Power to the People: Community Choice Aggregation in California

Electricity production is the second largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, with approximately 62.9% of our electricity coming from non-renewable fossil fuels. In light of the federal government’s failure to enact comprehensive climate legislation, municipalities across the country have begun to tackle climate change at the local level. One such example is Community Choice Aggregation (CCA). Community Choice Aggregation allows local governments to aggregate the electrical loads of the residents, businesses, and institutions in their geographic region to purchase energy on their behalf. Since the first CCA was established in Massachusetts in 1997, CCAs have continued to grow in popularity. However, no state has seen more significant growth than California. Since the launch of Marin Clean Energy in 2010, nineteen CCA programs now exist in California and reports estimate that 16% of the state load will be serviced by CCAs in 2020.

Though climate change is a collective action problem that no one municipality can solve, CCAs offer a way for local communities to make a significant impact. In particular, community choice aggregation in California highlights CCA’s recent successes in increasing renewable energy generation, reducing GHG emissions, and empowering communities. These triumphs suggest that CCAs should be implemented nationwide. As more states begin to pass CCA-enabling legislation, more Americans can choose to get their energy from renewable sources. Over time, the collective impact of a wide network of CCAs may have a significant impact on mitigating against the threat of climate change. Looking towards the future, we should focus efforts on resolving the PCIA debate, continuing to build renewable, local generation facilities, and working to fund the expansion of the CCA model across more states and communities.

Read more here: https://www.law.georgetown.edu/environmental-law-review/blog/power-to-the-people-community-choice-aggregation-in-california/

Green Power to the People

Santa Barbara Independent

California’s fight against climate change is getting ever more urgent as state lawmakers shorten deadlines for complete conversion to carbon-free electricity ​— ​prompting new solar and wind energy projects in the development pipeline. The City of Goleta is the latest to decide to buy all its power from carbon-free sources through an alliance formed in the county to our north: Monterey Bay Community Power. Newly named to Monterey’s 17-member Policy Board is Goleta Councilmember Kyle Richards, who praised the agency for basing decisions on the “greater good of the community” rather than shareholders.

“Instead of making a profit,” Richards said, “any ‘net revenues’ of this agency will be given back to the community in the form of rebates (lower rates) and/or incentive programs, such as electric vehicle charging stations, more residential solar, backup battery supplies to increase resiliency, et cetera.”

The competition envisioned in the 2002 law that established public power agencies is paying off generously. In its first 18 months of operation in Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties, Monterey Bay Community Power achieved an operating reserve of $100 million. It funded $15.5 million for electric vehicle charging stations and incentives, low-income solar installations, and other energy programs. From its reserve, $25 million will go to its Uninterruptible Power Supply Fund that provides low-cost loans for backup energy supplies to critical public facilities ​— ​schools, fire stations, and hospitals ​— ​that would otherwise be vulnerable to wildfire-related power shutoffs.

All this means 300,000 fewer metric tons of greenhouse gases spewed into the air.

Read more here: https://www.independent.com/2020/01/09/green-power-to-the-people/

Calif. CCA significantly expands solar, wind commitment

American Public Power Association

CleanPowerSF, the community choice renewable energy program operated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), has significantly expanded its commitment to new solar and wind projects in California, the SFPUC said on Dec. 20. The San Francisco PUC has entered into three new long-term power agreements with Maverick Solar 6, Blythe Solar IV, and Terra-Gen that will expand wind and solar power procurement starting in 2020. Maverick Solar 6, a 100-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plant to be built near Desert Center east of Palm Springs, will begin delivering power under a 20-year agreement in December 2021. It will be developed by EDF Renewables. Blythe Solar IV, a 62-MW solar photovoltaic power plant to be built in Blythe, California, will also begin delivering power under a 20-year agreement with CleanPowerSF next fall. The project will be developed by NextEra Energy Resources. In addition to these new solar commitments, CleanPowerSF will increase the amount of wind power it will purchase from Terra-Gen LLC’s new Voyager Wind IV facility from 47 to 110 MW. Located in Kern County, California, the project will begin generating wind power for CleanPowerSF in winter 2020. Wind power delivered under this agreement will account for about 10 percent of CleanPowerSF’s supply mix. https://www.publicpower.org/periodical/article/calif-cca-significantly-expands-solar-wind-commitment

N.A.A.C.P. Tells Local Chapters: Don’t Let Energy Industry Manipulate You

New York Times

When utilities around the country have wanted to build fossil-fuel plants, defeat energy-efficiency proposals or slow the growth of rooftop solar power, they have often turned for support to a surprisingly reliable ally: a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 2014, the top officials of the N.A.A.C.P.’s Florida division threw their organization’s weight behind an effort to stymie the spread of solar panels on residential rooftops and cut energy efficiency standards at the behest of the energy industry. The group’s Illinois chapter joined a similar industry effort in 2017. And in January 2018, the N.A.A.C.P.’s top executive in California signed a letter opposing a government program that encourages the use of renewable energy. In California, the N.A.A.C.P. conference has more consistently taken positions that align with those of the state’s largest utilities.

Alice Huffman, the president of that state conference, has signed letters opposing government-run electricity providers known as Community Choice Aggregation, which allow consumers to choose solar power and wind with lower rates while leaving billing and transmission in the hands of investor-owned utilities. Ms. Huffman and the heads of other nonprofit organizations joined the utilities in sending a letter to state regulators contending that those programs could shift more of the grid’s cost to those who could least afford it. Studies have found that those in community choice programs typically have lower electric bills, but that state fees charged for grid maintenance could hurt low-income customers. California’s three investor-owned utilities have donated about $180,000 to the N.A.A.C.P.’s state conference and its local chapters over the last five years, the companies said. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/05/business/energy-environment/naacp-utility-donations.html

Irvine will pursue community choice program to buy its own electric power

Orange County Register

Flipping on the lights or running the dishwasher could get a little cheaper and a lot greener in Irvine, under a “community choice” energy program city leaders plan to implement. Irvine would still depend on and pay Southern California Edison for the use of its electric transmission system – the poles, wires and substations – to deliver power to residents and businesses. But city officials say the community choice program could save customers an estimated 2% compared with Edison’s rates, which can pencil out to big savings for businesses, and it would allow the city to buy electricity from greener sources that could reduce impact on the climate. “It lets us use power sources that we feel are better for our community,” said Irvine Councilwoman Melissa Fox, who began researching community choice for the city’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee in 2017. “Why wouldn’t we want cheaper, cleaner power?” State legislation passed in 2002 made community choice aggregation possible, and in 2010, Marin Energy Authority (now called Marin Clean Energy) was the state’s first community choice agency to launch. Today it serves 34 Bay Area communities. https://www.ocregister.com/2019/12/31/irvine-will-pursue-community-choice-program-to-buy-its-own-electric-power/

MBCP Boards Vote Unanimously to Expand Service Area, Making MBCP the Largest CCE in California

Regional Expansion Signals a Unified Central Coast; EmbracingEconomic and Environmental Benefits of Community Choice Energy Model

Monterey, CA December 5, 2019 – MBCP announced today that its Policy Board has unanimously approved the agency’s continued expansion, adding the Cities of Arroyo Grande, Carpinteria, Del Rey Oaks, Goleta, Guadalupe, Grover Beach, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, Santa Maria, Solvang and the County of Santa Barbara to MBCP’s 21 existing member jurisdictions. MBCP will become the largest – geographically speaking – of all nineteen Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) more commonly referred to as, “Community Choice Energy” agencies, operating in California. Collectively, CCEs now serve more than 10 million customers in the State.

The remarkable growth of MBCP and community choice energy along the Central Coast affirms our region’s long-standing commitments to environmental stewardship and economic stimulation,” shares MBCP CEO, Tom Habashi. “Unifying the Central Coast in these terms not only benefits our own region, it supports the growth of California’s CCE community and the potential to influence important energy-policy decisions being made in Sacramento.”

Santa Cruz County Supervisor and MBCP Policy Board Chair, Bruce McPherson first spearheaded the formation of MBCP to serve Santa Cruz County. Soon after, McPherson brought Monterey and San Benito Counties in to be part of MBCP’s initial formation, as the first Tri-County CCE to launch in March 2018. Since then, the agency’s efforts to share CCE benefits with neighboring communities and grow CCE’s influence in California have combined with the desire to create economic stimulus and address climate action by many Central Coast communities, energizing remarkable growth of the relatively new public agency as the enduring southward momentum continues. “Expanding MBCP’s reach to serve more of the Central Coast is an incredible opportunity to scale up customer savings, local energy programs and the Central Coast’s political influence,” says McPherson.

MBCP will add over 130,000 customers to reach an estimated total customer base of over 430,000, spanning 8,000 square miles and supporting customers across two different Investor Owned Utility service territories.  Through its carbon-neutral power mix, MBCP estimates reducing carbon emissions an extra 240,000 metric tons in 2021, equal to removing over 50,000 cars off the road for one year.

During this week’s momentous Policy Board Meeting, Santa Barbara County Supervisor Das Williams echoed this sentiment, “Joining MBCP is a critical step in the County’s commitment to energy resiliency and greenhouse gas reduction. We are excited to partner and leverage the necessary resources to support our constituents.”

The addition of these 11 member jurisdictions from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties generated five new seats on MBCP’s Policy Board, sworn in immediately following the expansion approval during the December 4th MBCP Policy Board Meeting. Customers within the newly approved jurisdictions are set to begin receiving electric generation service from MBCP in early 2021 which is when they also gain access to MBCP’s local energy programs that reduce local greenhouse gas emissions and help solve energy resiliency issues, transforming and helping to decarbonize the Central Coast. Last year, at the December 2018 Policy Board meeting, the Cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay went through the same process, and they enroll with MBCP January 1, 2020.

Monterey Bay Community Power is a Community Choice Energy agency established by local communities to source carbon-free electricity for Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties and now portions of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties. PG&E continues its traditional role delivering power, maintaining electric infrastructure and billing. As a locally controlled not-for-profit, MBCP is not taxpayer funded and supports regional economic vitality by providing cleaner energy at a lower cost, supporting low-income rate payers, and funding local energy programs. For more information, visit www.mbcp.org

California’s Resource Adequacy Program Hits Snag on Out-of-State Imports

Greentech Media

Over the past month, the California Public Utilities Commission’s effort to reform its Resource Adequacy program has hit a major snag, one centered on longstanding conflicts about how to value out-of-state imports as part of the state’s future grid capacity mix.

California has faced numerous challenges in its year-long effort to change the RA program, which sets the rules for how investor-owned utilities, community-choice aggregators and other load-serving entities contract for future generation or load-reduction capacity. These challenges include how to measure the value of all kinds of future grid resources, from the economically struggling natural-gas-fired power plants that have been closing across the state, to utility-scale solar-battery projects that are contracted for but have yet to be built.

One of the most contentious aspects of the RA debate has been over the value of imports from outside the boundaries of California grid operator CAISO. These can range from Pacific Northwest hydropower connected via the Pacific DC Intertie to a variety of fossil-fueled or renewable-powered resources from across the Western U.S.

In simple terms, the argument over imports breaks down to what rules California should use to determine whether the imports can be relied on in future years when the grid needs them the most.

Stakeholders such as the California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) have argued that import RA should retain its place as part of a diverse portfolio of resources, and that the California Public Utilities Commission’s proposed remedies would undercut that value. Other stakeholders, including CAISO but also environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, have expressed concern that growing demand for carbon-free capacity resources across the Western U.S. could put pressure on California’s reliance on out-of-state resources and sap efforts to secure in-state resources to meet the same goals.

 

All of these arguments have been sidelined at present to address a much more pressing concern. On Oct. 17, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a decision (PDF) affirming its new Resource Adequacy rules for 2020. Included in the decision are new requirements for import RA that the CPUC said are needed to assure that future reliability.

But according to stakeholders, these new rules are not only legally flawed, but will also force them to renegotiate or cancel tens of millions of dollars’ worth of import RA contracts for the new year.

The firestorm over new import Resource Adequacy rules, explained

According to the community-choice aggregators (CCAs), generator groups and others, the CPUC’s decision uses a faulty legal premise to throw many existing RA contracts into doubt. CalCCA filed a motion to stay the decision, along with an application for rehearing (PDF), telling the CPUC that its decision “violates state and federal law.”

What’s worse, the CPUC’s new rules came mere weeks before the Oct. 31 deadline for load-serving entities to file their year-ahead compliance “showings” for meeting 2020 RA needs as well as a Nov. 17 deadline for RA showings for January 2020. That’s given the LSEs almost no time to absorb the changes before presenting new or existing contracts for approval.

Read more here: https://www.greentechmedia.com/squared/dispatches-from-the-grid-edge/californias-resource-adequacy-program-hits-a-snag-on-imports

An Inside Look at a Groundbreaking Solar-Storage Procurement in California

Greentech Media

Early this month, three community-choice aggregators and one municipal utility serving much of California’s San Francisco Bay Area launched a 30-megawatt distributed energy storage-plus-solar solicitation. It breaks ground on multiple fronts.

First, it’s one of the largest-ever efforts to aggregate distributed energy resources (DERs) at a scale that can help California’s power grid meet its capacity needs.

Second, it’s being launched by CCAs, the city or county energy procurement entities that are taking over an increasing share of customers from the state’s investor-owned utilities — and thus an increasing share of responsibility for securing the state’s long-term clean energy needs.

Then, of course, there are the blackouts.

East Bay Community Energy, Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy are all served by bankrupt utility Pacific Gas & Electric, which has cut off power to millions of its customers over the past two months as part of a statewide fire-prevention regime. PG&E has warned that these blackouts could continue for another 10 years, despite its efforts to reduce their scope and scale over time. The safety threats from blackouts have outraged state lawmakers and regulators, forcing counties and cities to foot the bill for emergency services to deal with them.

And because CCAs’ interests are aligned with the cities and counties they serve, they’re positioned to act far more quickly than utilities to supply their most vulnerable customers with solar-storage systems that can help them survive blackouts. That’s important, because the CCAs want at least some of these new solar-storage systems to be in place for next year’s fire season.

Read more here: https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/inside-california-community-energy-providers-groundbreaking-solar-storage-p

How Silicon Valley is rising to climate challenge

Mercury News

Long before Silicon Valley counties declared a climate emergency, we knew that we were facing a climate crisis. For half a century, scientists warned of the looming threat. Yet, the collective legacy of climate action leadership has been far too slow, tepid and cautious.

Policy makers have too often tinkered around the edges of the market economy hoping it would somehow respond with miraculous solutions, despite the fact that market forces in the energy sector, a system dependent and premised upon abundant and cheap fossil fuel, was a basic root cause of the problem. Perhaps, it was hoped, the consumer would demand change. But as real income shrank over the course of the same half century, consumers lacked the financial resources to purchase homes, cars, electricity, and other products and services that would reduce their carbon footprint.

The result of this folly is now upon us. Our children have organized millions of people in the Youth Climate Strike demanding that we take action now. We cannot run from rising sea levels that will soon flood our communities if left unchecked.  We cannot hide from searing heat waves that will become more intense and more frequent, nor the resulting wildfires and droughts. As they absorb more CO2, our oceans are trapping heat and becoming more acidic which imperils the largest ecosystem on earth.

Fortunately, our local power, supplied by local community choice energy agencies in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, is now almost entirely greenhouse gas free, coming from sources like wind, solar and hydro.

Seizing the opportunity, cities across Silicon Valley, varying in size from San Jose and San Mateo, to Mountain View and Menlo Park, have shown climate leadership by adopting ordinances, including reach codes, to transition away from the use of fossil fuels in new buildings. More than 20 other cities in Silicon Valley are now exploring actions to promote the construction of all-electric new buildings, which is vitally important as buildings contribute approximately 40% of our carbon emissions.

The aim is to build future cities that feature decarbonized buildings and to challenge the market to provide the technology not wished for, but required to achieve this goal. A carbon free future is exactly what our children, our cities, and our region deserves. As local leaders, we plan on working together to make it a reality.

Read more here: https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/11/26/opinion-how-silicon-valley-is-rising-to-climate-challenge/

Community Choice Aggregators on the Rise as an Alternative Electricity Provider

National Law Review

Community choice aggregators (CCAs) are growing in popularity as an alternative electricity provider for communities that want more local control over their energy mix. And so, financiers, CCAs and other business leaders must assess what this growth means for the electric grid, utility business models and project finance. While there’s a primary focus on California, increasing energy loads being served by CCAs and other non-utility suppliers have been trending across the country. The recent American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) Forum united dealmakers, policymakers and systems experts to confront the business opportunities, policy and regulatory issues, and technology challenges associated with integrating high-penetration renewable electricity on the grid.

The goal of ACORE’s 2019 forum was to advance efforts for a modernized grid that values flexibility, reliability and resilience. One important session was Community Choice Aggregation: Impacts on Project Finance and Grid Management, which was moderated by Ed Zaelke of McDermott Will & Emery and included panelists Nick Chaset of East Bay Community Energy, Daniela Shapiro of ENGIE, N.A. and Britta von Oesen of CohnReznick Capital. By and large, the CCA platform in California is considered a success and has positive momentum.

Other states are actively investigating a similar-to-California choice for customers and untangling potentially complicated matters of regulation and assessing price and controls. Though structured to provide modest discounts to customers, CCAs strive to offer a more durable value proposition in their delivery of innovative, locally focused customer programs. In fact, they’re banking on it. Rates may fluctuate over regulated utilities at some point, but with tailored programs to meet the specific needs of a customer base and their priorities, CCAs are confident in their resilience and in maintaining the vast majority of their customer base.

There’s a continued evolution on the path to 100% clean energy goals and CCAs are an integral component. As the industry develops and CCAs grow in prominence, so too will the number of parties willing to provide financing for projects with CCA offtake agreements and financing.

Read more here: https://www.natlawreview.com/article/community-choice-aggregators-rise-alternative-electricity-provider