New energy provider begins this month in Alameda County

East Bay Times –

(November 13, 2018) A new electrical source is available to power the homes, offices and businesses of Alameda County residents.

East Bay Community Energy, launching this month, promises greener and in some cases less expensive service to about 568,000 Pacific Gas & Electric customers, who are getting automatically enrolled as a result of their local city council or county supervisors joining the program.

East Bay Community Energy is purchasing solar, wind and renewable hydroelectric energy and will partner with PG&E to distribute it.

PG&E will still handle billing and maintain the pipes and wires that distribute the energy, plus the utility will continue responding to requests and emergencies.

Nevertheless, the switch has confused some customers, especially because they must choose which level of service they want from the new provider, despite the automatic changeover.

Adding to the mix is that it’s up to the customer whether to opt out if they want to stay with PG&E.

“I really didn’t understand it when I read about it,” said Shannon Elliott, a house owner in Oakland’s Rockridge district. “It was too confusing, so I basically just dropped it and forgot about it.”

Marc Cryan, 25, of Berkeley, said he knew nothing about the change because the utilities in his apartment are in his roommate’s name.

“But if it’s good for the environment, then I support it,” Cryan said.

Alameda County residents can choose one of three levels under East Bay Community Energy: “Bright Choice,” which is 38 percent renewable and 47 percent carbon free; “Brilliant 100,” which is 40 percent renewable and 60 percent carbon free; and “Renewable 100,” which is 100 percent renewable and carbon-free energy.

Bright Choice rates will be 1.5 percent lower than at PG&E, according to East Bay Community Energy. Brilliant 100 will be offered at the same price as PG&E. People who choose Renewable 100, however, can expect to pay about $4 more each month.

The switch for residential customers in Albany, Berkeley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Piedmont, Oakland, San Leandro, Union City and unincorporated areas of Alameda County is happening this month. Businesses were automatically enrolled in June.

“Residents of Alameda County and our 11 partner cities can now power their homes with cleaner energy,” Nick Chaset, East Bay Community Energy’s chief executive officer, said in a release. “We are committed to building a sustainable East Bay for years to come.”

Newark and Pleasanton have not joined East Bay Community Energy. Alameda is not taking part since it has its own municipal utility.

A joint powers authority, East Bay Community Energy was formed in 2016 and is governed by a board made up of one elected official from each participating jurisdiction and one non-voting representative from a community advisory committee.

The board, which meets once a month in public session, sets rates and determines the mix of power sources.

The nonprofit’s creation followed state lawmakers passing legislation in 2002 for community choice aggregation, which allows municipal governments to decide which power providers to contract with on behalf of ratepayers — a flexibility that has become an attractive way among some to counter climate change.

Along with East Bay Community Energy, others community choice agencies that have started over the past few years include Marin Clean Energy, Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy, as well San Jose Clean Energy and South Bay Clean Power.

Twenty such agencies are projected to be operating in California by 2020.

All customers who do not opt out and do not choose a level of service will be enrolled in Bright Choice by default, except for Hayward and Albany. In those cities, unless customers choose a different option among service levels, they will be enrolled in the more expensive Brilliant 100 as a default. In Piedmont, the default is Renewable 100, the most expensive choice.

That is as a result of what elected officials in those cities felt would mostly closely align with their climate action plans, said Annie Henderson, an East Bay Community Energy spokeswoman.

So far, just 7,352 out of 568,916 eligible PG&E accounts have opted out, according to a background report for East Bay Community Energy’s Nov. 7 board meeting. Most are customers in Livermore and Oakland.

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, the chair of East Bay Community Energy’s board, said some residents have told him the program should have asked people if they wished to opt in, rather than opt out.

The enrollment structure was required under state law, he said.

“I am very proud of the collaboration between all the cities that joined us, organized labor and the advocates for clean energy; together we have developed the best (community choice aggregation) in the state,” Haggerty said in an email.

East Bay Community Energy will be doing community outreach over the next few weeks, including 6-7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the San Lorenzo Library, 395 Paseo Grande; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 17 at the downtown Berkeley Farmers Market, Center Street at Martin Luther King Jr. Way; and 6:30-8 p.m. Nov. 29 at Hayward City Hall, 777 B St.

California regulators prod utilities to start drafting roadmap to 100% clean energy

California’s 44 electricity providers are updating their formal plans to meet the state’s new 60% renewables by 2030 mandate and its 100% clean energy by 2045 goal.

Investor-owned utility (IOU) regulatory filings say they have adequate renewables to meet the 2030 requirement and will begin procuring again after that. Customer choice aggregator (CCA) filings say they will procure adequate renewables to meet the 2030 mandate, though they do not specify how or when. And electric service providers (ESPs) say they don’t do long-term procurements.

The sum of the new renewables procurements from California’s 44 load serving entities (LSEs) do not add up to what will be needed to meet the ambitious Senate Bill 100 mandate and goal. Yet their filings reflect confidence that the state will meet its demanding ambitions and the LSEs will meet their obligations. Regulators and policymakers are not so sure.

Thanks to the IOUs’ existing long-term renewables contracts, the state is on track to meet its 2030 goal, CPUC Energy Division Director Edward Randolph recently told Utility Dive. But it is “premature for the CPUC to speculate” on the CCAs meeting 2020 and 2030 targets.

A few CCA long-term renewables procurements, a tiny portion of the state’s demand, are essentially the only new ones from California LSEs in the last two years. This is a hesitant changing of the guard in procurement that raises big questions about achieving the state’s goals. The questions were not answered by responses to the California Public Utility Commission’s Sept. 19 order to LSEs to update their renewable portfolio standard (RPS) plans.

Questions emerge

The news was good on the state’s then 50% by 2030 renewables portfolio standard (RPS) in the November 2017 annual report from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The IOUs said they would meet the 2030 RPS requirement of 50% by 2020, and CCAs and ESPs said they would meet or exceed 2020’s 33% RPS requirement.

But the report only covered procurements of the five longest-standing of the nine CCAs at that time. As California’s customer choice movement accelerates, the new groups join the list of those not on track to meet RPS obligations.

“Ten CCAs just launched this year,” California Customer Choice Association(CalCCA) Executive Director Beth Vaughan told Utility Dive. They are too new to enter into long-term contracts, but there are “almost 10,000 MWs of new renewable construction” planned by 2030, and “there is no indication the CCAs will not meet their RPS obligations,” she noted.

Other stakeholders say the big concern is the RPS requirement that LSEs have 65% of their power under long-term contracts by the end of 2021.

“Their filings show they need 6,700 MWs of new renewables online by 2022,” Large Scale Solar Association Executive Director Shannon Eddy told Utility Dive. “That is an amazing amount of power, considering their limitations and capabilities.”

The newer CCAs “will need to really scale up to meet the 65% obligation,”American Wind Energy Association California Caucus Director Danielle Mills told Utility Dive. “But credit and buying power limitations could make that challenging. We want the commission to pay attention to that issue.”

Stakeholder concerns with ESPs are different. SB 327, passed in the most recent legislative session, expanded the 13% limit on ESPs’ share of California’s commercial-industrial load to 16%. Yet ESPs “do not provide long-term forecasts on their renewable procurement,” the CPUC reported.

ESP plans “do address the RPS long-term contracting requirement,” according to the RPS docket filing by the Alliance for Retail Energy Markets. Its member ESPs will “enter into additional long-term contracts to meet the RPS requirement,” it wrote.

But its members’ customer commitments “rarely exceed 36-months,” making longer-term contracts “unrealistic” and “uneconomical” for those providers, the filing acknowledged.

However, “a 16% market is not inconsequential, and ESPs have near zero MWs of renewables contracted for after 2020. That appetite can help meet California’s long-term goals,” Matthew Freedman, staff attorney for consumer advocacy group The Utility Reform Network (TURN), told Utility Dive.

These questions are important, but the CPUC’s order was for a routine RPS update that is unlikely to provide big answers, Vote Solar Grid IntegrationSenior Director Ed Smelof told Utility Dive. “The real question is how RPS compliance fits together with the statewide strategy.”

That strategy will be determined in the state’s integrated resource planning (IRP) proceedings. California’s three dominant IOUs, Southern California Edison (SCE), Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), are also thinking about how the RPS and IRP proceedings fit together.

But they are more immediately interested in the CPUC’s October 11 rulingon the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA),

The MWs are still similar but the percentages are higher because customers have departed

IOUs, the PCIA and the clean net short

In the PCIA ruling, the commission chose a new method to calculate the charge added to the bills of customers who move to CCAs. It compensates IOUs for the cost of generation they procured to serve those departing customers.

The method favors IOUs because it increases the charge, making CCAs unable to fulfill their commitments of customer rates lower than those of the IOUs. The higher rates will “stifle” CCAs ability to compete, Vaughan said. It is a “devastating blow to the flourishing CCA movement” and “could deter further market entry by CCAs.”

The decision will increase bills of CCA customers in PG&E territory by 1.68% this year, those in SCE territory by 2.50%., and those in SDG&E territory by 5.24%, according to the CPUC. And rate increases for customers departing their IOUs to CCAs are offset by rate decreases for customers remaining with their IOUs.

The PCIA ruling will affect whether customers return to the IOUs and necessitate new procurement, SCE VP for Energy Procurement and Management Colin Cushnie told Utility Dive. In the near term, the challenge will be identifying what the load will be for each LSE.

“Our current portfolio and commitments will meet the 2030 RPS requirement, based on indications of what load the CCAs in our territory plan to meet, Cushnie said. “If the PCIA changes enough to drive customers back to us, that may change.”

PG&E and SDG&E agree. The renewables sector see this uncertainty, and the resulting small amount of new procurement being done by the CCAs, as a missed opportunity.

Right now, wind’s federal tax credit, which is already phasing down and will be fully phased out by the early 2020s, “makes it the cheapest clean resource available,” American Wind Energy Association California Caucus Director Mills said. “We don’t want LSEs to think 10 years ahead and miss the opportunity right in front of us.”

Near-term procurement is also needed so the commission can begin planning the transmission that will be needed, she added. “That planning cannot begin without committed LSE procurements.”

SCE “will presumably procure for the post-2030 period,” but to use the tax credits, resources would need to be in operation before they are needed, Cushnie said. “The curtailment would cost customers too much.”

In its next IRP filing, SCE will address 2045 planning, he added. “That could be transmission upgrades and energy storage procurements, but SCE will not be proposing more procurement.”

To meet the 2045 zero carbon goals, the IOUs want to link CPUC work with work being done by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), by using a clean net short (CNS) requirement, Cushnie added.

The CNS concept “is a metric now being used by CARB to help guide what new clean resources should be developed on the system to carry load and meet policy objectives,” Cushnie said.

As described in the PG&E IRP filing, the CNS compares a resource’s generation profile with the procuring LSE’s load shape. It could discourage the over-reliance on resources like solar that lead to over-generation, Cushnie said.

The CNS concept can be adapted for the IRP and for other proceedings, TURN’s Freedman agreed. It is also “a far more accurate method” of addressing the “more complicated” question of greenhouse gas emissions in LSE resource portfolios.

CCAs do have long-term contracts
Credit: From a CalCCA IRP filing (used with permission)

CCAs, ESPs and a procurer

CalCCA had no comment on the CNS concept, but is satisfied the CPUC is effectively coordinating the IRP and RPS proceedings, Vaughan said. An October 29 public stakeholder event will further identify “how the proceedings fit together and what the inter-relationships are.”

CalCCA supported SB 100 and its member CCAs have filed RPS compliance plans that show they will meet their obligations, Vaughan said. The filings forecast 44% of retail sales will be RPS compliant in 2020, 32% will be under long-term contracts in 2021, and 61% will be RPS compliant by 2030.

That is rapid movement, she added. “Two years ago, there were only five CCAs. Now there are 19 and they need time to get up and running.”

At the end of 2017, the nine CCAs serving load “had 1,100 MW of new renewables in long term agreements,” Vaughan said. “At the end of October 2018, that will be over 2,200 MW in 56 contracts, almost all for ten years or longer.”

Marin Clean Energy, the oldest CCA, has the only CCA credit rating. It has 803 MW of new renewables in contracts of 12 years or longer, according to CalCCA’s “Beyond Supplier Diversity” report. Filings in the RPS docket show the other established CCAs similarly moving ahead. But many of the newer CCAs’ filings offer assurance of compliance but little to no specificity.

This lack of specifics is concerning when the CPUC projects the 2030 goal will require 11,000 MW of new renewables, Vote Solar’s Smelof said.

It is not evident CCAs need help with procurement, Vaughan insisted. “Under the law, CCAs have the right and obligation to self-procure,” she said. “Communities form CCAs to be in charge of their own procurement.”

Many stakeholders understand CCAs’ challenges, TURN’s Freedman said. “The question is what they will do to meet their 65% long-term contracts by 2022 RPS obligation.”

The PCIA proceeding’s next phase may offer ways CCAs can cost-effectively assume IOU renewables contracts, “and they may build new projects, which is SB 100’s real goal,” Freedman said.  “But we may need outside-the-box strategies that identify and overcome barriers to procurement.”

TURN wants the commission to use a neglected provision in the RPS code that authorizes “a procurement entity” to contract for renewables to meet RPS obligations. If reviewed and approved by the Commission, the costs of the procurements could be recovered through rates, Freedman said. “And the commitments would be transferable if ESP or CCA customers move to other providers.”

If the CPUC develops the structure and the specifics, ESPs and CCAs without adequate credit or commitment capabilities could use the entity to secure long-term contracts, Freedman said.

Other options are unlikely to be workable. Neither the IOUs nor the CCAs would approve having IOUs procure on CCAs’ behalf, and a statewide central procurer is too politically controversial, he said. “Given the urgency of the RPS 65% obligation, the commission should make every effort to turn the code’s provision for a procurement entity into a reality before 2021.”

There is a greater urgency, Large Scale Solar Association’s Eddy added. “In the United Nation’s report on climate change, the scientists wrote that avoiding the severest changes will require ‘a staggering transformation the likes of which we have never seen,'” she said. “SB 100 is an important step, but we need to be thinking about what is next.”

Alameda County residents can leave PG&E for another power company next month

 – In Alameda County, people who want to leave Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) monopoly will soon have the chance. The City of Alameda has had its own power company for many years. Soon, the rest of the county will have an alternative.

Come November 1, Alameda County will have an alternative electricity supplier, EBCE, East Bay Community Energy, a government agency not unlike water supplier East Bay MUD.

Residents have already received mailers on the coming change, but many likely threw them away as junk mail or did not understand its meaning. “That’s the impression I got was that it was affiliated with PG&E. So, how can it really be better?” said Janet an Oakland PG&E customer.

At Oakland’s Friday Farmers Market, we told PG&E customers that they can stay with PG&E or drop PG&E. “As long as there’s an alternative to what we’re getting now, that’s an absolutely good idea,” said Terrell, another Oakland PG&E customer.

Under state law, PG&E customers will automatically become EBCE customers if they do not take the initiative to opt out of EBCE. “Actually the option is important, partly because people don’t pay attention,” said Sandra Coleman, another Oakland PG&E customer.

East Bay Community Energy does have the legal right to charge each person who opts out $5 for the privilege of doing so. But the agency has decided to waive that fee entirely until at least the middle of next year.

“They can go online and do it online, they can call our call center and speak with a call center operator or use the automated call in system to opt out,” said East Bay Community Energy CEO Nick Chaset.

EBCE says it will sell you power for 1.5% less that PG&E charges. “As a public agency, we operate, at a lower rate of overhead than you would see form an investor owned utility,” said Chaset. “Cheaper is always better because the energy prices are already skyrocketing,” said CEO Chaset.

Many PG&E customers still have a bad taste in their mouths from the rate payer share of wildfire costs.

“I don’t think PG&E has that much good credibility anyway,” said Oakland PG&E customer Sandra Coleman.

Ironically, a lot of EBCE’s green power, solar and wind, will be purchased at wholesale rates from PG&E.
EBCE will also buy power from green suppliers such as British Columbia Hydroelectric as well as setting up some of its own green energy.

As more renewable sources come online, we’ll need fewer and fewer fossil fuel, greenhouse gas producing power plants.

EBCE hosting webinar training for “Friends of EBCE”

Want to help get the word out about this new program that gives you, your friends, and your neighbors more choice about where our energy comes from?

Join a training for Friends of EBCE, a new volunteer program for interested local residents who want to help with outreach and education about EBCE.

Trainings will be held via webinar on the following days and times:
<li>Monday, August 6, 2018 – 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm, and </li>
<li>Tuesday, August 7, 2018 – 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm.</li>

Registration is required. Please visit the link below to select a date and register to attend a training.

<a href=”https://register.gotowebinar.com/rt/5977631696198984961″ rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>https://register.gotowebinar.com/rt/5977631696198984961</a>

Thanks for your help in spreading the word about EBCE!

East Bay Community Energy Wants to Power the Community

EBCE CEO Nick Chaset said community involvement was central to the creation of the local development business plan.

By the end of this year, most homes and businesses in Alameda County will be buying electricity, not from PG&E, but from the newly formed East Bay Community Energy (EBCE). This public “community choice aggregation” program, like those now operating in other Bay Area counties, was created to provide electricity at lower cost and with fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than the traditional investor-owned utility. (EBCE will buy electricity from suppliers and sell it to customers, while PG&E will continue to own the wires — “the grid” — and handle billing, as well as problems like outages.)

But EBCE is a new kind of community choice program, according to the unprecedented coalition of labor and community organizers whose years of advocacy helped to shape it. “The centerpiece of what makes EBCE different is the ability of the community to benefit from the development of renewable energy,” explained Al Weinrub, executive director of the nonprofit Local Clean Energy Alliance.

Last month, EBCE released a plan for making that happen. The draft “local development business plan” details strategies for creating local jobs, providing pathways to good jobs for disadvantaged workers, providing the benefits of clean energy to people at all income levels, and reducing pollution in communities where it’s worst.

Initially, EBCE will not have the capital for big investments. But it can immediately start working toward those goals by using its power as a purchaser of electricity. For example, EBCE proposes to pay higher rates for locally produced electricity and to give preference to union contractors, especially those with links to training programs for disadvantaged workers. It might also serve as a “developer” to help customers join together to create large solar-energy projects, thereby lowering installation costs through economies of scale.

The East Bay Clean Power Alliance, a coalition of community organizations that has been leading the campaign for local development, says the draft plan includes a lot of great ideas, but faults it for failing to set priorities or standards for evaluating programs. And Dave Thoni, former president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595, said, “significantly more needs to happen” to create jobs for local workers.

One of EBCE’s first projects will be helping cities put together big contracts to install rooftop solar panels on many municipal buildings. The same model could be used to combine residential rooftop solar projects in a neighborhood. EBCE will help by organizing these collaborative projects, streamlining permitting and administrative costs, and creating a revolving loan fund. In addition to lowering costs, the goal is to make projects large enough to be done with a union contract, so solar installers can earn more than many currently do. This creates the potential to overcome the chronic conflict between environmental groups and unions about local solar energy. In the past, some unions have opposed plans for rooftop solar because the workers who install the panels are often poorly paid.

Because community involvement was central to the development of the plan, said EBCE CEO Nick Chaset, it reflects community priorities such as “equitable access to things like rooftop solar.” Electricity companies now pay a standard rate to customers with solar panels for extra electricity they sell back to the system. The plan calls for giving low-income customers a higher rate — an “adder” — for the electricity they sell, to make up for some of the cost of installing solar panels.

The plan also calls for a pilot program of “community shared solar” in order to “bring the benefits of solar to people who aren’t homeowners or couldn’t afford to do solar on their own,” said Megan O’Neil of the East Bay Shared Solar Collaborative. Those households will be able to join a project to build solar panels on a central location in the community — say, the roof of a church or public building — and then share the savings.

And the plan calls for a Community Investment Fund to provide grants for innovative energy projects by community groups.

EBCE is already starting to enroll commercial customers. Residential customers will come online in November, unless they “opt out” to stay with PG&E. Bills will immediately go down, unless the customer chooses to pay more for electricity that’s even greener.

For most customers, EBCE’s default rate is set at 1.5 percent below PG&E’s rate, and will include more electricity from renewable sources. Or customers can decide to keep paying the same rate as PG&E so they can get electricity that’s 100 percent “carbon-free.” However, that includes power from large hydroelectric projects, which the state does not count as renewable because of the environmental destruction and greenhouse-gas impact of building and operating big dams. So, after a push by environmental groups, EBCE added a third, higher-priced choice that’s all from “renewable” sources such as wind and solar.

In any case, the initial savings on electric bills will be modest, said Barbara Stebbins, a volunteer with the Local Clean Energy Alliance. Larger savings will come to those who take advantage of EBCE’s programs to help retrofit buildings to be more energy-efficient.

In addition, EBCE plans to lower the cost of electricity for the whole community by tackling the problem of peak demand. Electricity use varies a lot by time of day and time of year. Solar panels produce energy during the day, while more electricity is used in the evening. All these timing problems mean electricity providers end up meeting peak demand by buying electricity on the short-term market, when it’s most expensive and carbon-intensive.

The EBCE plan includes several strategies for solving this problem: Customers with solar panels who install batteries will also get an “adder” on the rate they receive for selling electricity back to the system. They also may be able to gradually pay off the cost of the battery as a small extra charge on their property tax or electricity bill. Customers who install batteries won’t have to draw extra electricity from the system at night or when they turn up their air conditioner.

Beyond that, EBCE is looking to develop a “virtual power plant”: Customers will get financial incentives to use less electricity during times of high demand, and to allow the system to draw electricity from their batteries when it needs additional power.

Despite the shared excitement about these innovative strategies, some renewable energy advocates say EBCE isn’t doing enough to promote local solar- and wind-energy projects. Thoni of the IBEW pointed out that the agency’s proposed 2018-19 budget allocates just $2 million for local development and includes no specifics about which projects the money will fund.

EBCE’s first request for bids from electricity producers demonstrates how it’s using its purchasing power to promote community priorities: It says EBCE will give preference to suppliers that develop new renewable energy capacity, have union contracts, hire Alameda County residents, and work with job-training programs for disadvantaged workers. But Thoni pointed out that the request for bids includes a goal of developing just 20 megawatts of renewable energy generation capacity in Alameda County, which would supply less than 1 percent of the amount of electricity needed.

Chaset struck a cautious note in discussing local energy generation. “We expect to be able to buy large-scale solar [from elsewhere] in California for very, very competitive rates,” he said. “We can have more impact if we use large cheap solar than expensive rooftop solar.”

Thoni responded that consolidating rooftop solar into large local projects can provide economies of scale that bring down the cost to be comparable with utility-scale solar, as has been done in Germany. And when Alameda County buys electricity from corporations with huge solar arrays in the desert, many of them fossil fuel companies like Mobil and Exxon, “every penny goes out of the county,” he said. EBCE’s mandate is not just to develop local jobs, but to further what Thoni says his union is already doing — providing pathways to good jobs for disadvantaged workers.

In its comment on the local development plan, the East Bay Clean Power Alliance praised many parts of the proposal but pointed to some “important enhancements needed.” It says the plan’s list of key strategies should highlight those aimed at “increasing equity and … social justice.” These include “adders” (higher rates paid for electricity) to promote community benefits, partnership with customers (like the “virtual power plant” deals), and measures to protect the most vulnerable communities.

In addition, the coalition calls for quantifiable standards for measuring the success of the plan, such as local hires, projects in disadvantaged communities, project ownership by low-income people, hires from communities of color, and progressive electricity rate structures.

The coalition that pushed for the local development plan — including the Local Clean Energy Alliance, the Sierra Club, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the California Nurses Association, and others — intends to continue the advocacy that has helped shape EBCE.

Utility companies, meanwhile, are not sitting idly by while solar panels and community choice systems take away their customers. They’ve proposed a stream of legislation and regulations that would hamper the development of community choice programs. Other proposals seek to limit or eliminate payments to customers with solar panels for selling extra energy back to the system.

A state law bars utility companies from lobbying against community choice, but the IBEW local that represents PG&E workers has served as a stand-in for the company. And the utilities have recently asked the California Public Utilities Commission to lift that ban. Recently, the CPUC adopted a rule that forces new community choice agencies to wait longer before coming online, making it trickier to finance new programs.

But meanwhile, said Chaset, community choice programs like EBCE are starting to provide “an opportunity for customers and communities to have a say in how much their energy costs and where it comes from.”

The EBCE board is taking comments on the local development business plan and is expected to vote on it at its July 18 meeting.

Greener energy coming to 11 Alameda County cities

HAYWARD — East Bay Community Energy this month officially became the electricity provider for unincorporated Alameda County and 11 of its cities —  Albany, Berkeley, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Oakland, Piedmont, San Leandro and Union City.

The public agency supplier purchases solar, wind and renewable hydroelectric energy and partners with PG&E to distribute it, as well as for billing and customer service.

Businesses within the supplier’s service area will be automatically enrolled to receive energy this month, and residential customers will be enrolled in November.

East Bay Community Energy has a board and community advisory committee and its meetings are open to the public.

“Hayward is proud to be a member of EBCE and is leading the way when it comes to clean, renewable energy,” Hayward City Councilman Al Mendall, the city’s representative on its board of directors, said in a release. “EBCE will play a significant role in helping Hayward meet the goals of our Climate Action Plan.”

Community choice to determine California’s energy future

Several wind turbines, part of the Shiloh Wind Plant, in the delta area outside Rio Vista, Calif., on Wednesday, September 21, 2016. The region has hundreds of wind turbines that generate power for the state. Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

When the California Public Utilities Commission issued its May 3 white paper on change in California’s electricity system and customer choice, it sounded an alarm of impending doom due to diversification coming from both local communities and technologies. Don’t be fooled by this false alarm.

Good things are happening in California’s electricity markets. Community choice aggregators are now providing electric generation service to millions of Californians. CCAs are public agencies that contract for cleaner, low-cost electric supply delivered to you by utilities such as PG&E.

The CPUC report asks important questions about the future of California’s electricity system, but it misses the mark through its lack of understanding of how CCAs are governed, whom they serve and what they procure. CCAs are a critical part of the solution for California’s challenges.

Renewable energy: CCAs across California are leading the charge to deliver ever higher quantities of renewable energy. In fact, since their formation in 2007, CCAs have gained the ability to power 300,000 homes with 100 percent renewable energy. Peninsula Clean Energy has a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. Marin Clean Energy, which serves Marin, Napa and Contra Costa counties and Benicia in Solano County, already serves its customers with more than 55 percent renewable energy.

Disadvantaged communities: By the end of 2018, CCAs will be operating in 18 counties, from Humboldt to Alameda, San Benito to Riverside. More than 22 percent of their customers receive special discounted rates designed for lower-income households. A study by East Bay Community Energy found that CCAs also serve high-poverty communities at the same rate as the investor-owned utilities — just over 19 percent each.

Governance: Every operating CCA in California is governed by a board of local elected officials. These mayors, council members and supervisors are directly elected by residents and actively govern a whole range of critical infrastructure, from water systems to mass transportation. Many have set stringent climate-action goals within their jurisdictions that far exceed the state’s goals. CCA boards have oversight over all facets of operations, from reviewing and setting rates to approving procurement. The local governance model helps to ensure that our procurement, rates and programs are designed to meet the specific demands of each community, instead of relying on the one-size-fits-all approach of the investor-owned utility model set by the commission.

Additionally, all CCAs must submit plans to the commission to ensure that they meet reliability and emissions reductions goals for all of California. In addition to the local boards, the California Energy Commission, the California Independent System Operator and the Legislature each have oversight responsibilities.

I appreciate the California Public Utilities Commission’s concern around rapid change in the electricity sector, but through my experience and from the track record of CCAs in California, community choice is the solution. Consumers deserve more choice through innovative community programs, renewable options and local control. They shouldn’t be forced into an antiquated monopoly structure pushed by the investor-owned utilities’ self-interest.

Nick Chaset was chief of staff to California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker until last August, when he became the CEO of East Bay Community Energy, a community choice aggregator.

 

East Bay Community Energy to replace PG&E as Berkeley’s main electricity provider

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín announced Monday that East Bay Community Energy, or EBCE, will replace PG&E in June as the main power provider for Berkeley in an attempt to move toward greener energy.

The replacement will occur in 11 cities in Alameda County and in its unincorporated regions. PG&E will still maintain the power grid, respond to power outages and handle customer service and billing. EBCE, however, will be responsible for purchasing electricity from greener sources.

“It’s exciting to see this important initiative launch,” said Andy Katz, a member of the board of directors of the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Berkeley City Council approved Berkeley’s membership in EBCE in November 2016. The program was officially established in December 2016 by a joint powers agreement between Alameda County and 11 of its cities. It utilizes an energy model known as Community Choice Energy, or CCE, which “pools the electric load” of customers within a certain region to buy alternative power sources, which are often cleaner and cheaper.

EBCE will provide two electricity services to its customers — a standard option called Bright Choice and an optional, 100 percent carbon-free option called Brilliant 100. All Berkeley residents will automatically be enrolled in Bright Choice in November, according to the Office of Energy & Sustainable Development’s website. Customers will have the option to “opt up” to Brilliant 100 or to opt out of the program completely and continue buying power from PG&E.

The Bright Choice plan is 38 percent renewable and 85 percent carbon-free, compared to PG&E’s 2017 power mix, which was 33 percent renewable and 79 percent carbon-free. The Bright Choice option will cost customers 1.5 percent less than PG&E rates, while Brilliant 100 is offered at current PG&E rates, according to Annie Henderson, EBCE’s vice president of marketing and account services.

“The goals of EBCE are to deliver power that is greener than PG&E at a lower cost,” Henderson said.

Henderson attributed EBCE’s cheaper rates to a number of factors, including a competitive bid solicitation process from private companies, lower administrative costs and the organization’s nonprofit status, which allows it to reinvest its net revenue into the community.

“When we say reinvestment in the community, it can mean a number of things,” Henderson said. “It can mean we fund specific rebate and incentive programs, like solar and storage. But the revenues can also be used for a rate stabilization fund and things of that nature, where we’re putting money aside that hedges any cost increases due to market changes.”

Igor Tregub, chair-elect of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, said he supports the CCE program because he believes that “it is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions … and to create new clean energy jobs.”

Henderson acknowledged that a California law known as SB 350 mandates that all electricity must be 50 percent renewable by 2030, which means PG&E will eventually reach this goal.

“EBCE hopes to get there faster,” Henderson said. “And we want to do that by developing local renewables, which is not a mandate that PG&E has.”

Berkeley to get a little greener with new alternative to PG&E

BerkeleySide —

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín announced Monday that East Bay Community Energy, or EBCE, will replace PG&E in June as the main power provider for Berkeley in an attempt to move toward greener energy.

The replacement will occur in 11 cities in Alameda County and in its unincorporated regions. PG&E will still maintain the power grid, respond to power outages and handle customer service and billing. EBCE, however, will be responsible for purchasing electricity from greener sources.

“It’s exciting to see this important initiative launch,” said Andy Katz, a member of the board of directors of the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Berkeley City Council approved Berkeley’s membership in EBCE in November 2016. The program was officially established in December 2016 by a joint powers agreement between Alameda County and 11 of its cities. It utilizes an energy model known as Community Choice Energy, or CCE, which “pools the electric load” of customers within a certain region to buy alternative power sources, which are often cleaner and cheaper.

EBCE will provide two electricity services to its customers — a standard option called Bright Choice and an optional, 100 percent carbon-free option called Brilliant 100. All Berkeley residents will automatically be enrolled in Bright Choice in November, according to the Office of Energy & Sustainable Development’s website. Customers will have the option to “opt up” to Brilliant 100 or to opt out of the program completely and continue buying power from PG&E.

The Bright Choice plan is 38 percent renewable and 85 percent carbon-free, compared to PG&E’s 2017 power mix, which was 33 percent renewable and 79 percent carbon-free. The Bright Choice option will cost customers 1.5 percent less than PG&E rates, while Brilliant 100 is offered at current PG&E rates, according to Annie Henderson, EBCE’s vice president of marketing and account services.

“The goals of EBCE are to deliver power that is greener than PG&E at a lower cost,” Henderson said.

Henderson attributed EBCE’s cheaper rates to a number of factors, including a competitive bid solicitation process from private companies, lower administrative costs and the organization’s nonprofit status, which allows it to reinvest its net revenue into the community.

“When we say reinvestment in the community, it can mean a number of things,” Henderson said. “It can mean we fund specific rebate and incentive programs, like solar and storage. But the revenues can also be used for a rate stabilization fund and things of that nature, where we’re putting money aside that hedges any cost increases due to market changes.”

Igor Tregub, chair-elect of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, said he supports the CCE program because he believes that “it is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions … and to create new clean energy jobs.”

Henderson acknowledged that a California law known as SB 350 mandates that all electricity must be 50 percent renewable by 2030, which means PG&E will eventually reach this goal.

“EBCE hopes to get there faster,” Henderson said. “And we want to do that by developing local renewables, which is not a mandate that PG&E has.”

California Currents

<h3>Dive Brief:</h3>
<ul>
<li>The California ISO has <a href=”https://www.pge.com/en/about/newsroom/newsdetails/index.page?title=20180323_caiso_approves_pge_oakland_clean_energy_initiative” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>approved</a> Pacific Gas and Electric’s plan to utilize clean energy resources to allow an older jet fuel generator on its system to retire.</li>
<li>The utility says its <a href=”https://www.utilitydive.com/news/pge-proposes-clean-energy-alternative-to-new-fossil-fuel-plant-transmissi/512603/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Oakland Clean Energy Initiative (OCEI)</a> will be the first time that local clean-energy resources were “proactively deployed as an alternative to fossil-fuel generation” for transmission reliability in PG&amp;E’s service area.</li>
<li>Dynegy owns the Oakland generator, which has a reliability-must-run (RMR) contract with the California grid operator to address peak demand. Retiring the plant would have an impact on reliability, but PG&amp;E’s plan aims to offset that.</li>
</ul>
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<h3>Dive Insight:</h3>
Rather than replacing the facility with a new fossil-fuel generator, PG&amp;E has gotten approval to turn to local clean energy. OCEI resources could include energy storage, energy efficiency and electric-system upgrades to ensure transmission grid reliability in Oakland. PG&amp;E says it will open a request-for-offers process this spring, and depending on the exact resource mix, expects the solicitation is expected to result in 20 MW to 45 MW of clean energy resources.

Following CAISO’s approval, PG&amp;E said it will now begin to upgrade existing substations and develop new clean-energy resources in Oakland. And, the utility said it will continue to collaborate with community choice aggregator East Bay Community Energy “to determine and meet the clean-energy and reliability needs of local customers.”

PG&amp;E officials say they invited stakeholders to weigh in, and as a result, the OCEI has support on the ground.

Parties who discussed the initiative with PG&amp;E included the city of Oakland, a local union, the Port of Oakland, environmental groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and others.

PG&amp;E intends to seek cost recovery for the battery storage with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and for other distributed energy resources with the California Public Utilities Commission. A filing with state regulators will come before the end of the year. The project is expected online in the middle of 2022.