By Bruce McPherson, County Supervisor 5th District
Tri-County CCE Coalition
May 3 was a momentous day for our region when representatives of Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) met as the first tri-county Community Choice Energy (CCE) agency in California. MBCP will oversee the most impactful environmental strategy local governments can take to meet established state and regional climate goals.
Elected and administrative representatives from Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties, as well as 16 cities therein, met officially in Marina to formulate an electricity deliverance system which will at least double our reliance on renewable resources (solar, wind and biomass) in the future. With a population of more than 750,000, this tri-county region stands to carry the largest electricity peak load at 660 megawatts-plus of any CCE in California.
This is a “four-win” energy efficiency program. In addition to (1) doubling our reliance on renewable energy resources, our four-year study and review of other CCEs in the state show that (2) this can be done at rate parity or less, (3) provide local governance among our 19 county-city government participants and (4) create numerous local jobs as it is implemented.
Forming Community Choice Energy (sometimes referred to as Community Choice Aggregation) agencies was authorized by California state legislation in 2001 and amended in 2011. The state subsequently established 2030 as the year to meet some strict climate action/strategy goals; with MBCP, we may be able to reach our goals on clean electricity production 10 years ahead of that date.
CCEs are funded through customers paying their electricity bills, not taxes. Ratepayer money stays local and being a larger, tri-county agency should drive down costs of procuring electricity.
Through my Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors office, this effort began four years ago. Not enough praise can be made for the 15-member Project Development Advisory Committee (PDAC) who over 28 public meetings worked tirelessly in exploring program viability and structural options on whether this tri-county proposal was feasible. The answer was “yes.” Numerous staff and volunteers also were of tremendous assistance, as well as the established CCEs in Marin and Sonoma counties.
It’s also noteworthy that not one dollar of general fund money from any county or city was tapped to conduct the PDAC’s necessary Technical Feasibility Study. While some CCEs spent $700,000 or more in forming their agency, we raised more than $400,000 through the California Strategic Growth Council ($344,000), nonprofit partner Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County ($25,000), World Wildlife Fund ($30,000), UCSC Carbon Fund ($5,000), and others. Our sincere thanks to each of them.
As for PG&E, we will partner with them as they continue in transmission/distribution, repair and customer service (billing). Other special rate charges such as CARE, Medical Baseline and other programs for low-income households remain in place.
With MBCP oversight from Policy (elected officials) and Program (administrators) Committees in the months ahead, we now anticipate that our agency will be up and running in spring 2018. Next year, customers will have four chances to opt out of MBCP if they wish.
It has taken some time to establish Monterey Bay Community Power, but for environmental and economic reasons, it has been worth the wait. Clean, community energy is on its way in our tri-county region.
Santa Cruz County 5th District Supervisor Bruce McPherson is interim chair of Monterey Bay Community Power.