Nov 20 2016

Council Moves Forward on Community Electricity Source

Hoping a New Agency will Produce Greener Electricity – 

On Monday, November 21, the City Council is expected to approve the second reading of the authorization of Piedmont’s participation in a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) Authority.  State policy permits Piedmont to aggregate electricity demand within our City and prioritize alternative energy supplies from sources other than PG&E.  PG&E would continue to bill, transmit and distribute the electricity to Piedmont homes.  It would also continue to provide meter-reading, maintenance and outage response services.

PG&E already provides “some of the nation’s cleanest electric power,” said utility spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian.

The 2015 power mix of PG&E’s energy consisted of 30% renewable sources, and the company is heading toward the state’s 33 percent benchmark at least by 2020. Adding its 23% nuclear and 6% hydroelectric sources, last year 62% of the power PG&E provided was carbon-free.

State regulators allow the utilities to levy a charge on departing CCA customers to compensate them for the cost of the power that the utilities had already purchased to serve anticipated load. Piedmonters will be automatically enrolled in the CCA before allowing them to opt out. However, those who prefer to continue to receive PG&E energy, cannot submit opt-out requests to PG&E.

If you receive notice that your electric service can be served by a CCA, and you want to opt out of the CCA program, you must submit your opt-out request directly to the CCA. Submit an opt-out request if:

  • Your area is transitioning to the CCA for the first time
  • You start a new electric service within an existing CCA area

The number and type of customers who opt out of the CCA affect the market negotiations and resulting rates for those remaining in the CCA. Some predictions of CCA rates did not figure in impacts from opt out customers. Other analyses assumed less than 10% customer opt outs, according to the Good Energy August 1, 2016 feasibility study. It notes that terms are not subject to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approval.

The East Bay Community Energy Authority would come into being after three jurisdictions sign the Joint Powers Agreement. Berkeley and Emeryville joined on November 1. Good Energy reported significant administrative and start-up costs for existing California CCAs.  The new public agency would set its own customer billing rates, buy and sell its own electricity and procure its own clean power.

The East Bay Community Energy Authority would set rates. Therefore, rate comparisons for Piedmont are not known at this time. Community Choice Aggregation Piedmonters who choose “Deep Green” (a goal of 100% renewables) CCA electricity may pay more per KWH, while “Light Green” (a goal of 50% renewables) CCA may cost a little less or more. To get an idea of the rate comparisons see existing CCAs:

Rate comparison tables for the first bay area CCA, Marin Clean Energy (MCE).

San Francisco’s CleanPowerSF is offering a mix of natural gas and 35 percent renewable energy from Calpine Corp., as well as a 100 percent renewable option, which comes from Iberdrola Renewables’ Shiloh Wind project in Solano County. Only 220 customers have opted for the “super green” option.

Rate comparison tables for CleanPowerSF (CPSF)

The intent is to speed up the development of new sources of green energy but the means of accomplishing that is unclear and Renewable energy certificates (REM) seem to compromise that goal.  REMs qualify as renewable content even if “unbundled,” meaning the CCA is not actually using renewables in their location; simply, there are renewable units somewhere on the grid. This would mean no local GHG  (greenhouse gas) reduction due to crediting pre-existing renewable sources.

The matter is not without controversy as some in the community have questioned CCA’s transparency and oversight, unnecessary potential energy cost increases, complicated processes, and the establishment of a parallel new energy agency authorized by the City of Piedmont.  Other citizens are enthusiastic, hoping for greener energy from this approach.

The item is number 9 on the November 21 agenda. The meeting will be held in the Council Chambers starting at 7:30 p.m.  Live and recorded broadcasts of the meeting can be found on Cable Channel 27 and the City website.

Read the staff report here. 

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