Frequently Asked Questions

EBCE is the new, greener choice for the electricity that powers our homes and businesses. Choosing a local power provider that places a high priority on renewable, carbon-free energy is an easy, economical way to reduce your home or business carbon footprint and help create a healthier environment. Do you have questions about EBCE? Check out our FAQs below or contact us.

 

General

How does EBCE work?
East Bay Community Energy purchases power with higher renewable and lower greenhouse gas (GHG) content than is offered by PG&E. Other than receiving cleaner electricity at competitive prices, all other aspects of your electricity service remain the same. PG&E continues to deliver the electricity, maintain the power lines, handle billing, and respond to new service requests and emergencies. If you want to stay with PG&E for your electricity, you can opt out of East Bay Community Energy.
When and where is EBCE service available?
EBCE will start providing service to most municipal and commercial accounts in June 2018. Residential customers will also be invited to sign up as early adopters during this period to begin receiving cleaner electricity ahead of their scheduled launch in November 2018. The space for early adopters is limited.
Does EBCE fully replace PG&E?
No. EBCE procures cleaner electricity for our customers, and PG&E delivers that electricity to your home or business. PG&E also continues to handle the billing, turn on and off power when you move, maintain the power lines, and resolve outages. Those who prefer to have PG&E continue to buy their electricity can choose that option.
So when the power goes out, PG&E will fix it?
Yes, absolutely. PG&E crews in their distinctive blue trucks will maintain the lines and repair them as needed, just as they do today.
Where will you be buying the renewable electricity?
The power portfolio is currently under development, but the intent is to purchase as much electricity as possible from sources located in California at prices that remain competitive with PG&E. Power will be primarily renewable energy and carbon-free.
Are other counties considering this?
Cities and counties throughout California are already moving forward with similar programs. There are currently eight operational Community Choice Energy programs (CCEs) in California, and that number is estimated to grow to 20 agencies by 2020, with a combined service area population of 18 million. According to a 2017 report from the Center for Climate Protection, CCEs will reduce at least 5 million metric tons of GHG emissions cumulatively compared to the Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs), and CCE customers will save $188 million more per year by the end of 2020 compared with what customers would have spent if they stayed with the incumbent utilities.
What type of local reinvestment has been done in other programs?
MCE Clean Energy, which covers the counties of Marin, Napa and Contra Costa, has already invested over $500 million in in-state and local renewable energy projects that have created over 2,400 construction and vendor jobs, with more coming soon. Sonoma Clean Power has found that developing local renewable energy projects within Sonoma County will result in lower rates by 2020, compared with buying electricity elsewhere.

 

Enrollment & Opt-Out

When and where is EBCE service available?
EBCE will start providing service to most municipal and commercial accounts in June 2018. Residential customers will also be invited to sign up as early adopters during this period to begin receiving cleaner electricity ahead of their scheduled launch in November 2018. The space for early adopters is limited.
How do I enroll in EBCE?
EBCE will replace PG&E as the default electricity provider in Alameda County. Anyone with a PG&E electric account in these areas will automatically be enrolled in EBCE. The cities of Newark and Pleasanton are currently not members of EBCE. The City of Alameda is not eligible to participate since it is served by its own municipal utility.
Why am I automatically enrolled in EBCE? Do I have a choice?
That’s the way the law governing the formation of CCE programs like EBCE was written. When a city or county decides to participate, all their residents and businesses are automatically enrolled. Nevertheless, if you wish to remain with PG&E, you may do so by opting out of EBCE. An online opt-out form is available.
How do I opt out of EBCE?
By law, customers may opt out of EBCE. This means that unless you opt out, you will automatically be enrolled in the program when service begins. You will receive a minimum of four notices to help you customize your service and provide directions on opting out, if you so choose.
How do I stay with PG&E?
During the EBCE launch period you will receive at least four enrollment notices about how to remain with PG&E. You’ll be able to indicate your preference to remain with PG&E by mail, phone, or on our website. For two months before launch and two months after launch there’s no charge to elect to remain with PG&E. After the initial launch, you can still return to PG&E, but it’s possible that a small fee may be charged and you can’t rejoin EBCE for one year.
I’ve heard that PG&E is charging an additional fee—an exit fee—for customers who leave. What’s that about?
That’s the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment or PCIA, sometimes called an “exit fee.” It will appear on your bill as a separate line item.

PG&E has various long-term contracts for buying electricity for its customers; some are as long as 20 years. It bought power based on the number of customers it serves. The price is locked in, which is good when the cost of generating electricity is rising as one might expect over a long time period. Recently, however, the cost of natural gas, has been going down.

When customers switch to EBCE, PG&E needs to provide less electricity but still has to pay for the amount of power in its long-term contracts. So PG&E sells the excess power on the open market. Right now, contracted electricity generated by natural gas or renewable sources is selling for less than what PG&E paid for it. That difference is charged to EBCE customers under the guidance of the California Public Utilities Commission.

What’s most important to know is that EBCE’s rates—including the PCIA charge—will still be competitive with PG&E’s rates.

I’ve heard that PG&E will lose jobs in the Bay Area with all the new local electricity providers.
The vast majority of PG&E employees provide transmission and distribution system maintenance and upgrades, billing and customer service—all of which PG&E will continue to provide. There have not been any noticeable job losses in communities that have a second, local electricity provider—in fact new jobs have been created constructing and operating local energy generation facilities. The EBCE Technical Study also anticipates a net increase in good paying jobs as the result of the EBCE program.
Can I return to EBCE if I opt out?
Customers who opt out within the first 60 days of EBCE service may return to EBCE at any time. Based on state law, customers who opt out after the first 60 days of service with EBCE must wait one year before returning to EBCE.
Is there a fee for opting out?
There is no fee to opt out before enrollment or in the first 60 days of receiving EBCE service. If you opt out 60 or more days after EBCE service begins, or if you are an Early Adopter, you will be charged a one-time termination fee of $5 per residential account or $25 per commercial account. This fee will be waived for customers that opt out prior to June 1, 2019.
Can I opt out at any time?
You may opt out of EBCE electric generation service at any time by calling 1-833-699-EBCE (1-833-699-3223) or by completing the opt-out form at ebce.org/optout. You will need your PG&E account information to begin the opt-out process.

If returning to PG&E generation service after receiving EBCE service for more than 60 days, or after enrolling as an Early Adopter, PG&E requires that you choose one of the following options:

  • Option 1: Return to PG&E generation service at the end of the current billing cycle. You will be billed at PG&E’s transitional rates for a six-month period, and PG&E’s standard bundled electricity rates thereafter.
  • Option 2: Give six month’s advance notice of your intent to return to PG&E generation service. At the end of the six-month notice period, you will be returned to PG&E service and billed PG&E’s standard bundled electricity rates.

 

Rates & Billing

How can EBCE offer lower rates?
What makes EBCE so powerful is that it supports clean energy market competition in three ways:

  1. EBCE buys power through a competitive process that encourages private energy companies to compete to provide more clean, renewable power at lower costs.
  2. This competition also leads PG&E to improve its offering both in terms of cost and level of renewables.
  3. Because there are no shareholder investors expecting dividends, EBCE can reinvest net revenue into the community and keep rates low.
How will EBCE set its rates?
EBCE electricity rates will be set through a transparent public process and approved by the EBCE Board of Directors, elected officials from all participating jurisdictions. Members of the public are encouraged to participate in publicly noticed hearings for each step of the process.
Will rates be stable?
While PG&E rates change several times a year, existing local programs in Marin and Sonoma counties have generally changed their rates only once a year. That stability makes it easier to determine household or business electricity expenses.
Which service will I be enrolled in?
Most accounts within EBCE’s coverage area will be automatically enrolled in the Bright Choice service, which is powered by at least 38% renewable energy and an additional minimum of 47% carbon-free energy (together, a total of 85% carbon-free) and offered at a discount to the corresponding PG&E rate. Per the request of the local city council in an effort to support sustainability goals, business customers within the cities of Albany and Hayward will be enrolled in Brilliant 100 automatically at the start of service. Brilliant 100 service offers 100% carbon-free power at the same rate at PG&E.
Will my taxes be used to fund this program?
No. By law, EBCE can only be funded through revenues—revenue is passed on to customers in the form of reduced rates, incentives, local renewable projects, and customized programs such as energy efficiency services and rebates. EBCE’s budget is completely separate from the general funds of participating local governments.
Will I still receive my CARE, FERA, or Medical Baseline discounts with EBCE?
If you receive a low-income discount on your electricity bill through PG&E’s CARE, FERA or Medical Baseline Allowance programs, that discount will continue to apply as an EBCE customer.
Do I get billed separately by EBCE?
No, you will continue to receive one monthly bill from PG&E. The general look, appearance, and setup of your bill will not change, although EBCE electricity supply charges will replace PG&E electricity supply charges. There are three main components to your electricity service: generation, transmission, and distribution. Currently, PG&E rolls all three components of your service into one line item called “Current Electric Charges” under the “Account Summary” on the first page of your bill. EBCE will assume responsibility for the generation portion of your service. As an EBCE customer, you will see separate lines under the “Account Summary” on your PG&E bill for EBCE generation charges and PG&E’s electric delivery charges. You will also see a new page in each bill detailing your EBCE electric generation charges.
What is the PCIA?
That’s the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment or PCIA, sometimes called an “exit fee.” The PCIA is intended to ensure that customers who switch to EBCE pay for energy that was acquired by PG&E to serve them prior to their switch. It will appear on your bill as a separate line item. What’s most important to know is that EBCE’s rates—even with the PCIA charge included—will still be competitive with PG&E’s rates.
Can PG&E raise delivery fees on EBCE customers above those of non-EBCE customers?
No. PG&E must provide the same transmission and distribution rates for all customers in their service area whether or not they receive electricity from PG&E or a CCE program such as EBCE.
Do PG&E employees retain their employee discount while served by EBCE?
Yes, the PG&E employee discount is exactly the same dollar value whether you are on EBCE generation service or PG&E bundled service.

 

Commercial, Agricultural & Industrial Customers

Will EBCE have a separate rate structure for agricultural customers?
The EBCE Board of Directors set its electricity rates in an open and public process. EBCE evaluated different options for the rate structures and is committed to working with commercial, agricultural, and industrial customers to determine how the rates will work for their businesses. The current rate sheet can be found on the website at ebce.org/rates.
What if I have multiple accounts?
Owners of multiple accounts can choose to opt up or opt out your individual accounts. Enrollment is by account, so you’ll be able to see all your accounts and decide what it best for each one.
What if I have existing direct access arrangements or special PG&E rates?
Any existing direct access arrangements or special PG&E rates will not be automatically enrolled in EBCE’s program. However, those customers can choose to become EBCE customers. Special direct access termination provisions may apply.

 

Solar & Nem Customers

I have solar panels on my property. Will I continue to receive the benefit of Net Energy Metering (NEM)? Will EBCE offer something better?
Like similar existing CCE programs, EBCE will look at ways to support the value of local solar to the owners of solar PV systems. At a minimum, EBCE will match the NEM offering provided by PG&E. Additionally, the Local Development Business Plan will propose NEM policies for EBCE.
What happens if I’m a Net Metering 1.0 customer and switch back to PG&E?
According to PG&E, changing service providers has no effect on rate schedules or NEM interconnection. This includes both opt in and opt out. Customers don’t reapply for interconnection when they change service providers, so they’re still under the same (1.0) interconnection agreement regardless of their electricity service provider.

 

Governance

What is East Bay Community Energy (EBCE)?
State law allows cities and counties to pool the electricity demand of their residents and businesses for the purpose of buying electricity on behalf of those customers. These programs are called Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs.

EBCE, a joint powers authority formed in 2016, is a locally controlled, not for profit public agency covering most of Alameda County. It provides residents and businesses in those communities with an option to have more of their electricity supplied from clean, renewable sources—such as solar and wind—at lower rates.

When customers are enrolled with EBCE, they help empower local control of electricity procurement decisions, reduce the carbon footprint associated with their electricity service, and help support growth of local renewables. Rather than paying profits to shareholders, EBCE’s net revenue (after buying power and administrative expenses), can be used to help stabilize electricity prices, provide incentives for more solar installations, support energy efficiency programs, develop more local renewable energy sources in and near Alameda County, and invest in innovative clean technologies and energy-related job training—all while keeping electricity rates competitive with PG&E.

How is the program run?
The County and participating cities will govern EBCE. The Board of Directors is composed of elected officials representing each of the participating communities. The Board sets rates and determines the mix of power sources. There is a small staff to run day-to-day operations and provide customer support. The entire process is completely transparent, with all Board meetings open to the public.
What is Community Choice Energy (CCE)?
In 2002, Assembly Bill 117 was enacted into law to establish Community Choice Aggregation opportunities in California, now referred to as Community Choice Energy (CCE). It allows a city or county (or groups of cities or counties) to become the default electric supplier in its jurisdiction(s). By doing so, it offers an opportunity for Californians to locally influence the sources of their electricity. Marin Clean Energy (now called MCE Clean Energy) was California’s first CCE program launched in 2010, followed by Sonoma Clean Power and subsequently Lancaster Choice Energy.
Has this worked out well elsewhere?
Yes. The Sonoma Clean Power and MCE Clean Energy partnerships with PG&E have worked very well. PG&E provides essential customer service and maintains the transmission system in communities served by both programs. Many additional communities around California have recently launched or are planning to launch their own CCE programs.
Is there a downside to Community Choice? There must be some risk.
As with any business enterprise, there are risks. The primary risks are customer opt-outs, energy price fluctuations, and changing state regulations. A successful CCE program requires that a significant majority of residential and commercial customers obtain their electricity from the program. This is one reason why CCE programs strive to maintain competitive pricing, while lowering greenhouse gas emissions and providing higher renewable content than what you can get from the local utility.

California’s energy markets have been stable for several years and prices for electricity from both renewable and conventional energy sources (natural gas) are relatively low. Markets could become more volatile. EBCE will hedge risks by developing a diverse portfolio that includes a mix of long-term and short-term contracts and direct investments in power projects.

The regulatory risk is difficult to predict. A 2002 State law allows cities and counties to develop programs like this—the State is supportive. Other CCE programs have been very active in the California Public Utilities Commission’s regulatory proceedings and have established a strong network. As more local programs are developed, we will have an even stronger presence—it will be essential to actively participate in ongoing regulatory proceedings

How will the program be regulated?
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the entity that regulates all California energy providers, approved the EBCE Implementation Plan in October 2017. The Plan discusses rate design, plan to buy electricity, and how we will carry out all the functions the CPUC requires.

Before launch, EBCE will negotiate the price of electricity on the open market and adhere to all CPUC rules and tariffs.

What does the Community Advisory Committee do and who is on it?
Members of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) were selected by the EBCE Board of Directors following an application process. The CAC advises the Board on matters related to the operation of EBCE. A list of CAC members is available here.
Since there’s no program revenue now, who’s paying for EBCE to get up and running?
The County of Alameda has budgeted about $3.7 million to launch EBCE, which it will begin to recoup once the program begins delivering electricity and generating revenue. EBCE will seek bank financing to fund power purchases, which must be in place when the program launches and before any revenue has been generated. MCE Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power also initially used bank financing to launch their programs.

 

Energy Services

How much renewable energy will EBCE provide?
EBCE will provide much of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal—which do not pollute or produce greenhouse gases. Switching from conventional energy sources to renewable energy is the single most effective way to accomplish our communities’ climate action goals. Check out the website for more information on our power mix.
How much renewable energy does PG&E offer?
PG&E offers two options to customers – a standard product with 33% renewable energy and a “Solar Choice” product with 100% solar energy.
What’s different about how EBCE buys power?
Currently PG&E owns some electricity generation facilities such as natural gas-burning plants, large hydroelectric dams, and one nuclear plant. It also buys electricity on the open market.

EBCE will buy a higher percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources, also on the open market. EBCE will also invest in and build local renewable energy projects, as MCE Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power are now doing.

Isn’t renewable power more expensive than regular electricity?
Not any more. During the past 30 years the costs of fossil fuels have been rising, although natural gas and oil prices have come down recently. During the same time, the cost of renewable sources has dropped dramatically. In fact, in California, renewable energy is often cheaper than fossil fuel because after the initial construction costs, the fuels—wind and sun—are free.
How does the electricity you buy actually get to my house?
EBCE will buy the same amount of electricity that customers use, and feed it into California’s electric grid. When the electrons hit the grid, no one can really determine where each individual electron goes. EBCE will provide cleaner electricity to the grid (with higher renewable content and fewer greenhouse gases), displacing what PG&E had been providing. It’s like when you deposit $100 into one ATM and later take it out of another ATM. It’s not the same $100, but it is your money. The advantage of EBCE is that the electricity we put into the grid will be more carbon-free and renewably sourced than what PG&E is putting into the grid.
What’s the difference between renewably sourced electricity and carbon-free electricity?
Electricity generated from solar, wind, geothermal and small hydroelectric plants is renewable because those sources are never depleted. They do not create greenhouse gases so they are also carbon-free.

Other sources of electricity include nuclear facilities and large hydroelectric dams. They don’t create greenhouse gases so they are considered to be carbon-free. However, the CPUC does not recognize those two sources as renewable.

If EBCE offers 50% renewable energy sources, for example, where’s the rest coming from?
Initially, there may be natural gas or carbon-free hydroelectric components which are purchased on the open market. However, EBCE, like its counterparts in Marin, Sonoma, and San Mateo, will reduce its reliance on carbon-producing sources over time.
What about buying electricity from a coal-fired plant?
Never.
And power generated by large hydroelectric dams?
There is a mix of small (renewable) in Bright Choice and large (not renewable, but carbon-free) hydroelectric power in Brilliant 100 in order to minimize carbon emissions.
California law (SB 350) requires that all electricity must be 50% renewable by 2030. Why start EBCE if PG&E will also be delivering 50% renewable electricity?
SB 350 is a great law. Yet we don’t see any reason to wait until 2030 to reach that level of renewable energy content in the power delivered to our community. We can do it now. That level has already been achieved in Marin and San Mateo and will soon be achieved in Sonoma and San Francisco.

EBCE’s baseline energy product has as large a portion of renewable energy sources as possible, and that’s just the beginning. MCE Clean Energy intends to be 85% carbon-free by 2025. There’s no reason our community can’t do that—or more—as well.