Erica Etelson, CALIFORNIA CURRENT
Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission kicked off what is expected to be a long and arduous process of reforming the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment. The PCIA is an ongoing fee that California investor-owned utilities impose on departing ratepayers. That is, those of us who switch to a Community Choice energy program or procure electricity from a Direct Access retailer must pony up money every month to compensate the private utilities for losses associated with stranded contracts they’ve entered (or claim to have entered) on our behalf.
Much to the surprise of community choice customers, the PCIA seems to have achieved immortality. Whereas the operating assumption was that this charge, approved last December, would ramp down and eventually disappear as stranded contracts expire, the opposite has occurred. Pacific Gas & Electric now projects that it will levy this charge on Marin Clean Energy customers until 2043.
The California Alliance for Community Energy is calling for the sun setting of the PCIA within three years of the launch of a community choice program and for the immediate cessation of the PCIA for low-income CARE customers. In our view, no amount of technocratic tinkering under the auspices of an agency as partial to the monopoly utilities as the CPUC will render the PCIA tolerable to community choice programs and their customers.
PG&E will collect an estimated $119 million in PCIA charges from community choice and direct access customers this year, nearly twice as much as last year thanks to the CPUC’s rubber-stamping of PG&E’s calculus. For community choice customers, this amounts to a line item on their monthly bill ranging from $1.00 to $29.00. To stay competitive with the incumbent monopoly utility, community choice agencies must offset their electricity rates by roughly the amount of the PCIA.
This means that community choice programs are losing millions a year in revenue that could otherwise be used for demand reduction and the development of renewable electricity projects.
Read more at: GUEST JUICE: Kryptonite Needed for Community Choice Super Fee | CA Current
PG&E and other big utilities also proposed cutting the amount of compensation that solar homeowners receive for excess electricity that they export to the grid.
The California Public Utilities Commission voted Thursday to allow a nearly 100 percent price increase on exit fees for customers leaving Pacific Gas and Electric Co. for green energy programs like CleanPowerSF and Marin Clean Energy, which will make those and similar programs more expensive.
Many of the programs — where local governments buy green electricity for their residents, while private utilities own and operate the electrical grid — will be undermined financially by the uptick in the charge, called the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment, their officials say.
“We are not surprised that the increase was approved,” said Marin Clean Energy spokeswoman Alexandra McCroskey. “We are disappointed. Our primary frustrations come from the fact that we are becoming almost liable for the market fluctuations for both ourselves and PG&E. If PG&E isn’t planning appropriately for people leaving for community choice aggregation programs, the PCIA will continue to increase. It’s poor planning.”
Read more at: Customers of clean energy programs hit with fee increase – SFGate
Woody Hastings, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Nearly 90 percent of Sonoma County Pacific Gas & Electric customers are also Sonoma Clean Power customers who may soon be hit with an electric bill increase through no fault of Sonoma Clean Power. Whether this happens depends on a decision to be made today by the California Public Utilities Commission.
The commission will decide whether PG&E and other utilities can increase a previously small charge on customers’ bills. PG&E is requesting the increase as compensation for losses the company claims to have incurred because Sonoma Clean Power customers no longer pay PG&E for power the company says it purchased on their behalf. To be clear, monthly electricity bills wouldn’t increase because Sonoma Clean Power is raising its rates, but because PG&E would be significantly increasing what is known as the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment.
Sonoma Clean Power has enjoyed a spectacularly successful launch and first full year of service. Rates are currently 6 to 9 percent below PG&E rates, including the current Power Charge Indifference Adjustment fee. Sonoma Clean Power customers’ dollars pay for 36 percent renewable energy in the basic power mix, which is about 48 percent lower in greenhouse gas emissions than PG&E’s mix. When Sonoma Clean Power considered rate changes earlier this year, it chose to keep them unchanged from the previous year, in contrast to PG&E’s 30-plus year trend of increasing rates an average of 4 percent per year.
PG&E’s proposed radical increase in the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment fee is among many attempts it has made over the past decade to crush community choice. Its attempts include aggressive anti-community choice marketing, several failed proposed laws in the state Legislature and a failed ballot initiative in 2010 on which PG&E spent $50 million of shareholder money.
The intent behind the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment is to ensure that PG&E customers do not experience any increase in their rates due to the fact that some customers have departed as new community choice customers, making the PG&E customers “indifferent” to the fact that a new community choice program has launched. The premise is that PG&E has made long-term power purchases on behalf of the community choice customers who are no longer full customers of PG&E. However, the way the fee is calculated and what purchases are counted are cloaked in mystery.
The timing of this “adjustment” to the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment coincides with the anticipated launch of San Francisco’s Community Choice program in early 2016. Many other communities in PG&E’s service territory are also on track to establish community choice programs imminently. With a dramatically increased Power Charge Indifference Adjustment, community choice programs lose their competitive edge, and the many communities currently considering Community Choice may abandon it instead.
PG&E cannot raise the fee without the state Public Utility Commission’s approval. You can reach the CPUC at email@example.com. Woody Hastings is the renewable energy implementation Manager at the Center for Climate Protection, which is based in Santa Rosa.
Source: PG&E’s plan to raise an obscure fee on | The Press Democrat
Mark Leno & Francesca Vietor, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
No one disputes that an exit fee paid to utilities, if appropriately administered, can be a fair way to equitably reimburse existing electric customers when others leave for cleaner energy from programs such as Marin Clean Energy, Sonoma Clean Power, or forthcoming programs such as CleanPowerSF or Peninsula Clean Energy.
What is at issue is why the California Public Utilities Commission is not asking questions expected of an oversight body or engaging in a transparent public process in this important decision. We request that the state commission reject the PG&E proposal to double the exit fee when it votes on Thursday until the commissioners can audit PG&E’s proposed rate increase and revisit the fairness of the calculation of the fee, known as the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment.
Until that audit and public discourse has taken place, we propose that the commission temporarily cap any such increases requested by the utility. The commission should then convene a series of public workshops and attempt to create a fair and balanced process that provides equity for customers who choose to remain with PG&E and for those who choose a cleaner future through community choice aggregation programs.
If PG&E’s proposed increase to $13 from $6.70 a month is approved, it would stifle efforts of California cities to receive cleaner electricity and disproportionately charge higher fees to the poorest households. California cities and counties, energy advocates and environmental organizations are demanding that the commission enforce its own rate-making rules by taking the time to properly audit and discuss PG&E’s rate proposal.
Read more at: PG&E’s huge profit from exit fee signals need for reform
The Center for Climate Protection just released its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Report for Sonoma County for 2014. The report calculates GHG emissions from major sectors to reveal trends that demonstrate progress toward the County’s goals.
The report shows us that in 2014, Sonoma County produced about 3.6 million tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This is a decrease of about 14% from 2007, when county emissions reached a high of about 4.2 million tons.
“It’s too soon to tell if this is a trend we can count on, but we believe that we’re bringing emissions down in a real and hopefully accelerating way,” said Ann Hancock, Executive Director of the Center for Climate Protection. The Center has been tracking the county’s greenhouse gas emissions since 2003.
The launch of Sonoma Clean Power in 2014 brings reasons for hope. Sonoma Clean Power customers receive greener electricity, which promises to play a critical role going forward.Mark Landman, Chair of Sonoma Clean Power Authority and Cotati City Councilmember reported, “In our first year of operation, Sonoma Clean Power’s electricity reduced greenhouse gas emissions 48% compared with PG&E’s power mix last published data from 2013. At the same time, our customers saved a total of $13.6 million on their bills.”
The Sonoma County Water Agency, one of the largest energy users in the county, achieved its goal of operating a carbon-free water system, procuring 100% of its electricity needs through renewable sources, thanks in part to Sonoma Clean Power.
Transportation, however, is by far the county’s largest culprit of carbon production, accounting for about 65% of Sonoma County’s total emissions.
But there’s hope here, too. According to the Center for Climate Protection’s soon-to-be-released draft report on electric vehicles, Sonoma County can significantly reduce transportation emissions by shifting from gas and diesel-powered vehicles to those powered by electricity.
“Expanding low carbon and zero emission travel is one of our top priorities,” said Suzanne Wilford Smith, Executive Director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. “We aim to do this by reimagining public transportation, incentivizing EVs, looking at new policies like user-based road use fees, launching SMART, and implementing a car share program.”
Although Sonoma County is a climate protection leader, this report shows that there’s a long way to go.
Sonoma County is aiming for a 2015 target of reducing emissions 25% below 1990 levels, equal to about 2.6 million tons of carbon dioxide, by 2015. In 2005, Sonoma County and all nine of its cities pledged by resolution to achieve this goal, which corresponds to what is known scientifically as atmospheric carbon stabilization, the imperative for a life-sustaining climate.
“Although we won’t meet our extremely ambitious 2015 target, we’re moving in the right direction,” said Hancock. “We have to work a lot harder to move a lot faster.”
To meet the goal, emission reduction measures must overcome powerful forces, particularly increases in population and an economy largely based on fossil fuels.
Read more at: Greenhouse Gas Emissions Went Down in 2014 – Center for Climate Protection
Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma Clean Power, the year-old public agency, is rolling out service Monday to three additional cities and in doing so is set to become the main electricity supplier within Sonoma County, dislodging PG&E from a business it has long dominated in the region.
The expansion makes Sonoma Clean Power the new default provider for homes and businesses in Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Cloverdale, as well as Santa Rosa, Windsor, Cotati, Sonoma and Sebastopol, where the agency is already purchasing power for most residential and commercial customers.
Including accounts in the trio of newly added cities, the public provider now serves as the electricity supplier for about 90 percent, or nearly 204,000 of the county’s roughly 226,000 residential and commercial customers. Less then 10 percent of accounts have opted out and chosen to remain with PG&E, said Geof Syphers, Sonoma Clean Power’s chief executive officer.
Read more at: Sonoma Clean Power becomes county’s dominant energy supplier | The Press Democrat
Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
To pump, treat and transport the drinking water for 660,000 North Bay residents, the Sonoma County Water Agency uses enough electricity every day to power the equivalent of about 6,500 local homes.
Going forward, all that electricity will be from renewable and carbon-free sources, meaning it will come from the expanding network of solar installations popping up around the county, as well as from The Geysers geothermal fields on the Sonoma-Lake county line and other established green energy projects.
The Water Agency has been moving steadily toward the clean energy goal since 2006 and this year expects to hit its target, a benchmark that officials celebrated on Monday.
“This is a big deal,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who gathered with local and state lawmakers at the headquarters of Santa Rosa Water, the city’s utilities department. “If we’re going to tackle this huge problem of climate change, we’re going to have to address that embedded footprint in how we manage water.”
The two largest local renewable energy sources for the Water Agency include hydroelectric power generated by Warm Springs Dam at Lake Sonoma, which supplies more than a quarter of the agency’s needs, and a power plant that generates electricity from methane gas at the Central Landfill, accounting for about 55 percent of the agency’s needs.
The remainder of the Water Agency’s supply comes from a combination of local solar installations — the water wholesaler has installed three systems totaling more than 3,000 solar panels on county-owned property — and from sources linked to Sonoma Clean Power, the public provider, or other hydroelectric projects.
Read more via Sonoma County Water Agency hits clean energy goal | The Press Democrat.
Gary Quackenbush, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
Sonoma County clean energy and water officials have set up talks with vineyard, farm, dairy and other landowners in Sonoma Valley and around Healdsburg about using their irrigation ponds for what is said to be the largest floating solar-electricity project in the U.S. and the second-largest in the world.
Sonoma Clean Power and Sonoma County Water Agency plan to hold additional information sessions throughout the county over the next three months to assess landowner interest in adopting a solar-over-water option. This comes after Sonoma Clean Power signed an agreement with San Francisco-based Pristine Sun in late February to install a 12.5-megawatt solar farm on pontoon docks at six holding ponds operated by the water agency in northwest Santa Rosa and Sonoma Valley. The power agency had reviewed bids from four solar providers.
The sunset of rooftop solar is not over the horizon, but the dawn of a new application for photovoltaic panels installed as floating arrays is an emerging trend in the industry. Some have already been placed above vineyard irrigation and frost prevention ponds as well as on fully treated wastewater reservoirs. The largest floating solar array in the world is a 13.4-megawatt installation by Kyocera TCL Solar on Yamakura Dam reservoir near Tokyo.
Read more via Potential seen in floating solar for wine, ag – North Bay Business Journal – North San Francisco Bay Area, Sonoma, Marin, Napa counties – Archive.
Matt Brown, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s new public electricity supplier is turning to the sun and water — the airspace over treated sewage ponds, specifically — to generate power for local homes and businesses.
Under a deal signed Thursday with a San Francisco-based renewable energy developer, officials with Sonoma Clean Power, now the default electricity provider in Sonoma County, unveiled a plan to install a 12.5-megawatt solar farm on floating docks atop holding ponds operated by the county Water Agency.
When completed in 2016, the project, which will provide enough electricity to power 3,000 homes, will be the largest solar installation in the county.
It also will help fulfill one of Sonoma Clean Power’s central goals — to develop local sources of renewable energy for its expanding customer base, now taking in more than 160,000 residential and commercial accounts across five cities in the county.
Before its launch last May, and through its first nine months of operation, the public venture faced pointed questions as to how quickly it would be able to spearhead local energy projects given constraints on rural land use and the comparatively higher price of power from smaller systems versus large, far-flung industrial sources.
Sonoma Clean Power officials said the planned solar installation served as a key early benchmark of progress in the agency’s rollout.
Read more via Sonoma Clean Power inks deal for floating solar | The Press Democrat.
Teri Shore, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
People in Sonoma and across the county are now choosing whether to buy electricity from Sonoma Clean Power or opt out and stay with Pacific Gas & Electric. In any case, PG & E will continue to send electric bills for both electricity providers, provide natural gas, operate power lines, and respond to power outages. The opt-out approach is mandated by state law in order to provide start-up community-based energy providers a chance to compete with established investor-owned utilities.
Sonoma Clean Power plans to spend about $18 million on energy this year to serve customers across Sonoma County now that all cities have joined, except Healdsburg which has its own power company.
Public workshops will be held in Petaluma, Rohnert Park and Cloverdale in both English and Spanish in February through April to inform people and answer questions about Sonoma Clean Power. See full schedule here: sonomacleanpower.org/meetings/
At the January 8 board meeting, First District (Sonoma Valley) Supervisor Susan Gorin turned over the chair’s gavel to Cotati City Councilman Mark Landman. She served as the board chair for the past two years while Sonoma Clean Power started up as the county’s default electric power provider. Gorin will remain on the board.
At the meeting, Gorin said she was pleased with the success of Sonoma Clean Power so far. She also called for as much public oversight as possible without impairing the agency’s ability to negotiate good deals for renewable and standard electric power.
To fill vacated and expiring seats on two community advisory committees, Gorin requested that staff alert the public and all the cities that applications are being solicited for the Ratepayer Advisory Committee and the Business and Operations Committee. Interested people should contact Sonoma Clean Power at sonomacleanpower.org.
Sonoma Mayor David Cook has an important new role overseeing the purchase of electric power by Sonoma Clean Power for customers in Sonoma and across the county. Cook represents the City of Sonoma on the Sonoma Clean Power board of directors, taking over the director seat previously held by former Councilman Steve Barbose.
The mayor was chosen by the power agency’s board of directors at the January 8 board meeting to chair a new three-member panel charged with reviewing and approving electric power deals worth over $250,000. The two-year-old non-profit power agency buys electricity generated by geothermal, natural gas, and other renewable and conventional sources.
The power procurement panel members will provide public oversight of power deals that are negotiated by Sonoma Clean Power Chief Executive Officer Geoff Syphers and his staff. David King of Petaluma and Patrick Slayter of Sebastopol were also appointed to the ad hoc power procurement panel.
Gorin also asked for development of a policy that requires public sharing of third-party (ex-parte) communications held with board members and staff.
Sonoma Clean Power is also preparing to roll out new community based green power pilot programs this summer. Recently, about 50 people turned out for a workshop where SCP proposed three possibilities including installing solar panels on the rooftops or properties of non-profit organizations, installing new electric vehicle plug-ins or conservation incentive programs for homes and businesses. Ideas on those or other projects can be submitted until January 15. For more information, contact Sonoma Clean Power at sonomacleanpower.org
Sonoma Clean Power versus PG& E
Sonoma Clean Power’s mission is to provide locally based renewable energy at rates competitive to PG&E’s. It was established under state hard-fought state legislation that allows for establishment of “Community Choice Aggregation” electric energy providers.
Instead of operating like a corporation charged with prioritizing profits and return to shareholders, Sonoma Clean Power is set up to operate as a non-profit government agency that re-invests profits in renewable energy projects and programs that benefit the community. Those programs are just beginning with a solar power project in Cloverdale that will generate enough electricity for 300 homes. Sonoma Clean Power does not generate power or build projects, but contracts to buy power.
Right now, Sonoma Clean Power’s basic residential rates are about 3 to 4 percent lower than PG&E’s overall. However, some PG&E plans may be better for low income customers that pay the same power costs every month based on average annual use. Homeowners with solar panels may also come out ahead by staying with PG&E in the short term until the true-up period for the past year. The rate difference between the two providers are likely to change over time.
See a full rate comparison here: www.pge.com/includes/docs/pdfs/myhome/customerservice/energychoice/communitychoiceaggregation/scp_rateclasscomparison.pdf
When it comes to renewables, Sonoma Clean Power offers a basic energy program called “CleanStart” and a more expensive all-renewable choice called “Evergreen” that is more expensive.
Right now, CleanStart is comprised of 33 percent renewable generation sources versus PG&E’s 22 percent (See sonomacleanpower.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/SCP-2013-Electric-Power-Generation-Mix.pdf). Geothermal power from Sonoma County’s geysers is the source of most of Sonoma Clean Power’s renewables with some wind and biomass. Natural gas is a big part of the mix. No solar is online yet, but the agency has contracted to buy from new projects coming on line in Sonoma County and the Central Valley.
PG&E generates and buys a mix of geothermal, wind, biomass, solar, nuclear and hydroelectric – though nuclear and most hydroelectric is not considered renewable in the state of California. PG&E operates Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which provides 22 percent of its power and is not considered renewable.
As with all California energy providers, PG&E is required to increase renewables to 33% of total procurement by 2020. Governor Jerry Brown recently called for 50% renewables by 2030.
The mysteries of electricity and the grid
All the electricity that powers your home or business is the same. Electricity in itself is clean. There is no difference in the electrons that are transmitting through power lines to your home.
The key to whether electricity is clean or green or not is based on how it is generated and from where. Renewable energy such as geothermal, wind, solar generally produces far less negative impact on the environment and produces less air pollution and greenhouse gases than fossil fuels such as natural gas or coal.
So when you invest in a renewable energy plan, that cleaner energy is not delivered to your location, but rather is supplied to the electric grid. The more renewable energy that reaches the grid, the more dirty energy is displaced.
Ultimately, if enough renewable energy is produced to meet the demand for power, then dirty fuels will eventually be phased out if no longer needed.
Switching to cleaner fuels will require major changes to the way that electricity is delivered and stored. One of the biggest challenges we face in California is how to store ample solar and wind energy generated during the day to use in the evening when everyone is at home eating dinner, watching TV, playing games on the computer and listening to music.
Right now we rely on mostly fossil fuels such as natural gas, hydro and nuclear power that is up and running all the time or can be taken on and off line as needed.
Original article at