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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 City Council reviews favorable CCA feasibility study

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

A Community Choice Energy program, or CCA, 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. 

Eighteen people spoke in favor of the City Council continuing exploration after March 23. 

Citing the feasibility study, speakers pointed out that the City would be drawing in a $100 million annual revenue stream (the bills we currently pay to PG&E) to procure from cleaner energy sources at competitive rates on behalf of Stockton residents and businesses. Because of CCA’s ability to consistently purchase wholesale electricity at a lower cost than the investor-owned utilities, the City would be able to generate reserve funds that could be reinvested back into the community as lower rates, energy efficiency programs, local renewable energy development, and more. 

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.

Notably, the feasibility 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. 

Learn more about the numerous benefits a CCA could bring to Stockton here.

City council members mulled potential governance options on March 23, including whether the City should start a CCA on its own, establish a CCA with other cities, or join an existing one. Great questions arose over financing start-up costs, financial viability, and staff capacity requirements. We are hoping that answers to these questions and more will be brought back to the Council as they continue to pursue the evaluation.

Dan Wright at Stockton City Council Meeting

District 2 Council Member Dan Wright, who has been advocating for establishing a CCA in Stockton since 2016, shared his support for the program to address the impacts of climate change and bring 300+ living wage jobs to the area. Citing the study, Council Member Wright highlighted that the City would be able to become carbon-free approximately 15 years earlier than the current provider.

“Stockton has an extreme number of issues that we have to deal with,” Council Member Wright said. “We have to do something transformational to change what this city is going through. That’s what this would be. This would be a transformational change at a minimal risk to save the future of our children … I hope we’re going to bring back options for us to consider in the future.”

Multiple council members cited air pollution and its negative health outcomes among the suite of environmental impacts on Stockton residents, especially those in low-income and communities of color. At the local level, CCAs improve air quality by driving adoption of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure via incentive programs. To address air pollution at the statewide level, CCAs are able to procure from cleaner energy sources that don’t emit harmful pollutants in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.

District 6 Council Member Kimberly Warmsley highlighted the potential benefits of CCA to prioritize positive health outcomes for residents.

“We need to take into account health considerations when we look at the analysis of why this is a great opportunity for this community,” Council Member Warmsley said. 

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 11 million customers with cleaner energy at rates competitive with or lower than the existing utility in their service areas.

It’s for these reasons and more that we hope the City Council will continue to pursue Community Choice Energy. 

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.

Stockton takes a big step toward local clean energy

On Tuesday, Sept. 15, Stockton’s City Council unanimously approved a resolution selecting a consultant to complete a feasibility study on launching a Community Choice Energy program in Stockton.

Enabled by state law, the program would allow the City to procure power on behalf of residents, businesses, and municipal accounts while still receiving transmission and distribution service from Pacific Gas & Electric Co., the existing utility provider.

Benefits of establishing a not-for-profit Community Choice agency, or CCA include consumer choice, local control, and enhanced public participation. 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.

MRW & Associates, LLC was awarded the bid on a $92,750 contract to complete the feasibility study, which will assess how achievable these benefits are for the City. The study will also explore options for governance structure, specifically to address whether it would be most feasible for the City to establish a CCA on its own, or in a joint powers authority format with another municipality, such as San Joaquin County.

Still from Stockton City Council meeting

Beyond offering some rate relief, buying from cleaner sources and creating over 4,200 jobs, the 21 existing CCAs in the state have reinvested their reserve funds into several innovative community-tailored programs. They’ve helped their customers cover the costs of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure; solar and battery storage systems; and electrifying buildings and public transportation, to name a few.

These not-for-profit locally based agencies have also collectively donated millions of dollars to COVID relief efforts in their service areas, with grants to community-based organizations and local governments, in addition to rate relief for power generation.

Energy resilience has also been a huge priority for many CCAs – in just 10 years, they’ve supported the installation of more than 3,600 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy facilities and 240 MW of battery-backup storage systems to help prevent the impacts of mass power outages.

Vice Mayor Dan Wright has been championing Stockton exploring potential benefits of a CCA since 2016 when The Climate Center first reached out to him.

“The reason I was initially interested in the idea was our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords,” Wright said in the meeting. “It’s that idea of moving toward a greener economy and zero carbon emissions that gets me behind this.”

Many community members submitted comments in support that were read into the record by the board clerk.

“We fully support this resolution,” wrote Little Manila Rising Executive Director Dillon Delvo. “Ultimately, we believe as shown in other communities, that establishing a Community Choice Energy program would provide our city with much-needed resources to help tackle the environmental challenges all of our Stockton families face together.”

Jonathan Pruitt, Environmental Justice Project coordinator at Catholic Charities Dioceses of Stockton spoke of the benefits of a CCA, including accountability and transparency in energy matters, as well as potential for procuring from greener sources and reinvesting in the community through local energy projects.

Margo Praus, Chair of the Delta-Sierra Group of the Sierra Club and other local groups praised CCA as one way to address wildfires, air pollution, extreme heat and other impacts of the climate crisis.

“This is an emergency,” Praus wrote. “Our efforts to curtail GHG emissions urgently need to be stepped up. CCAs give people a choice in where their energy comes from. We hope you choose a consultant, and we await the results with bated and masked breath.”

Stockton’s feasibility study should take about three to four months to complete, after which the City Council will be presented with the findings and faced with a decision to move forward.

We hope that the study will yield positive results, and that the City will continue down a path toward developing an agency that could reinvest in the community for years to come.

The City of Stockton Pursues Community Choice Feasibility Study

The City of Stockton is one step closer to establishing a Community Choice Energy agency (CCA), which would give local residents and businesses an alternative choice in their electricity provider.

A Request for Proposal (RFP) for a CCA feasibility study was posted on the City’s website in May.

That study will evaluate whether local control of electricity procurement would allow lower electric rates for the community, accelerate the transition to sustainable power sources, and create local jobs in sustainable energy development.

The City is also seeking to explore potential for a Joint Powers Agreement with other local jurisdictions.

The CCA could support local environmental plans, including the City’s Climate Action Plan, through the purchase and development of renewable energy, the RFP notes.

We’re very excited to see that some of the goals listed in the RFP include offering cost-competitive rates with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (Stockton’s current electricity provider), increasing the proportion of renewable energy in the City’s power mix by at least 25% more than what PG&E offers, receiving revenues for programs to reinvest back into the community, and reducing Stockton’s greenhouse gas emissions, among others.

The City estimates that it could be issuing a notice to proceed by early August, meaning the study could be complete by October.

It would then come before the City Council, who would be faced with a vote on whether to move forward with CCA.

Residents can hear from local government and community leaders about the opportunities and challenges for CCA in Stockton in our upcoming webinar on July 14 at 11 a.m., co-hosted by Rise Stockton and The Climate Center. Click HERE to register.