Category Archives: Community Choice Aggregation

California Public Utilities Commission approves nearly 100% increase in exit fees for CCA customers

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle
[IMPORTANT INFORMATION: CLICK HERE – The “Power Charge Indifference Adjustment” (PCIA) and its impacts on customers who are served by alternative green energy companies (CCAs).  Unfortunately, the approved increase is not for a one-time fee, but rather a monthly fee that is tied to the usage on each electric account. It is charged on a kWh basis for all customers using CCA service.
Other proposed ongoing and monthly PGE penalties for solar customers were “proposed for rejection” by the Public Utilities Commission.  Stay tuned for their vote on January 28!  See also the Chronicle’s editorial on this, State regulators help advance rooftop solar.  – RS]

Customers of clean energy programs hit with fee increase

By Lizzie Johnson, December 17, 2015 7:53pm
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. Photo: Lacy Atkins, SFC
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. Photo: Lacy Atkins, SFC

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.”

Under the increase, which is effective Jan. 1, customers making the switch to local green energy programs will face a heftier exit fee. Marin Clean Energy customers are projected to pay more than $36 million, up from $19.3 million in 2015. The cost for each residential customer would nearly double from about $6.70 each month to $13.

In San Francisco, the proposed exit fee for residents moving to CleanPowerSF would jump by 100.26 percent. Because the city energy program is designed to absorb costs for its customers, it would decrease the program’s revenue by $8.4 million.

Win for consumers

This month, 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, in addition to adding new monthly fees targeting solar homeowners. The CPUC released a proposed decision on the matter this week rejecting the fees. A vote is scheduled for January.

“Overall, we didn’t convince three commissioners to rule our way on the PCIA,” said Barbara Hale, assistant general manager for power at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. “The fee is going to double, and that’s tough for us. But we are marching forward with our CleanPowerSF program, which will launch this spring. We are still moving forward.”

Hundreds of protesters came from as far as San Diego to oppose the fee increase at Thursday’s meeting in San Francisco. They carried homemade signs reading “Stand Up to Natural Gas!” and “CPUC: Consumers Pay Again?!” Public comment on the change stretched for more than two hours.

“We’ve achieved a great deal, but there is this overhang of costs that were necessary to kick-start the industry,” said CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio. “The reason the PCIA is so high is because of high-cost renewable contracts that PG&E was required by law to enter into, and that this commission approved. I don’t think it’s fair to let one group of customers escape from paying those historic costs and simply load those on the remaining customers. That’s what the PCIA is all about.”

Charge required by law

PG&E originally filed an application to raise the fee by 70 percent in June, but submitted another request last month to as much as double it. The fee helps the power company pay for energy it contracted for when it had more customers, preventing remaining patrons from bearing the brunt of the costs. The charge is required by law and determined by a formula implemented by the CPUC in 2011.

The fee is influenced by several market factors, including the price of energy, which fluctuates from year to year, said David Rubin, PG&E’s director of service analysis. The cost of power is now cheaper, meaning the difference between what PG&E paid for in its contracts and the price today is higher.

“The PCIA is going up because it is based very specifically on the difference between the cost of supplies in our portfolio which are based on contracts we signed several years ago when renewable prices were higher,” Rubin said. “If dynamics were different, the PCIA would go down.”

Process has critics

PG&E performs the calculation annually and submits the annual filing to the commission for approval. But to calculate the fee increase, some of the inputs must include confidential contract information. Critics say the numbers going into this ‘black box’ prevent outsiders from replicating the formula, and that the increase is another attempt by PG&E to undermine fledgling green energy programs, like Peninsula Clean Energy, which will provide electricity in San Mateo County beginning in August.

“The fee is almost completely redacted,” said Francesca Vietor, president of the San Francisco PUC. “It is extremely difficult for us to know what an affordable rate for our program is when we don’t have a transparent process.”

The CPUC also ordered in its decision that a workshop be held on Feb. 16 to address the methodologies and inputs used for calculating the PCIA charge.

“One day you’re a hero, the next day you’re a goat,” CPUC President Michael Picker said. “We are in the nature of balancing decisions. But we will continue to scrutinize the PCIA formula and balance different interests equally.”

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    SF Board of Supervisors and PG&E debate definition of “clean energy”

    Repost from SFGate.com
    [Editor:  Defining an everyday common usage phrase like “clean energy” doesn’t sound very exciting, but it’s a serious prelude to San Francisco’s plan to bring in a local alternative supplier of clean energy.  Corporate energy interests and their lobbyists and a certain PGE-friendly labor organization are lobbing early grenades at Mayor Ed Lee and the Board (the likes of which we have also seen here in Benicia).  – RS]

    Voters may decide in November what clean energy really means

    By Emily Green, June 16, 2015 9:04 pm

    You know there’s more at stake than science when a debate over the definition of clean energy goes before voters.

    That’s what’s likely to be on the agenda in November, when competing measures — by city officials on one side and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. on the other — may go on the ballot. The Board of Supervisors took up the issue Tuesday afternoon.

    The issue is what clean energy actually entails, and what’s at stake are thousands of potential customers.

    The dispute stems from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee’s decision in January to develop a city-run renewable energy program by the end of the year that would compete directly with PG&E. The state requires that such locally run renewable energy programs are designed to enroll customers automatically.

    Now, the union that represents PG&E employees is seeking a ballot measure that would prohibit the city from advertising its electricity as clean or green unless the electricity provided is “greenhouse gas-free electricity.”

    The proposed measure, by IBEW 1245, “will ensure that the power San Franciscans are sold is what it says it is — truly green, local power,” according to the union’s press release. The union is currently in the process of collecting signatures to put it on the ballot.

    No surprise, city officials are none too happy about it. The city’s proposed program would rely extensively on renewable energy, but would not be 100 percent greenhouse gas-free.

    With that in mind, Board of Supervisors’ President London Breed introduced on Tuesday a competing ballot measure. The measure says that for all city programs, renewable greenhouse gas-free energy means energy that is pulled from a wide spectrum of sources, but not nuclear power.

    The measure would define clean energy to mirror the standards set by state law, she said Tuesday in comments to the Board of Supervisors. “Terms like clean and green are not just PG&E marketing terms,” she said.

    Supervisors John Avalos, Julie Christensen and Scott Wiener co-sponsored the legislation, meaning it has the necessary signatures to go on the ballot.

    Also on Tuesday, the board unanimously passed legislation by Wiener that would require many large new buildings in San Francisco to use gray water — waste water from baths, sinks and other kitchen appliances — for toilet flushing and in their irrigation systems.

    Wiener and other conservation advocates believe the legislation is a first in the country. Because the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission sells only drinking water, it will fall to developers to create water treatment systems to capture and clean the recycled water.

    Initially, Wiener made the legislation apply only to yet-to-be constructed buildings 250,000 square feet and larger located in the city’s “purple-pipe” district. That’s land on the east and west slivers of the city and includes the development-rich South of Market area.

    But during the committee process, Wiener amended the legislation to apply citywide.

    “We have a lot of work to do to address our water crisis,” Wiener said Tuesday. “We need structural changes to how we use this precious resource.”

    The board also unanimously passed legislation by Supervisor Mark Farrell to preserve the city’s entertainment economy. The legislation will extend the city’s film rebate program for an additional four years, and raise the cap from $3 million to $4 million.

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      California Public utility & electrical workers running misinformation campaign

      [Editor:  My home town, Benicia, California, has elected to join Marin Clean Energy as its electricity provider of choice.  Under California law, the current public utility, Pacific Gas and Electricity (PGE) now must compete with “Community Choice Aggregations” (CCA’s).   This week, a major regional supporter of PGE, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) sent out mailers to homes in Benicia full of misinformation.  The following letter from the MCE staff to their Board of Directors helps sift through the misinformation and the history behind it.  – RS]

      Repost from an email, Thu 6/4/2015 11:49 AM

      Dear all,

      We just circulated the below email to our board regarding the misinformation campaign.  It provides context for the flyer and IBEW’s opposition to public power agencies.   Please feel free to use this information on NextDoor or in any other communications.  And let me know if you have any questions.

      Thank you again for your support!

      Best,
      Allison

      Allison Hang
      MCE Account Manager
      www.mceCleanEnergy.org 

      From: Jamie Tuckey [mailto:jtuckey@mcecleanenergy.org] Sent: Thursday, June 04, 2015 10:54 AM
      Subject: Misinformation Campaign Circulating Against MCE

      Dear MCE Board of Directors,

      On Monday the IBEW 1245 (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) issued the attached press release and proposed San Francisco ballot measure to stifle efforts to launch Clean Power SF (San Francisco’s proposed community choice aggregation program). The press release accuses MCE of falsely advertising our power as green, citing that we purchase brown, fossil-fuel power from Shell Oil and market it as green power. The information being distributed by the IBEW is misleading and confusing and seems designed to generate an emotional response from consumers to halt any further competition against PG&E.

      Yesterday the attached mailer from the IBEW 1245, which makes similar arguments as the press release and encourages customers to opt out of MCE, was distributed in Richmond and Benicia. We are unaware of any mailers going out in our other member communities.

      It is worth pointing out that while IBEW leadership has chosen to use the dues of their members for misinformation mailers in MCE communities where there is choice in power suppliers, and for a ballot initiative in a community that is seeking to allow choice, it is unlikely that the hundreds of IBEW workers who built solar and wind projects for MCE in the last year would vote in favor of that use of their dues.

      Please see the information below that clears up the misinformation and provides insight as to why the IBEW would do this.

      Facts to explain and respond to the IBEW ballot Initiative and misleading mailer:

      What is the IBEW?

      • The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 is a very large union whose members perform electrical work, such as power line maintenance, across California and Nevada. Of their 18,000 member employees, approximately 2/3 are employed by PG&E.

      What is the intent of the IBEW’s San Francisco ballot initiative?

      • The IBEW’s ballot initiative is attempting to rewrite the definition of renewable energy so that no out of state supply would qualify as renewable. However, their proposed changes would not limit PG&E from marketing nuclear power as ‘green’.
      • The IBEW wishes to promote California sources of renewable energy because it wishes to promote jobs for its members.  While this is valuable, it should be presented in a clear way and should be considered together with the other goals of a power portfolio, such as greenhouse gas content, public safety, price and local economic benefits.

      Why is the IBEW marketing against Clean Power SF and MCE?

      • The IBEW and its primary employer, PG&E, have demonstrated a strong interest in maintaining the power supply structure of the past which was centralized and controlled by a monopoly.
      • PG&E has a history of using misinformation and dollars, and the California ballot initiative process to confuse customers.

      o   http://www.localcleanenergy.org/powergrab

      • The IBEW has a history of using misinformation and legal threats to stop municipalization and community choice across California. While IBEW 1245 claims that they are not opposed to community choice programs, they have opposed every community choice or municipalization effort in the last 15 years that might fracture PG&E, including:

      o   Opposition to San Francisco municipalization efforts in 2001-2002

      o   Opposition to SMUD expansion into Yolo County in 2006

      o   Opposition to San Joaquin CCA efforts in 2007

      o   Opposition to CleanPowerSF in 2013 and onward

      o   Opposition to Sonoma Clean Power in 2014

      o   Opposition to Davis Municipalization in 2014

      o   Financing 2014 campaigns of politicians who will oppose CCA

      o   … and of course, current hostility towards MCE

      • The IBEW has pushed aggressively for jobs even when it means squeezing out other trades and local labor from renewable projects by insisting their electricians have a monopoly on work, even unpacking and carrying solar panels across the work site.

      Does MCE support unions and local jobs?

      • Yes. As of December 31, 2014, MCE’s contracted power projects have supported more than 2,400 California jobs.
      • MCE has adopted a Sustainable Workforce Policy that supports union labor, fair wages, local labor and apprenticeship programs.
      • In the last year 750,000 union work hours have been invested in MCE renewable projects.
      • MCE has contracted more than $200,000 with RichmondBUILD, the Marin City Community Development Corporation, and Rising Sun Energy Center to train and provide workers to help implement energy upgrades for our energy efficiency programs.
      • MCE has contracted with Schneider Electricto employ IBEW union workers that install energy efficiency load-control devices for MCE customer homes under the My Energy Insightprogram.
      • MCE’s first local solar feed-in tariff project at the San Rafael Airport was built with a local development and design team, local labor, and workforce trainees from the Marin City Community Development Corporation.
      • MCE’s largest local solar project in development requires prevailing wage and local labor, and MCE is working with RichmondBUILD to ensure locally trained workers are employed for the project.

      What is MCE’s relationship with Shell? Where does MCE get its power?  

      • Shell Energy North America (SENA) is one of 14 power suppliers that MCE has contracts with. MCE entered into a contract with SENA in 2010 because, of the options that we had available, they allowed us to launch service with the highest amount of renewable energy and were the only company to offer stable rates.
      • The contract with SENA is scheduled to terminate at the end of 2017. As we approach that time, more of our energy comes from other suppliers and less of our energy purchases come from SENA.
      • All of MCE’s long-term contracts (5-25 years) are with non-SENA providers and are for renewable energy supply in California.

      Does MCE ‘slam’ customers? What is ‘slamming’?

      • No, MCE does not ‘slam’ customers, but starts service for customers according to state law.
      • The term “slamming” is used to get an emotional response and refers to an illegal practice of switching a consumers transitional wireline telephone company for another service without permission. It was a contentious issue in the late 80s when telephone companies would falsely notify another telephone company that their customer had elected to switch their service.

      What is a REC?

      • A Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) is created when one megawatt-hour of renewable energy is generated and added to the electric grid. As the US Environmental Protection Agency describes it, “The REC product is what conveys the attributes and benefits of the renewable electricity, not the electricity itself.”
      • All energy companies in California must use RECs to track and report any renewable energy purchase made.
      • A REC can be purchased ‘bundled’ together with the corresponding electrons or ‘unbundled’ representing the green attribute of the power but without the corresponding electrons.
      • Many unbundled RECs purchased in California correspond to power produced out of state.
      • The IBEW has argued that bundled renewables do not have RECs and represent real power reaching customers’ homes and businesses – make no mistake that bundled renewable resources are also tracked via RECs. The bundled renewables are loaded onto the grid but customers receive substitute power at their homes and businesses based on the most proximal resources. This is the nature of the electric grid and energy markets.
      • The IBEW’s concerns about the usage of unbundled RECs appear to be limited to programs competing with their primary employer, PG&E. Power providers across the state, including PG&E, have long used unbundled RECs in far greater volumes than are used by MCE.

      Does MCE use RECs?

      • Yes. In 2014, 30% of MCE’s power supply was from unbundled RECs, mostly sourced from wind farms in the pacific northwest (such as Oregon and Washington State), and 27% of MCE’s power supply was from bundled REC purchases from renewable energy produced in California.
      • In 2015, MCE’s unbundled REC purchases will reduce to 15% of its power supply and bundled, in-state purchases will increase to 35%. This increase is caused by new California renewable energy projects becoming operational for MCE in 2015 as described below. This transition to new California supply has been planned and in progress since MCE’s launch.

      Fact: MCE buys California power and supports new power development.

      • MCE buys power in California through many suppliers.
      • MCE has committed $515.9 million to 195 MW of new California renewable energy projects. This includes $353.9 million for solar, $44.7 million for wind, and $117.2 million for waste-to-energy projects.
      • Attached is the current list of all California renewable resources currently under contract with MCE. Some projects that have already come online including:

      o   RE Kansas, 20 MW Solar, King County, operational in December 2014

      o   Cottonwood, 23 MW Solar, Kern County, operational in May 2015

      o   Rising Tree, 99 MW Wind, Kern County, operational in May 2015

      Fact: MCE offers more renewable and greenhouse gas free content than PG&E.

      • MCE’s greenhouse gas emissions are lower than PG&E and MCE’s renewable content is higher than PG&E.  Both have been true since MCE’s launch five years ago.
      • Since May 2010, MCE customers have reduced more than 59,421 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to:

      o   removing 12,500 cars from the road for one year,

      o   the carbon sequestered by 48,705 acres of U.S. forests in one year, or

      o   eliminating the energy use of 5,422 homes for one year.

      Fact: MCE offers lower rates.

      • MCE has saved customers over $6 million due to lower rates and offers programs to help customers save even more on energy bills.

      Fact: MCE is creating demand for local renewable energy projects.

      To date, 5 new local renewable projects are under contract with MCE. These include:

        • 1 MW solar project in San Rafael (San Rafael Airport)
        • 10.5 MW solar project in Richmond (Chevron brownfield)
        • 1.5 MW solar project in Novato (Cooley Quarry)
        • 1 MW solar project in Novato (Buck Institute)
        • 4 MW landfill waste-to-energy project in Novato (Redwood Landfill)

      Jamie Tuckey
      MCE Director of Public Affairs
      mceCleanEnergy.org

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