the new load would come from just over 1,000 large customers.

The three cities should also feel right at home with EBCE’s efforts to promote local clean energy resources like rooftop solar, battery backup, and electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure.  

The three cities are home to almost 4,000 electric vehicles, according to state EV rebate data, as well as 10,000 rooftop solar systems.  In Tracy, one out of six customers has gone solar. 

Moreover, each of the three cities is near an important freight and commuter corridor — Tracy near the intersection of I-5 and I-580; Pleasanton at the corner of I-580 and I-680; and Newark off I-880 and highway 84. For regional drivers and the movement of goods, all three make excellent locations for EV charging infrastructure.

Faces of EBCE: Board member Melissa Hernandez of Dublin

EBCE Board Member Melissa Hernandez was 41 when she first ran for public office, a seat on the Dublin City Council, and 43 when she graduated from college.  She had spent her adult years working and raising her two kids.

“My kids got to see me give back to my community, run for council, and graduate college,” she says. “They got to see me become who I am.”

“It was a good lesson, teaching them that they’ll have to work hard to accomplish what they want to accomplish.”

It was thanks to her kids that she got involved in local affairs, volunteering at their schools and Little League teams, then the Rotary Club, then on local government commissions like the Marketing & Branding task force and chairing the Human Services Commission. That led her to the City Council, where in 2016 — juggling a family, her studies, and a job — she became the first Latina ever elected to the Council.

BACKGROUND

Family is important to Hernandez and she comes from a big one.  Her father emigrated from Mexico and met her mother in Texas. They came, with their seven kids, to Dixon, California, a farm town, and spent two years living in a migrant work camp and working in the fields. 

“We lived in a tiny two-bedroom camp house, with seven kids!” she recalls. “We were a very close family — literally.” 

Her father saved enough to buy his own tractor-trailer and began work as an interstate trucker, gradually moving up into the middle class.

Graduation day for Melissa Hernandez.

She went to Sacramento State right after high school, then life interrupted, as she married and had her own kids. Two decades later she got a degree in political science and public administration from Cal State East Bay.

“I would never want to change my childhood, because that made me the person I am, wanting to help people and giving a voice to people,” she says. 

PRIORITIES

Social issues are a priority for Hernandez, both on the Dublin City Council and at her current day job, working for Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty (who is also on the EBCE board) as a liaison to community organizations. Groups like CityServe and Tri Valley Haven are on the frontline helping with public health, homelessness, and now the COVID pandemic. 

She’s especially happy to see EBCE making donations to the community groups to help with the impact of the pandemic, like Meals on Wheels and the Alameda County Food Bank.

“There are a lot of resources out there, and we are making sure no one is going hungry,” she says.

PUBLIC SERVICE

She also strongly supports EBCE’s mission of clean and green energy.  EBCE has signed nine contracts for new wind, solar, and energy storage projects in California.

“My goals for EBCE are to keep what we’re doing, keep expanding on solar and more new projects in years to come,” she says. “We’re helping Mother Nature every single day.”

Environmental and quality of life issues are a priority for her in Dublin too. The city is focusing on building up the downtown area near their Westside BART station, to reduce the need for cars.

“We would like to build a friendly, walkable, efficient downtown pedestrian area with great amenities,” she says. “That would include a mixture of retail, office, hotel, and residential.

“Dublin is known for its great parks that can serve as a common backyard,” she says, giving an additional meaning to the city’s slogan, “The New American Backyard.”

Moreover, Dublin’s city government is supplied by EBCE’s Renewable 100 energy portfolio, and has solar installed at 8 city facilities.

EBCE BOARD

Hernandez came to the EBCE board to fill the post of Don Biddle, the Vice Mayor of Dublin and long-serving public official who passed away at age 80.  Hernandez inherited a few committee assignments, including the EBCE board.  She also serves on the boards of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority (StopWaste), Valley Link, and Livermore-Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA), the Dublin schools Liaison Committee, League of California Cities, and Federal Military Communities Committee.

“I’m thrilled to serve on the EBCE Board and I’m committed,” she says.  “I’m privileged to sit with a great group of elected officials that want the best for our communities. We provide more renewable energy and local investment, and have saved customers over $10 million dollars in the last two years.”

“From my own life I can say that you don’t have to do things in order, but if you have the will and the grit you can accomplish your goals.”

EBCE Pitches in on Building and Transportation Task Forces

EBCE has been busy in its role as a corporate citizen, serving on coalitions and committees that are guiding energy sector policies in California.

JP Ross, our Senior Director of Local Development, Electrification and Innovation, sits on the Advisory Board of the Building Decarbonization Coalition.

The Coalition “unites building industry stakeholders with energy providers, environmental organizations and local governments to power California’s homes and workspaces with clean energy.”  About 100 member organizations collaborate on market transformation, public education, policy, and research activities. EBCE is a top-level member, along with other California utilities and CCAs.

“We want to put all of our clean electricity to work cutting emissions, by replacing natural gas in buildings,” says Ross. 

The Coalition released a strategy roadmap in 2019,  laying out a plan for the state to cut building emissions 20% by 2025 and 40% by 2030. The Roadmap recommends:

  • adopting a Zero Emission Building Code for the residential sector by 2025, and commercial sector by 2028.
  • setting GHG reduction standards for buildings, including appliances, scaling up to 100% reductions by 2045.
  • increasing the market share of heat pumps for space heating and water heating from 5% and 1%, respectively, to 50% in 2025 and 100% in 2030.

A key target of the Coalition, and of EBCE, is carbon emissions from appliances. About half of all building emissions result from electricity use, while the other half come from gas and propane appliances used for heating. As California’s power mix becomes cleaner, emissions from electricity will decline. To cut the remaining emissions, fossil fuel burning appliances must be replaced with all-electric models.

Meanwhile, our Zac Thompson, an associate in our Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Program, has been invited to sit on the California Energy Commission’s Clean Transportation Program Investment Plan Advisory Committee. EBCE is the first electric retail supplier to serve on the 33-member Advisory Committee and represents the CCA community in this capacity. 

The state Clean Transportation Program invests up to $100 million annually in a broad portfolio of transportation projects throughout the state. The program was established by 2007’s AB 118 and extended through 2024. Using funds collected from various vehicle fees, the program supports alternative fueling and charging infrastructure, the adoption of alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles, in-state production of low-carbon renewable fuels, and manufacturing and workforce training.

The Committee held its first meeting on March 18, 2020 to discuss a draft 2020-2023 Investment Plan.  The final plan was scheduled to be released in June, but will likely be delayed due to the COVID pandemic.  

Zac has been focusing his efforts on funding that would address the impacts of transportation and goods movement, which are currently the largest contributor of greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. This includes incentives for electric cars, charging infrastructure, medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles, and e-mobility options, like electric bikes and scooters.

“Alameda County is a hub for shipping goods,” Zac says. “The Port of Oakland is the fifth busiest port in America, moving 2.5 million containers each year. And Oakland Airport moves 1.5 million tons of air freight per year. 

“As a result, we have one of the highest volumes of truck traffic in the state, and all the pollution that entails,” he adds. “Installing charging stations to help electrify those trucks will be a good way to clean up emissions along our freeways and in other impacted areas, like West Oakland.”

Zac assists with EBCE’s transportation electrification, as well as local solar and storage initiatives. Zac previously served as the Zero Emission Vehicles Analyst at San Francisco’s Department of the Environment where he helped lead the development of the City’s EV Ready Community Blueprint, assisted in coordinating a public-private EV Working Group, and succeeded in acquiring grant funding for medium- and heavy-duty EV pilot projects.

Data corner: How the Pandemic has Affected EBCE Load

The shelter in place order made by Bay Area public health agencies on March 16, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has had a profound effect on life in the East Bay.  With all but essential businesses closed, many of the 1.6 million citizens of Alameda County are staying home.

Electricity demand is a reflection of economic and social activity, and EBCE is seeing some notable changes as energy demand follows people from business and schools to home.  

While overall demand is down 5-8% compared to the same time period last year (adjusting for differences in weather), household demand is up by 1%-6% after weather adjustment. 

Across EBCE’s member cities, demand drops have ranged from 13% (17% weather adjusted) in Emeryville to 3% (1% weather adjusted) in Piedmont, compared to last year. 

Of course, these numbers are constantly changing as households and businesses adapt to a changing socio-economic landscape.

Daily load shapes — the rise and fall over the course of a day — are also changing. Weekdays used to see higher demand, and bigger and more pronounced peaks, especially on Mondays.  Now, like for many of us, the difference between weekdays and weekends is shrinking.  

“From an operational perspective, a flatter load shape is better,” says Taj Ait-Laoussine, Vice President of Technology and Data Analytics.  “Smaller peaks means we don’t have to buy as much expensive peak power.” 

Residential load shapes especially are different. Where household demand used to dip during the day, as people went to work, it is now staying up, as people shelter in place. And the morning rise in energy demand is coming later.  “Maybe people are waking up later since they don’t have to commute,” guesses Ait-Laoussine.

The interactive figure below shows weather-adjusted demand for periods before and after the shelter-in-place order.

 

Similar trends are being seen all over the world.  In Italy, demand dropped by 17% after nationwide shelter-in-place orders were instituted; some regions saw declines of as much as 21%. 

The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) released an analysis of statewide load for the weeks following Gov. Newsom’s statewide stay-at-home order on March 20. They found that weekday demand dropped by 4.5%, with reductions in peak demand of up to 7%.  On weekends, average load fell by only 0.5%, with a 3% drop in peak. These reductions were enough to drop the price of energy by $8 in the day-ahead market and $9 in the real-time market.

Even though demand dropped, the sun kept shining and the wind kept blowing, meaning California was getting a higher percentage of its power from solar and wind energy. CAISO’s load was served by over half renewables for 30% of the time between the statewide shelter-in-place order on March 20 and the end of April. It passed 66% on 20 days (mostly in April), and exceeded 75% in 14 different hours.  

Utility-scale solar power alone served over half of CAISO load on 18 occasions, nearly all in the last half of April. (CAISO data does not include distributed solar systems sited on the customer-side of the meter. That is another 1.1 million small solar systems adding up to 9,269 MW, according to the latest CPUC data.)

Renewable generation across all hours was 36.1% in the five weeks after March 20, compared to 26% in the weeks before.

Long term impacts from the pandemic remain to be seen. Counties are starting to lift parts of their shelter-in-place orders as public safety landmarks are met, assuming infection rates continue to decline. Business activity will gradually pick up, increasing demand for electricity and shifting load back to the non-residential sector.  

“Economic activity and energy demand are closely linked,” says Ait-Laoussine.  “But I’m afraid that some businesses may not be coming back, as we head into a potentially severe economic recession.”

Long term impacts from the pandemic remain to be seen. Counties are starting to lift parts of their shelter-in-place orders as public safety landmarks are met, assuming infection rates continue to decline. Business activity will gradually pick up, increasing demand for electricity and shifting load back to the non-residential sector.  

“Economic activity and energy demand are closely linked,” says Ait-Laoussine.  “But I’m afraid that some businesses may not be coming back, as we head into a potentially severe economic recession.”

EBCE Launches $1.5 Million COVID-19 Relief Effort

To do its part to reduce impacts from the global COVID-19 pandemic, EBCE has expanded its commitment to funding local relief efforts, earmarking $1.5 million toward community relief efforts in Alameda County. 

“I directed our management team to identify any possible opportunities in the current budget to repurpose as contributions for COVID-19 relief efforts” said EBCE’s CEO, Nick Chaset. “This is clearly a crisis time for residents and local businesses, and if EBCE has any resources available to help, then by all means that is what we’re going to do, and we’re doing it immediately.”

Some of those efforts include:

  • Community Relief Funding: EBCE will contribute $1,100,000 to the twelve communities we serve to support their community relief efforts. Awards so far have been made to Oakland, Hayward, Berkeley, and the Alameda County relief funds, as well as to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, St. Rose Hospital (Hayward), Alameda County Health System Foundation, and Axis Health (Pleasanton)
  • Corporate Partners Donation Initiative: EBCE spearheaded an initiative soliciting donations from our largest customers, to raise funds for the Alameda County Community Food Bank and Meals-on-Wheels of Alameda County.  EBCE’s board kicked off the corporate campaign with $70,000 in grants, and within two weeks our corporate partners more than doubled that amount.
  • Community Grant Funds: EBCE has allocated over $500,000 in additional funds to use for community grants and has given out two rounds of awards so far.

The round of grants were made on April 30. Twenty-two organizations were each awarded grants of $10,000 to address immediate relief efforts related to assistance in energy or utility bills, food security, rent support, and health and wellness.

Funds to Mandela Partners helped expand their free food distribution in Oakland, sourcing produce directly from family farmers.  Tri-City Health Center in Fremont provides emergency rental assistance and financial support for basic needs for patients who are low-income, suffering from financial hardship, and are facing potential eviction from a missed rental payment.

Other grant recipients include:

Abode Services, Adamika Village, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), Center for Elders’ Independence, Cornerstone Community Development Corporation, Covenant House California, Daily Bowl, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC), East Oakland Grocery Coop, Eden Housing, Eden I&R, First Presbyterian Church of Hayward, Fremont Family Resource Center Corporation, Healthy Black Families, Inc., NorCal Resilience Network, Pacific Center for Human Growth, Street Level Health Project, Sunflower Hill, The Davis Street Community Center, and Tri-Valley Haven for Women (TVH).

The second round of grants was made using funds donated by Clearway Energy Group, developers of a large solar energy project currently being built to supply EBCE.  As part of that contract, Clearway agreed to invest $250,000 in Alameda County, which is now being deployed to meet today’s urgent need for support.

The Clearway funds are being used for $140,000 in grants to Alameda County-based organizations that provide support for energy or utility bills, food security, rent, and health and wellness, and $50,000 towards the purchase of masks and hand sanitizer to be distributed to community members in need and frontline workers.  Another $60,000 has yet to be allocated.

Recipients of $5,000 grants from round two include:

Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Bay Area Community Services (BACS), Centerville Free Dining Room, Centro Legal De la Raza Choices for Freedom, City Slicker Farms, Creating New Hope, Drivers for Survivors, East Bay Agency for Children, East Bay FeedER, Easterseals Northern California, Eden Area Interfaith Council, Healthy Communities, Inc/Healthy Oakland, Hively, Jewish Family and Community Services East Bay,  LifeLong Medical Care, Local Ecology and Agriculture Fremont (LEAF), Mercy Retirement & Care Center’s Mercy Brown Bag Program, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Oakland Communities United for Equity & Justice – Self-Help Hunger Program, Partners for Change Tri-Valley, Prospera Community Development, Re-plate, Inc, Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments, Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County, Spectrum Community Services, St. Mary’s Center, and The Berkeley Food Network.

EBCE has launched a web page to catalog its relief efforts. We encourage readers to visit the page and contribute if you are able.

EBCE Helps Customers Struggling to Pay Bills During Pandemic

Photo of downtown Berkeley by Jerome Paulos.

The coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented disruptions to life in the East Bay, and all over the world.  In addition to threatening public health, it has also created huge economic impacts, as many businesses and other employers have shut down or cut back operations.

For customers who are struggling to pay utility bills in this difficult time, EBCE is helping by suspending collection activities and encouraging customers to sign up for rate discount programs.

As the local community choice energy program, EBCE does not ever shut off power to customers. During normal operations, after providing notices and a grace period to non-paying customers, EBCE eventually returns these customers back to PG&E service. PG&E then has their own protocols for non-paying customers, including, ultimately, disconnecting service.

To help struggling customers, EBCE has suspended the return of non-paying customers to PG&E service and is suspending collections activities through at least May 2020. 

“This is an important time to support our community and put health and safety first,” said EBCE’s CEO, Nick Chaset. “As a critical service provider for our community, EBCE is looking at ways to help those that are impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.”

In addition, EBCE launched an outreach campaign on May 5 to spread the word about how low-income customers can get discounted energy bills. The California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program offers a monthly discount of 35% on electricity and 20% on natural gas. The Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA) program offers a monthly discount of 18% on electricity only. 

Eligibility for the program is based on household income or enrollment in certain public assistance programs, and is open to recently furloughed and laid-off workers. 

EBCE’s campaign includes print and digital advertising, a web page with original content, social media, targeted email, communications through city newsletters, and more. More information is available at ebce.org/care

Moreover, EBCE has pledged $1.5 million in aid to member communities.

EBCE’s own operations have also been affected.  To follow the shelter-in-place orders from the county health department, EBCE has switched to holding public meetings online, including meetings of the Board of Directors. Customers can participate in meetings via online conferencing. Details are provided prior to meetings at https://ebce.org/public-meetings/.

“Our staff continues to fulfill our duties while working from home, our call center is still available during business hours, and we are working to reduce negative impacts for our customers,” Chaset added.

News Clips

A Better Way: The Emergence of Community Choice Aggregation in California

Kroll Bond Rating Agency, March 18, 2020

A new report from the Kroll Bond Rating Agency finds that CCAs offer a “clear and compelling” value proposition for California consumers. Kroll believes that well-run CCAs “can achieve strong investment grade ratings through an asset-light and community-centric business model that provides clean, competitively priced power to residents.”

Local Energy Production Builds Resiliency in the Bay Area — Episode 101 of Local Energy Rules Podcast

Institute for Local Self Reliance, April 8, 2020

EBCE’s Jessie Denver is interviewed on how EBCE is promoting distributed energy resources to prepare communities for disaster — and increase resilience after it hits.

Vistra’s Oakland Battery Will Have Two Customers, Suggesting New Path for Storage Market

Julian Spector, Greentech Media, April 17, 2020

The Oakland Clean Energy Initiative is replacing an old jet-fueled peaking plant with clean batteries. A partnership between PG&E and EBCE has made it financially viable.  “Providing either resource adequacy to EBCE or a non-wires solution to PG&E may not have been bankable, but by contracting with both entities, both problems get solved and the system is fully recognized for its value.”

PG&E proposes lithium-ion battery projects to replace Oakland fossil fuel plant

Kavya Balaraman, Utility Dive, April 16, 2020

The application for the battery systems at Jack London Square was filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The initiative is a first-of-its-kind utility-CCA collaboration.  Howard Chang, chief operating officer at EBCE, said “The ball is really in CPUC’s court to approve those contracts with PG&E.” 

How Bay Area “Community Choice” energy programs are supporting us during COVID-19

Josh Lee, Sierra Club blog, April 27, 2020

The local Sierra Club collected the responses to COVID-19 of local Bay Area Community Choice energy providers — EBCE, MCE, and CleanPowerSF.  “In responding to COVID-19, we need to be working to make a down payment on a regenerative economy, and our local Community Choice energy programs have shown themselves to be leaders in modeling the compassionate future we need to build together.”

Using More Power at Home Means Higher Bills. Here Are Financial Programs That Can Help

Kevin Stark, KQED, May 7, 2020

As customers stay home, their utility bills are rising. And since many are losing their jobs, power providers like EBCE are working to help customers manage their power bills.  “We’re seeing customers delay or be unable to pay their bill,” says EBCE CEO Nick Chaset. “We are just at the beginning. There are some customers who are never going to be able to catch up.”

EBCE Goes Shopping for Clean Energy

Altamont Pass wind (Photo: US Fish and Wildlife Service)

EBCE is getting greener, as it signs contracts for power from new wind, solar, and energy storage projects in California.

In September the EBCE Board approved two contracts for utility-scale solar with storage, totalling 225 MW of solar and 80 MW / 160 MWh of batteries.

The new deals bring the total contracted amount up to 550 MW of clean energy generation — 493 MW of solar and 57.5 MW of wind — plus over 135 MW of energy storage, including the Oakland Clean Energy Initiative, which has contracted for 27.5 MW of distributed storage to replace an peaking plant at Jack London Square.

Another 123 MW of Alameda County wind projects are under discussion, while responses to a joint solicitation for a minimum of 10 MW of distributed storage have come in and are being reviewed.

“We are well on our way to achieving our board’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” says EBCE Senior Director of Power Resources, Marie Fontenot.  “The low prices we are seeing in the market are a good sign.”

Solar + Storage

The two latest deals show the remarkable emergence of solar + storage as a cost-effective option.  Solar has become the cheapest option for California power generation, while batteries have become an easy way to shift afternoon solar generation into the early evening hours while enhancing community resilience.

  • sPower Solar + Storage Project is 125 MW of solar power with 80 MW/160 MWh of battery storage in southern California, developed by Salt Lake City-based sPower.
  • Edwards Solar Project is 100 MW of solar power on Edwards Air Force Base in Kern County, plus a first-of-a-kind “virtual storage” contract that protects EBCE from negative pricing.  Negative prices can happen when the market has too much supply, like in the spring when there is a lot of hydropower from spring runoff combined with solar power on sunny days. Prices go negative to encourage some generators to stop putting their power on the grid.

While exact pricing is confidential, EBCE CEO Nick Chaset announced on Twitter the “astoundingly low” average price of $22 per MWh, with a 2% inflation adjustment over time. According to PV Magazine, this is among the lowest prices for solar yet recorded in the US.  The developers have also agreed to contribute over $1,000,000 towards EBCE’s Community Investment Fund plus additional volunteer and education-related training hours.

Wind

EBCE is also shopping for wind power.  Altamont Pass, in eastern Alameda County, is famous as the site of the first utility-scale wind project in the world, dating back to the 1980s.  

New contracts with EBCE will allow many old turbines in the Altamont Pass to be removed, and replaced with much larger but many fewer turbines.  The EBCE project contract with Altamont Winds will replace 569 small 100 kW turbines with 23 modern turbines. With their tubular towers and slower moving blades, the new turbines will dramatically reduce bird impacts, while producing more electricity.

Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Plus they will produce jobs and energy within EBCE’s service territory.

“Solar and wind energy generated right here in our own backyard will soon be powering Alameda County households and businesses,” said EBCE Board Chair Scott Haggerty, at the signing ceremony.  “That’s cheaper, greener, locally sourced energy, with proceeds that are invested right back into the community through energy improvement projects and jobs.”

Two more Altamont wind projects are under discussion with Clearway Energy Group and the Brookfield Renewable Partners, potentially coming online by the end of 2021.

EBCE’s Clean Energy Pipeline

Developer Technology Nameplate MW Storage MW County Expected Completion Term (years)
Contracted
Altamont Winds Wind 57.5 N/A Alameda 12/1/20 20
Clearway Energy Group Solar 112 N/A Kern 12/31/20 15
Solar Frontier Americas Solar 56 N/A Tulare 12/31/21 15
EDPR Renewables North America Solar + Storage 100 30 Fresno 12/31/22 20
sPower Solar + Storage 125 80 SoCal 12/31/22 20
Terra-Gen Solar + Virtual Storage 100 TBD Kern 12/31/22 15
Evaluating
Clearway Energy Group Wind 43 N/A Alameda 12/31/21 15
Brookfield Renewable Partners Wind 80 N/A Alameda 12/31/21 20
Oakland Clean Energy Initiative
Vistra Energy In front of meter storage and resource adequacy 20 20 Alameda 1/1/22 10
esVolta In front of meter storage and resource adequacy 7 7 Alameda 12/1/21 13
SunRun Behind the meter storage and resource adequacy 0.5 0.5 Alameda 1/1/22 10
TOTAL 701 137.5

Full Disclosure: EBCE is Greener

Photo courtesy of Jerome Paulos.

Because EBCE is publicly-owned and governed, we go the extra mile to be transparent.  This includes mailing cards to our customers featuring our new power content label, disclosing the sources of the electricity we procure on behalf of 550,000 customers in Alameda County.

The label is like the nutrition label found on packaged food.  Just as a nutrition label provides information about the healthiness of the food you eat, the power content label shows whether your power sources are healthy for the planet.

We also track and report our emissions data. EBCE has joined The Climate Registry, a non-profit that tracks greenhouse gas emissions for voluntary programs and legal compliance. 

“It shows we are making good on our promise to customers, to be cheaper and greener,” says Annie Henderson, EBCE’s VP of Marketing and Account Services.  “We are leading on the transition to cleaner energy.”

Our Products

For 2018, Bright Choice, our basic product, was 41 percent renewable (wind, solar, and a little geothermal), 21 percent large hydroelectric, and 38 percent from “unspecified sources.”  

Unspecified means it comes from the regional electricity market, and isn’t traceable to a specific power plant.  But we do know that over 75 percent of EBCE’s unspecified power comes from suppliers in the Pacific Northwest (known as Asset Controlling Suppliers), which is supplied primarily by carbon-free large hydroelectric power from the northwest hydro system.

Unspecified power has the additional benefit of coming through short-term contracts, or spot market purchases.  By not locking in 100 percent of our demand with long-term contracts, we get flexibility in case demand is different than expected, like if customers unexpectedly opt out or the weather is different than forecast.  PG&E’s power mix doesn’t currently contain any unspecified power because it has an excess of generation contracts, due to large numbers of customers moving over to CCAs.

EBCE’s Brilliant 100 product is pegged to be the same price as PG&E’s regular option.  While PG&E’s mix includes a wide variety of fuel sources, including 34 percent from the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant and 15 percent from natural gas in 2018, Brilliant 100 is entirely from wind, solar, and large hydroelectric plants.  That makes it a zero-emission option, producing no greenhouse gases.

(A note about hydroelectric power:  all hydropower is renewable, since it comes from moving water, which is driven by natural forces of evaporation, precipitation, and gravity.  But large hydro dams, like the Shasta dam in northern California, are not counted toward compliance with the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, a legislative mandate that power providers use a growing amount of renewable energy. Only dams less than 30 megawatts count toward the requirement, so are deemed “eligible hydroelectric.”)

On the greenest end of the spectrum are EBCE’s Renewable 100 and PG&E’s SolarChoice products, both drawing entirely from renewable energy. While both are all-renewable, EBCE’s is split between wind power and solar power, while PG&E’s is all solar.

 

Carbon Footprint

Our products are cleaner than PG&E as well.  Bright Choice had a carbon footprint of 100.75 lbs of CO2 per megawatt-hour in 2018, while Brilliant 100 and Renewable 100 are zero-carbon.  

This compares to Pacific Gas & Electric’s rate of 206.29 lbs per MWh, as of 2018.  The California average in 2017 was 474 lbs per MWh and the 2018 national average was 990 lbs.  This makes EBCE’s basic product about 90 percent cleaner than the national average.

It’s easy to calculate your personal carbon emissions.  Just sign in to your PG&E account to look at your bill, find the total electricity consumption per month (in kilowatt-hours), and multiply that by 0.1 lbs.  For example, 300 kWh of Bright Choice would result in about 30 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions. To eliminate those emissions, you can opt up to our other products.

So far, about ten percent of EBCE customers have opted up to greener products — 9 percent to Brilliant 100 and 1.3 percent to Renewable 100.  Most of these have been from city councils choosing the plans as the default option for their city’s customers. EBCE will be running an opt-up campaign in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in April. 

The Piedmont City Council voted earlier this year to enroll all residential and municipal accounts in Renewable 100.  By opting up, they said, “our community will make significant steps towards reaching the greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of our recently-adopted Climate Action Plan 2.0.”  Hayward and Albany have opted for Brilliant 100 for most accounts, both residential and non-residential. 

Residents in those cities, and all EBCE member cities, are still free to change their supply option to whatever they like.

Other EBCE customers have gone green by installing their own solar panels.  As of the end of 2019, there were 29,905 solar customers in our service territory, about five percent of all customers. The top areas are Oakland, Fremont, and Livermore, with at least  4,800 systems each. Total generating capacity is 228 megawatts. Livermore has the most capacity, with over 44 megawatts or about 19 percent of the total, while Oakland has the most systems, with 6,700.

Faces of EBCE: Annie Henderson

In 2007, Annie Henderson was living in San Diego, running a solar water heater pilot program for the Center for Sustainable Energy.  The program was overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), where her manager was a mid-level staffer named Nick Chaset.

Fast forward a decade, and Chaset, now the CEO of the newly-forming East Bay Community Energy, hired Henderson as Vice President of Marketing and Account Services.  

In the interim, Henderson had become a startup specialist, launching new energy finance programs across the country.

Those startup skills are proving valuable as EBCE itself starts up, with new programs and services, and new member cities.

“EBCE is my first foray in the utility world, but the team has lots of experience with utilities and regulators,” she notes.  “I’ve built new things from the ground up. That’s my value add.”

The Startup

Henderson’s interest in clean energy started in college at the University of Pennsylvania, when she spent time in 1999 studying abroad in Kenya.  There she lived in an off-grid site, powered by solar panels, and got excited about appropriate technology. The 9-11 terrorist attacks and subsequent Gulf War underscored the perils of dependence on fossil fuels.

She returned to America to study geology in grad school at UC Santa Cruz.  But while she loved the science of geology, she saw that the main career path for graduates was the oil industry.  “All the recent grads were moving to Houston to work as oil geologists,” she recalls.

Instead she dropped out of grad school to work for a family-run solar startup in San Francisco, before moving on to San Diego. After a few years she came back to the Bay Area to work with Renew Financial, based in Oakland.

Renew was a pioneer in the area of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing.  PACE allows a business or homeowner to finance energy improvements by taking a loan out against the value of the property, and paying it back on their property tax bill.  

The idea is credited to Cisco Devries, the former chief of staff for Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who made Berkeley the first city to offer PACE financing, in 2008.  Devries later formed Renew Financial to take the idea national.

At Renew Financial, Henderson served as Vice President of the residential PACE programs, and started up a host of new initiatives, including two PACE programs in California and one statewide program in Florida. The first, called CaliforniaFIRST, started in 2009 and is now the biggest PACE program in the country.  

As of 2018, PACE had been used to finance $5.6 billion of residential projects and $1.1 billion on commercial buildings across the country.  California is the largest market, with 10 PACE programs.

“I really like to start new things, that’s my comfort zone,” says Henderson.  “I’m used to working in the gray area where things have not been done before.”  

Starting up EBCE

Henderson is bringing the same startup expertise to EBCE.

“CCAs are pretty new, still an evolving market,” she says.  “That’s exciting.”

As VP of Marketing and Account Services, her work is guided by the “three pillars” that are at the heart of EBCE’s philosophy —  a commitment to bringing value to customers, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and reinvesting in the communities. 

“My focus is on the customer experience,” she says. “That means marketing and outreach to communicate with customers, account billing and call center oversight, and public engagement with our city partners.”  

“So the three guiding principles are always informing  our decisions.”

Her newest startup project is extending EBCE service to Newark, Tracy, and Pleasanton. Their applications to join were approved by CPUC on March 5th, with the goal of enrolling customers in 2021.

“Newark and Pleasanton were part of the steering committee for the Joint Powers Agreement before EBCE launched, so have very much been in the loop,” says Henderson. “They saw that we could deliver savings and greenhouse gas reductions, so they were ready to come on board.”  

The three cities will add about 1 terawatt-hour (a billion kilowatt-hours) of electricity demand to the six terawatt-hours used by current customers.  With their addition all of Alameda County will be participating in EBCE, except for the City of Alameda which has a city-owned utility.

“I love the idea of a CCA being very local, you can get your hands around it, and do something with it,” she says.  “It’s nice to help the community.”