Monterey Bay Community Power expands, adds two San Luis Obispo cities

Less than a year after its launch, Monterey Bay Community Power is expanding outside the area.

On Wednesday, the community power agency board unanimously approved the addition of the cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay to its service area. The move, which still needs to be approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, would add about 29,000 new customers to the “community choice aggregator” power agency and push the local community power agency’s customer base to more than 300,000.

The tentative date for the two new members to be operating under a revised agreement is January 2020. The CPUC now requires CCAs to wait a year to start service for new members and the CPUC must also review and approve an implementation plan next year.

Monterey Bay CEO Tom Habashi noted the cities are part of the continued growth at a “remarkable rate” in CCAs across the state.

“Here on the Central Coast, this new partnership with the cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay affirms our region’s longstanding commitments to environmental stewardship and economic stimulation,” Habashi said. “Our team is really excited to bring these cities into the fold and we hope more communities in our region and across California follow in their footsteps.”

Read more here: Monterey Bay Community Power expands, adds two San Luis Obispo cities

California community choice aggregators seek rehearing

Community choice entities and advocates in California have filed a petition asking the state’s Public Utilities Commission to revise its decision on the exit fee customers have to pay when departing from investor-owned utility service.

The California Community Choice Association, along with CleanPowerSF and Solana Energy Alliance, are asking the PUC to rehear its October 11 decision on the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment, or PCIA, that investor-owned utilities charge community choice aggregation and other departing load customers to compensate for electricity generation built or contracted in the past at prices that are now above market.

Several other parties have also petitioned the PUC for rehearing on the PCIA decision, including California Large Energy Consumers Association and the Direct Access Customer Coalition, Shell North America, and a joint application by Peninsula Clean Energy, Sonoma Clean Power Authority and Marin Clean Energy.

In the California Community Choice Association filing, the community choice entities say the PUC’s decision will result in a “sharp increase in PCIA rates” for community choice customers and may make it uneconomic to launch new community choice entities.

“The PCIA decision fails to ensure equitable treatment of all market participants in California,” Beth Vaughan, executive director of the California Community Choice Association, said in a statement. “It favors incumbent utilities by shifting costs, including recovery of shareholder returns, from IOU bundled customers to CCA customers.”

Read more here: California community choice aggregators seek rehearing

How Peninsula Clean Energy is bringing renewable energy to San Mateo County

An assortment of elected officials from across San Mateo County crammed into two vans on a recent morning and headed inland. Their destination: Los Banos.

Their route was a winding roadway through the Pacheco Pass, with dry, brown hills in every direction – a desolate California, far from the foggy sea, lush Santa Cruz Mountains or oaky chaparral that characterize their home jurisdictions.

Local council members Jeff Aalfs of Portola Valley and Rick DeGolia of Atherton (above) have been active players in the county’s efforts to create Peninsula Clean Energy. (Photo from Rick DeGolia.)

Only one hiccup occurred when one of the vans got stuck on a pile of rocks on the dirt road leading up the hill. After the officials had been safely transferred to another van, they were deposited at their dusty destination, the literal end of the road that had a large shade structure, tables, a dais with a microphone, a team of supporters and collaborators, and a collection of golden shovels.

They had made the journey for the Oct. 11 groundbreaking of what’s called the “Wright Solar Project,” the installation of a solar farm that is going to be a 1,200-acre, 200-megawatt collection of solar panels that will provide between 500,000 and 600,000 megawatt hours a year of electrical power to meet the energy needs for about 15 percent of San Mateo County.

The Wright Solar Project is so far the largest solar power plant ever commissioned by what’s called a “community choice energy” provider in California, according to Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE), a community choice energy program that San Mateo County formed in February 2016.

Solar power now comes at a lower cost than many other alternatives, the cost is known up front, and in this case, it will create an estimated 400 local, union jobs during the construction and upkeep phases of the project, he said. According to George Hershman, president of Swinerton Renewable Energy, the firm building the project, renewable energy employs more people than the coal, oil and gas industries combined.

Read more here: How Peninsula Clean Energy is bringing renewable energy to San Mateo County

Monterey Bay Community Power signs on to new solar agreements

Monterey Bay Community Power’s recent signing of two long-term solar renewable energy project development agreements, in partnership with Silicon Valley Clean Power, has helped the state’s community choice aggregators surpass a significant milestone, even as they deal with the fallout from a California Public Utilities Commission decision on so-called “exit fees.”

The local agency’s power purchase agreements with two solar projects to be built in Kern and Kings counties pushed the state’s community choice aggregators over 2,000 megawatts in long-term contracts with renewable energy facilities, more than double last year’s total.

The contracts, signed Oct. 25, total 278 megawatts of solar power combined with 340-megawatt hours of battery storage for two separate projects, including a 15-year deal with Slate 1 by Recurrent Energy in Kings County and a 20-year deal with BigBeau Solar by EDF Renewables North America in Kern County. The former is the largest utility-scale, solar-plus-storage project to be built in the state.

Combined, the two projects are expected to power 32,000 local customer homes annually and provide 840 temporary jobs during construction with commercial operation set for 2021, according to Monterey Bay Community Power.

“We are excited to bring online the largest California solar-plus-storage by (community choice aggregators) to date,” Monterey Bay Community Power CEO Tom Habashi said. “Solar development has been a hallmark of California’s renewable energy boom and with the storage component we can realize the full potential of solar generation.”

California Community Choice Association executive director Beth Vaughan noted the milestone reflects the strong commitment by the state’s 19 community choice aggregators serving 8 million customers statewide to drive clean energy and economic development in California and help the state achieve “ambitious decarbonization and climate change goals.”

“This is a significant achievement for the (community choice aggregator) movement in California,”: Vaughan said. “It shows (community choice aggregators) are ready, willing and able to sign long-term contracts with renewable energy projects, fueling new sources of clean energy, job creation and revenue for host communities.”

Meanwhile, two of the state’s community choice aggregators, CleanPowerSF and Solana Energy Alliance, filed an application with the CPUC on Monday for a rehearing of the commission’s early October approval of a revised Power Charge Indifference Adjustment or “exit fee,” which charges customers who join community choice aggregators such as Monterey Bay Community Power for costs incurred by their previous investor-owned utility such as PG&E before they left.

Read more here: Monterey Bay Community Power signs on to new solar agreements

Greener homes: Rebuilding Santa Rosa one year after the fires

The Camp Fire in Northern California is now the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. For most Californians, this milestone is starting to sound all too familiar.

While the Camp Fire victims are dealing with the immediate aftermath of a disaster, people affected by last year’s Wine Country fires are in the middle of a long and arduous rebuilding process. It’s a cycle that some people think we’ll need to get used to in this fire-prone state. But, one silver lining: starting over means an opportunity to build differently, with the environment and climate change in mind.

Sonoma Clean Power program manager Rachel Kuykendall thinks big changes can be made if Santa Rosa rebuilds with cleaner energy options, like electric power versus gas.

“Right when the fires hit, it was actually very interesting because we’re a bit unique as a utility. We’re not for profit and really our mission is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Kuykendall says.“So that was really a moment for us to step back and say, how can we help our community rebuild and how can we help them rebuild better?”

They found that if you build a house completely electric, it’s the equivalent of taking 3 cars a year off the road, so their answer was providing money for people who decide to rebuild their homes with clean power.

One person who considered taking them up on the offer is Barry Hirsch. He lives up the road from Gena Jacob and knew his home was destroyed when a friend texted him a picture the day after his family evacuated.

“I wouldn’t have known it was my place. There was nothing. You know there was nothing. It was all gone,” Hirsch says. He’s a retired contractor and knew he needed to get the ball rolling right away.

I’ve built houses my whole life, and…we had propane up here before and I had a gas water heater, gas cooktop, all that kind of stuff. And that’s what I was going to do,” he says.

But then he heard a Sonoma Clean Power talk about energy efficient homes.

Read more here: Rebuilding Santa Rosa one year after the fires

Community choice energy backers file for CPUC rehearing, say exit fees are too high

Backers of community choice energy programs want the California Public Utilities Commission to take another look at a recent decision that supporters say is tilted too much in favor of traditional power companies and will discourage potential customers from switching to CCAs.

Last month, the commission voted 5-0 to increase the exit fees that Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, customers must pay to utility companies in their respective service territories, effective next year.

Late Monday afternoon, the state’s CCA trade association and a pair of San Diego-based groups filed paperwork calling on the commission to hear the case again.

“This is an added fee that will increase the cost for customers to move over” to CCAs, said April Maurath Sommer, executive director and lead counsel for the Protect Our Communities Foundation, an environmental group based in San Diego County. The Utility Consumers’ Action Network joined Protect Our Communities in its filing.

The CalCCA trade group submitted its own application, saying the state’s decision “artificially inflates” the exit fees.

The utilities commission did not respond to a request for comment on the filings.

Largely formed as a way to offer customers power from cleaner energy sources, CCAs have grown rapidly across the state. The first CCA was established in 2010 in Marin County and since then 18 others have sprung up.

San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer last month announced his support for creating a CCA that, under a joint powers authority, could also include multiple cities around the county.

Read more here: Community choice energy backers file for CPUC rehearing

California CCAs Double Renewable Energy Commitment, Adding 1 GW Capacity, in One Year

The California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) announced this week that community choice aggregators (CCAs) in the state have signed long-term contracts with new renewable energy facilities totaling more than 2,000 MW (2 GW), reflecting a strong commitment by CCAs to drive clean energy and economic development in California and help the state achieve ambitious decarbonization and climate change goals.

CCAs achieved the 2,000 MW milestone in October when Monterey Bay Community Power  and Silicon Valley Clean Energy  approved power purchase agreements (PPAs) totaling 278 MW of solar coupled with 340 MWh of battery storage for two separate projects, to be built in Kern and Kings Counties. In 2017, CCAs in California had secured approximately 1,000 MW of new renewables under long-term contracts, so the figure has doubled in one year.

California’s aggregators have signed a total of 59 PPAs with new solar, wind, biogas, and energy storage facilities, supporting billions of dollars in construction and thousands of jobs. All but three of the contracts are for terms of ten years or longer.

Read more here: California CCAs Double Renewable Energy Commitment, Adding 1 GW Capacity, in One Year

Calif. utilities exceed renewable-energy goals as customers continue to flee

California investor-owned utilities have exceeded the state’s renewable energy goals, regulators said in an annual report to state legislators. Meanwhile, the incumbent utilities are losing millions of customers to community choice aggregators that will have to buy more power from renewable sources in order to meet state requirements.

The California Public Utilities Commission estimated that investor-owned utilities will obtain an average of 40% of their electricity from renewable sources this year and are on pace to achieve 50% by 2020, according to the 2018 California Renewables Portfolio Standard Annual Report. Sempra Energy subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric Co. got 44% of its retail sales from renewable energy in 2017, while PG&E Corp. subsidiary Pacific Gas and Electric Co. had 33% and Edison International subsidiary Southern California Edison Co. reported 32%. Aggregators will reach 46% in 2018, but will slip to 30% by 2020, the report found.

California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requires that 60% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030.

The California Community Choice Association, or CalCCA, said by email that the aggregators have either already met or plan to meet or exceed California’s RPS mandates, including the 60% RPS in 2030. That assessment is based on members’ integrated resource plans filed this year, CalCCA said.

Power exodus

The report highlighted the fact that utility progress toward RPS goals becomes increasingly less relevant as millions of customers buy their energy from alternative electricity providers. Investor-owned utilities have estimated that they could lose 60% to 80% of their current electricity customer demand over the next eight to 10 years. As additional aggregators are formed, the PUC said, state regulators will oversee a smaller percentage of renewable procurement in the state.

At the same time, they have limited jurisdiction over the procurement activities of aggregators and other nonutility energy providers. Community choice aggregation enables municipalities to form agencies to purchase energy on behalf of electricity customers in their jurisdictions.

For the 2018 RPS report, the commission said data was not available for 10 aggregators who launched in localities throughout the state in 2018, so the report is based on data the PUC received through 2017. CalCCA provided S&P Global Market Intelligence with a list of 17 aggregators projecting that an average of 44% of retail sales will come from renewables in 2020, and 61% by 2030. Seven aggregators have signed 59 contracts for more than 2,100 MW of new construction, the association said.

“That is impressive, considering two years ago only five CCAs existed with a combined load of around 5,000 GWh,” said CalCCA Executive Director Beth Vaughan.

Read more here: Calif. utilities exceed renewable-energy goals as customers continue to flee

EDF Renewables signs PPAs with Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Monterey Bay Community Power

EDF Renewables North America announced the signing of two 20-year PPAs for the 128 MWac with 40 MW/160 MWh battery storage Big Beau Solar+Storage Project in Kern County, California. Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) will purchase 55% of the output, and Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) will purchase 45%. The Project is slated to achieve commercial operation by the end of 2021.

SVCE and MBCP jointly launched a competitive procurement process in September 2017 to take advantage of economies of scale for the combined four county service territory. This unique collaboration between these two Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) allowed for more purchasing power to better-source cost-effective, clean electricity for their communities.

“We are excited to bring online a new California solar+storage project with SVCE and EDF Renewables,” said Tom Habashi, CEO of Monterey Bay Community Power. “Solar development has been a hallmark of California’s renewable energy boom and with the storage component, we can realize the full potential of solar generation.”

“We are delivering on our commitment to our customers to provide reliable, renewable energy that will help us reach our decarbonization goals,” said Girish Balachandran, CEO of Silicon Valley Clean Energy. “This long-term agreement with EDF Renewables for solar-plus-storage shows that as a CCA we have the financial stability to make investments in these kinds of innovative renewable projects.”

Read more here: EDF Renewables signs PPAs with Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Monterey Bay Community Power

California community choice aggregators sign PPAs for 150 MW of solar, 180 MWh of storage

Canada’s Recurrent Energy said Tuesday it has signed two 15-year power purchase agreements with two California community choice aggregators, or CCAs, to supply a total of 150 MW of solar power from a utility-scale facility that will be built with 180 MWh of battery storage attached.

Power will be supplied from Recurrent Energy’s Slate photovoltaic-plus-storage project to be built in Kings County, California. The project is scheduled to reach commercial operation in 2021, Recurrent said. Approximately 55% of the power represented in the contracts will go to Silicon Valley Clean Energy, while 45% will go to Monterey Bay Community Power.

“This first-of-its-kind partnership resulted from a joint procurement process that Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Monterey Bay Community Power launched in September 2017 to source cost-effective, renewable power for their respective communities,” the CCAs said in a statement.

The Slate project, to be located near the town of Lemoore, will have a 45-MW lithium-ion battery of four hours duration giving it 180 MWh of energy capacity, Recurrent said.

“With the integrated storage component, both CCAs will have the flexibility to fill the battery when wholesale energy prices are low and then discharge the energy when prices are higher to meet their unique load requirements in a cost-competitive manner,” said Shawn Qu, chairman and chief executive officer of Canadian Solar, the parent company of Recurrent Energy.

Qu said the project will provide “a landmark amount of energy storage for the state of California as well.”

In the second quarter of 2018, Silicon Valley Energy Authority, based in San Jose, California, bought the most power of any of the 16 active CCAs in California. It bought 1.65 million MWh out of a total of 7.2 million MWh reported sold to the CCAs.

In Q2 2018, Silicon Valley’s biggest supplier was Morgan Stanley, which supplied the CCA with 543,042 MWh, or roughly a third of its total, according to data filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission..

Monterey Bay Community Power, based in Monterey, California, was the second most active power buyer in Q2. It bought 1.47 million MWh, with The Energy Authority supplying 600,029 MWh of its total.

Read more here: California community choice aggregators sign PPAs for 150 MW of solar, 180 MWh of storage