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Stockton’s UOP partners with Tesla on 5MW solar carport project

The latest in Stockton renewable energy news? 

Solar carports are now shading eight parking lots at the University of the Pacific’s (UOP or “Pacific”) Stockton campus and anticipated to generate 30% of the university’s energy. The 5.3 megawatt (MW) project, which UOP worked with Tesla on, also includes 1 MW of battery storage and 16 electric vehicle charging ports.

This effort is a great example of the kinds of small-scale distributed generation projects Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) across the state are investing in as collaborators, coordinators, and customers. CCA allows local governments to buy electricity at competitive rates on behalf of residents and businesses, while the investor-owned utility continues to provide delivery services. With the City of Stockton currently in the process of evaluating whether to establish or join a CCA, UOP’s solar project could be seen as a potential prelude to the local renewable energy development a future Community Choice agency could bring to the area. For more context, check out this list of both small- and utility-scale renewable energy projects CCAs have initiated in California.

Notably, UOP will be among the top 5 generators of energy from on-site solar PV in the nation, according to Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System reports

The university estimates the new solar arrays will generate the electricity equivalent of removing over 1,000 cars from the road every year, provide the equivalent energy use for over 650 homes annually, and reduce over 5,000 metric tons of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) annually. That’s a sliver of what it’ll take to reach net-negative emissions by 2030 and secure climate-resilient communities, as called for in The Climate Center’s Climate-Safe California campaign, but every metric ton of GHGs we prevent from trapping heat in the atmosphere moves us closer to that goal.

As an added benefit, the widespread shade from the towering carports is already having a noticeable cooling effect that makes a stroll through the beautiful campus that much more enjoyable and keeps cars from baking in the sun. Stockton summers are already hot, and with the number of extreme heat days in the city expected to rise significantly throughout the century due to climate change, students, staff, and visitors will likely appreciate the shade. 

“One of the unanticipated benefits is how positively everyone is responding to it,” says Jessica Bilecki, UOP’s sustainability director and project lead. “People are excited to see Pacific moving in this direction. It’s nice to have the visual showing the steps we are taking to reduce emissions.”

Pacific is currently drafting a sustainability plan to establish measurable goals for renewable energy procurement and energy conservation, according to Bilecki. The new solar structures will also provide experiential learning opportunities for students, who will have access to solar generation data for assessment. 

A feasibility study released earlier this year found that a Stockton CCA could offer considerable job creation opportunities in renewable energy development and energy efficiency programs, both of which will be critical for mitigating climate change. 

In forming or joining a CCA, Stockton would be taking the same steps that over 180 California cities and 20 counties already have. The state’s 24 CCAs have collectively invested in 6,000+ MW of new renewable energy infrastructure, creating thousands of construction jobs in the process. They’re now serving over 11 million customers with cleaner energy at rates competitive with or lower than the existing utility in their service areas.

Stockton Community Choice Energy study released

On March 23, Stockton’s City Council will be receiving an informational presentation on a feasibility study examining the opportunities and economic outlook for launching a Community Choice agency. 

A Community Choice Energy program would allow the City to buy electricity at competitive rates on behalf of Stockton residents and businesses and reinvest net revenues back into the community to meet specific needs over time. PG&E would continue to provide distribution services through its power lines, while a governing board of local elected officials would be deciding what electricity sources residents buy from, developing local energy programs, and setting rates for power generation. 

Benefits of establishing a not-for-profit Community Choice agency, or CCA, include consumer choice, local control, enhanced public participation, and more. Potential benefits include offering energy programs that meet community needs, lowering electricity rates, accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources and creating local jobs in sustainable energy development.

If the City Council decides to move forward with a CCA, approximately $100 million in existing annual power generation revenues (the bills we currently pay to PG&E) would be redirected to the City to buy power on our behalf and reinvest in the community. Because they are local, CCAs offer more transparency and opportunities for community input over how power generation revenues are spent. Residents would be automatically enrolled as customers of the new CCA, but would also have the choice to opt out at any time and have PG&E continue to purchase their electricity.

In September of 2020, Stockton council members voted unanimously to select a consultant to conduct the feasibility study.

Some key questions the study addresses include potential rate options, power mixes, opportunities for local energy efficiency programs, governance structures, and start-up costs.

Notably, the study has indicated that the City of Stockton would likely be able to offer its residents and businesses power that is priced at or a few percent lower than that offered by PG&E. 

Additionally, a local CCA could bring multiple economic and employment benefits to the region via expansion of local solar or other renewable development, the implementation of energy efficiency programs, and lower rates. It could also leverage a significant amount of funding for energy efficiency replacements offered by the state that Stockton residents are not currently benefiting from. The Stockton CCA can use its own net revenues for these programs and also has two options under state law to tap into energy efficiency funds that we all pay for in the detail charges on our bill.

As for supporting the clean energy transition, a Stockton CCA would be “well-positioned” to ramp up renewable energy projects around San Joaquin County, driving local job creation. Because the City would likely have a “much greater interest in developing local solar than PG&E, it is much more likely that such development would actually occur with a CCA than without it,” the study states. Rooftops and neglected parcels like brownfields all offer great opportunities for renewable energy development throughout the region.

The total estimated start-up costs would be approximately $26.4 million, but start-up means taking control of a $100 million annual existing revenue stream. It’s important to note that many of the 24 CCAs in the state have been able to pay off start-up costs within a short timeframe and start reinvesting in their communities through local programming and economic development. 

In moving forward with its own CCA, Stockton would be taking the same steps as 170 California cities and 20 counties. The state’s 24 CCAs have collectively invested in 6,000 megawatts of new renewable energy infrastructure, creating thousands of construction jobs in the process. They’re now serving over 10 million customers with cleaner energy at rates competitive with or lower than the existing utility in their service areas.

Visit the City’s website here to access the March 23 City Council meeting. You can submit a public comment to support Community Choice Energy in Stockton here.

Reach out to davis@theclimatecenter.org to learn more.

California’s three big utility companies stand in the way of consumer choice

by Sam Liccardo and Sheila Kuehl, San Francisco Chronicle


Highlights

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors member Sheila Kuehl wrote an opinion piece addressing the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment, otherwise known as the PCIA or “exit fee”:

  • Since 2013, exit fees have risen more than 600% in the PG&E service area
  • The PCIA is a fee that Community Choice Energy customers pay to the major investor-owned utilities to compensate for the expensive electricity supply contracts that utilities signed on their behalf many years ago
  • In theory, the PCIA helps the ratepayers at the major utilities avoid overpaying to make up for the electricity that was bought at higher rates for the customers that left for Community Choice
  • Community Choice Energy programs are locally controlled utilities that provide residents and businesses with an energy mix that usually contains more renewables and typically at cheaper rates compared to PG&E, Edison, or SDG&E
  • State regulators have shifted hundreds of millions of dollars in the utilities’ costs to local residents and businesses using the PCIA

Liccardo and Kuehl suggest these solutions:

    • The California Public Utilities Commission should reverse recent rule changes that have accelerated rate hikes
    • The California Public Utilities Commission and legislature must adopt common-sense transparency measures around rate-setting and fees
    • The California Public Utilities Commission should adopt the recommendations of its public working group to require utilities to optimize their energy supply portfolio. Doing so would reduce energy costs for all customers

Community Choice Energy can be one of the most powerful ways to accelerate the transition from dirty fossil fuels to clean energy sources, and The Climate Center is working to spread it throughout California for a climate-safe future


Read More: https://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/California-s-three-big-utility-companies-stand-15528929.php