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Burning Sun by law keven

A Hot Issue: Fresno’s Getting Warmer …But We Could Change That.

by Erik Cherkaski

July marks the first full month of summer. Here in Fresno, the seventh month of the year is the peak of the area’s grueling high temperatures during the season. This summer presented Fresno’s unyielding heat waves slightly earlier than normal, and will continue on until early fall. Just a few days after the summer started, Fresno experienced a record-breaking heatwave. Whereas normal days in the beginning of the season hover around the mid-nineties, parts of Fresno County hit highs closer to 110 degrees, forcing some communities to open cooling centers during the day. It should come as no surprise that the National Weather Service encourages people to stay indoors during hours of blistering temperature highs.

When the summer heat becomes unbearable, people rely on their homes to keep cool. Utility customer’s consumption of electricity goes up during summer months, particularly in areas with significant heat. Such a high demand during these periods not only raises electricity rates but also increases fossil fuel consumption used to produce the electricity, and the use of fossil fuels has a direct link to rising global temperatures.

Climate Change continues to impact the San Joaquin Valley with temperatures steadily rising over the past decades. Studies show an average of 1°C increase during the first half of the century and then a 2°C increase by the second half, combined with a significant decrease in precipitation. One particular concern is the increase of the temperature of daily low temperatures. The Central Valley is noted for experiencing a wide range of high and low temperatures throughout a 24-hour period. But according to studies, this phenomenon is declining as Valley morning and nightly low temperatures are beginning to rise, marking longer stretches of intense heat during summer months. Such elongated temperature highs during the day contribute to rising use of energy consumption throughout a 24-hour period in the season of sunshine. An additional concern about higher than normal overnight temperatures is that many fruit and nut trees grown in the Central Valley require a certain number of “chill hours” in order to produce a crop.

Although California’s investor owned utilities (IOUs) have made promises to expand usage of clean energy, fossil fuels are still a large source in generating power for homes and businesses. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the country generated four trillion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2015. Close to 67% of that electricity came from fossil fuel sources (coal, natural gas and petroleum) while only 13% came from cleaner, renewable sources such as hydropower, solar and wind. According to the IOUs maintaining the grid and expanding the use of renewable energy comes at an ever-increasing price. This month, the California Public Utilities Commission held public hearings in several Central Valley cities to discuss the area’s utility provider rate increase, with the company arguing it is needed for further investment in grid maintenance and clean energy sources.

So, Fresno and its surrounding areas get very hot during the summer, heat waves seem to be getting more intense due to climate change, and the direct culprit behind climate change, fossil energy, is still a major source for powering our electricity to cool us down: sounds like one vicious cycle, right?

Well, first, let’s take a look at that IOU claim that renewable energy costs more. The fact is that solar and wind power prices have dropped dramatically over the past six years. So much so that solar and wind are now at or near “grid parity” in many markets meaning that they are equivalent or lower in cost than conventional power sources. But who will take advantage of this fact and pursue this cleaner, cheaper power on our community’s behalf?

One answer is Community Choice Energy. Community Choice Energy is a program, enabled by state law passed in 2002, that has the power to buy, and may even generate, electricity for its residents and businesses via a not-for-profit public entity; created by the people, for the people. The program offers several economic and environmental benefits such as providing consumer choice, competition in the monopolized utility market, offering lower rates, strengthening the local economy, and utilizing alternative energy sources. The four existing Community Choice agencies in California have proven the concept. Perhaps, more than ever, now is the time to explore a program that emphasizes cleaner, renewable energy sources for its residents at competitive rates. After all, it certainly isn’t getting any cooler over here.

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

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

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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:

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 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.”

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.

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Pictured above: Break out panel discussion

Sonoma Clean Power continues to lead the way on clean power and low rates

By Woody Hastings, CCP   |  Feb. 25, 2016

Sonoma Clean Power launched in
2014 with rates below PG&E. SCP’s standard plan is to set rates once per
year. When it had its first chance to raise rates in April 2015, it chose to
keep them unchanged from the previous year. This year the staff proposal is to
actually reduce rates. As things
stand, the average SCP customer generation rates are about 1% below PG&E’s
comparable rates. The proposed rate reduction would double that savings.

On the greenhouse gas and clean
power front, SCP has surpassed the state mandated 33% renewable content by 2020
with a 36% renewable energy content, six years ahead of schedule. SCP’s overall
portfolio is about 80% greenhouse gas free, 48% below PG&E’s greenhouse gas
content.

Unfortunately, the decades-long
trend of the three large utilities to increase their rates, usually more than
once per year, has continued. On January 1st a sharp increase in PG&E
rates and increased PG&E fees on other service providers like Sonoma Clean
Power, caused many energy customers to notice, as pointed out in a recent article in the Press Democrat. PG&E is on track to meet the state
renewable energy standard by 2020 with a current portfolio that includes about
27% renewable energy. 

The next Ratepayer Advisory Committee meeting will be on April 12th when the
staff proposal will be reviewed one last time prior to going to the SCP
Governing Board, and of course, Sonoma Clean Power’s meetings are open to the
public. See you there!

Woody Hastings is the Renewable Energy
Implementation Manager for The Climate Center. Email him at
woody@theclimatecenter.org

Another Important Legislative Victory for Community Choice Energy

A two-year struggle to defeat an insidious piece of legislation in Sacramento, Assembly Bill 976, has come to a happy conclusion. On September 27 Governor Brown vetoed AB976 and added a brief signing statement (see below). In this statement the Governor echoed what community choice proponents drove home repeatedly in committee hearings and elsewhere.

The Climate Protection Campaign worked with the Marin Energy Authority, the Local Energy Aggregation Network, the Local Clean Energy Alliance, and other community choice energy supporters throughout the state to pull off what many consider to be an upset victory. We fought big money and influential utility lobbyists trying to pass the bill.

It would have singled out community choice energy programs like Sonoma Clean Power and prohibited them from using the same consulting service before and after the launch of a program. Because Community Choice Aggregation is a relatively new field, few expert consulting services exist.

With the defeat of Proposition 16 in 2010, passage of SB790 in 2011, and defeat of AB976 in 2012, the coast is getting clearer and clearer for emerging community choice energy programs throughout California to launch.

Many thanks to all of you who joined the fight, signed on to opposition letters, and sent your own letters.

   – Woody Hastings

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 976 without my signature.

This bill prohibits any company from doing business with a Community Choice Aggregation program if that company advised a local government on establishing the program.

This goes too far –local governments already have plenty of laws on conflicts of interests and transparent decision making. Adding the restriction in this bill would serve only to impede efforts to establish community choice energy programs.

Sincerely,

Edmund G. Brown Jr.

Blackouts Be Gone

Remember the rolling blackouts of 2001? They were frightening and really bad for the economy.

This month California came dangerously close to a repeat performance. On August 10 and August 14, the company that manages the state’s electrical grid issued “Flex Alerts,” urging us to set our thermostats at 78 and wait until evening to run appliances.

Why were power supplies so tight? Because we rely too heavily on a relatively small number of large power plants rather than lots of smaller plants throughout the state.

The San Onofre nuclear power plant is currently offline because many of its steam tubes are much more damaged than expected. Simultaneously, August hot weather and heavy air conditioning demand make us especially vulnerable. 

There is a better way. We can focus on building local-scaled electricity generators close to where power is needed. We can tap the power of the sun, wind and other cleaner sources of energy. Plus, we can do much more to reduce our power consumption by modernizing our buildings.

As Sonoma County establishes a new local electricity provider known as Sonoma Clean Power, increased resilience of the power system will be a big benefit. In time, we can make large-scale blackouts virtually obsolete.

Ann Hancock