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Symposium inspires innovation and camaraderie

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).  Photo by Karen Preuss

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:

Angelina 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.

Carla 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.

Mark Ferron, Board of Governors, California Independent System Operatorboard, 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.”

Dawn 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.

Geof 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.

Rusty 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.

Barry 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 inadequate.”

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.


Click here to view presentation slides from the event