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“Creating the Clean Energy Future” – Symposium inspires innovation and camaraderie

by Niki Woodard, The Climate Center  |  March 9, 2016


Pictured above: Dawn Weisz (CEO Marin Clean Energy), Geof Syphers (CEO Sonoma Clean Power), Cathy DeFalco (Energy Manager, Lancaster Choice Energy), and Ann Hancock (Executive Director, The Climate Center)

Innovation, inspiration, and camaraderie emerged as themes defining
The Climate Center’s second Business of Local Energy Symposium,
held March 4, 2016. Titled “Creating the Clean Energy Economy,” the Symposium’s
keynote speakers and panel discussions focused on Community Choice energy and
how to optimize competition and choice for significant greenhouse gas
reduction, energy resiliency, and local economic gain.

The event was held in San Jose, California’s technology
innovation hub, and attracted a sold-out crowd of 350 people from all over
California, including 48 speakers who discussed Community Choice from diverse
perspectives and areas of expertise. The program was uniquely designed to inform

attendees along the
entire spectrum of Community Choice interests and expertise – those in the
early investigative stages, elected officials in the process of setting up a
program, and energy entrepreneurs developing technology to green the grid – to
spark creative discussions and innovative solutions.

Clean energy IS the future, and Community Choice is propelling
progress to meet carbon reduction goals at the speed and scale required. Today,
clean energy is a $1.4 trillion dollar global industry – almost twice the size
of the airline industry. Community Choice facilitates the public-private
partnership that ensures that the new clean energy economy is a revolution that
includes everyone.

With three plenary sessions and ten breakout panel
discussions, the Symposium’s content was remarkably rich. We look forward to
sharing more details with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we offer
some highlights from some of our speakers and attendees:

Galiteva, Board of Governors, California Independent System Operator, 
spoke about the
agility and ability of Community Choice programs to be progressive. She
suggested that programs can tackle the transportation and energy problems
together and suggested the idea of Community Choice programs giving customers
electric vehicles to promote vehicle-to-grid integration.

Peterman, Commissioner, California Public Utility Commission, 
spoke to the
contentious issue of the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA) rate, essentially
an exit fee assessed on CCE customers, which she said is meant to serve as a
mechanism to keep customers indifferent to their energy provider. In response
to the “uniquely large volume of calls and letters” she received about the PCIA
rate increase, she encouraged participants to attend the PUC’s workshop on
March 8 to assess the fairness and effectiveness of the PCIA.

Ferron, Board of Governors, California Independent System Operator
board, spoke about today’s
positive energy trend to “decarbonize and decentralize.” He said that California
can “reduce its carbon output by regionalizing the grid.” While there are
regulatory and technical challenges to distributed generation like roof top
solar, he pointed to networked storage solutions like electric vehicles to
stabilize the grid. “I’m extremely optimistic about the future. We in
California are an example. As we work through the challenges, we can be a
guidestar for the rest of the nation.”

Weisz, CEO, Marin Clean Energy: 
“People are paying attention.
People are looking for solutions,” said Ms. Weisz said of the growth and
potential of Community Choice energy programs. Under her leadership, Marin
Clean Power, is preparing to launch a pilot program that incentivizes home
energy storage services for the grid.  

Syphers, CEO, Sonoma Clean Power: 
“To help the climate, you need
to not only add renewables, but you need to turn off the fossils.” Mr. Syphers
encouraged us to focus on the end goal of creating affordable energy that is
zero carbon and working backward from there – how do we get there? We need to
work together to get solutions off the ground and fuel switch at all levels of
human activity.

Klassen, Senior Strategic Advisor, Policy and Energy: 
As moderator on the Financing
panel, Mr. Klassen discussed the possibility of forming regional Joint Power
Authorities (JPA) that could aggregate several Community Choice operators and
make it easier to obtain financing. Ian Parker from Goldman Sachs agreed saying
that such an entity would reduce risk for institutional investors and make it
easier for them to lend.

Dolores Weller,
Director, Central Valley Air Quality Coalition,
said that she hopes that Community
Choice “can bring together unconventional partners” to meet the unmet needs of
residents in the Central Valley.

Vesser, Deputy Director for The Climate Center and organizer of
the event:
In his closing remarks, Mr. Vesser brought the energy discussion back to the looming threat of climate
change and our global challenge to keep temperature rise below 2 degrees
Celsius, or preferably, below 1.5 degrees. He commented on the historic Paris
agreement and called it an important first step. “Having admitted that we have
a problem is the first step in the biggest Twelve Step program that the world
has ever seen. The next is having a plan for recovery, no matter how

Not only was the event about creating a clean energy future,
but Symposium attendees generated their own energy in the room. The enthusiasm
and optimism circulating throughout the plenary sessions, breakout sessions,
and in the conversations between sessions was positively electrifying. If the
feedback that we’ve received from Symposium attendees is any indication of
action on the horizon, we have a lot to look forward to:

  • “Thank you for assembling such an expert
    and enthusiastic group and for such productive content.”
  • “A blueprint for the world!”
  • “Great job – very organized and timing was
    impressive. Lots of great information sharing.”
  • “I learned so much that I can bring back to
    my county as we consider and investigate CCAs.”
  • “Always so good, productive, fun and
    educational to get this community together. I also particularly appreciate the
    spirit of sharing, mutual support, collaboration that the CCP team imbues in
    the whole event.”
  • “Please do it again!”
  • “The work of not-for-profits like CCP and
    all of the CCAs is driving innovation in energy choice and technology finance –
    NOT Wall St.”
  • “A fabulous symposium…”

To all attendees, we reaffirm to you: it takes a village.
We are thankful to be working with you.


Pictured above: Break out panel discussion