California Energy Markets
Executives with community choice aggregators say their focus on “community” has been tested and demonstrated as their organizations respond to public-safety power shut-offs and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Girish Balachandran, CEO of Silicon Valley Clean Energy, and Nick Chaset, CEO of East Bay Community Energy, explained the challenges their respective organizations have faced since mid-March and how they have adapted to best help their customers and communities.
Their remarks were provided as part of “CCAs and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Impacts and Responses,” a May 19 webcast sponsored by The Climate Center and Clean Power Exchange.
“How CCAs respond to community needs . . . that crystallized after the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County in 2017,” Woody Hastings, energy program manager for The Climate Center and the panel’s host, said. That choice and local control are inherent aspects of CCAs makes them “able to respond to any kind of calamity,” he said, adding that CCAs are now offering a wide array of new programs as part of their COVID-19 response, including bill deferments, credits for California Alternate Rates for Energy and Family Electric Rate Assistance customers, and donations to local community-based organizations.
Balachandran said when CCAs offer relief, they need to balance multiple goals and be “mission-aligned.” SVCE’s $10-million Customer Relief and Community Resiliency fund is designed to support the needs of its CARE and FERA customers, local small businesses, contractor workforce and member communities.
In addition to preparing for PSPS events through energy resilience, the funds will be allocated for specific assistance in response to the pandemic. This includes $3.5 million in customer bill assistance for residential and small business customers; $1.5 million for contractor training, which also includes incentives for installing electrical appliances in workplaces to support SVCE’s decarbonization efforts; $1 million for community resiliency planning grants; and $4 million for capital support of those plans. Another $2 million is set aside for contingency funding so changes can be made to the programs as needed, Balachandran said.
EBCE was able to redirect $1.5 million in funds immediately to community needs, Chaset said. Some of the funding was freed through canceled marketing and outreach programs, including an induction-cooking demonstration series in local restaurants. The funds were allocated “in four different ways,” he said. These included investments in clean energy and infrastructure and continued job creation as well as $1.1 million in donations to EBCE’s 12 member jurisdictions’ relief efforts.