By Bruce McPherson, Santa Cruz County Supervisor 5th District
The Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) partnership was formed in 2013 as the first tri-county/18 city community choice energy (CCE) project in the State. The investigative work undertaken for the past three years is finished and the results are very, very encouraging. It shows that our community can double our use of renewable electricity and still pay the same rates as PG&E while lowering our greenhouse gas emissions in excess of 70%.
The prospect of establishing a successful CCE agency within the Monterey Bay region is not only highly feasible, but also includes a wide range of options available to us as a result of many factors:
- The success of Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power in providing their communities with greener power at prices competitive with PG&E while investing considerable surplus funds into local renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that created local jobs;
- Favorable wholesale energy market conditions, resulting in relatively low cost power;
- Recognition that a CCE program can be self-supporting for meeting climate action plan objectives and other local public policy goals;
- The reduced market costs of renewable power and improvements in renewable technologies; and
- The development of expertise, best practices and an expanded vendor base to serve CCE programs.
New CCEs can mitigate risk and ensure best practices by learning from the experiences of the three operational CCE agencies in California. In addition to the technical study, an information packet was developed by the regional Project Development Advisory Committee that includes an overview of regulations as well as information and lessons learned from other multi-jurisdictional CCE agencies regarding structure, governance, financing and program phasing. The PDAC spent countless hours reviewing and discussing this information with statewide CCE experts and has made recommendations to be considered by the MBCP county and city partners as they contemplate formation.
The next steps for the MBCP partnership is to reach out to the community with all of the details and start the decision making process with the county and city governing boards. Upcoming workshops are open to the public and I hope you will participate. Santa Cruz County will host its workshop on June 9 from 9:30am to noon here at the government center on the 5th floor. Experts from around the state will be available to answer your questions and discuss all of the details, which members of the public can preview online at: montereybaycca.org/mbcp-information-packet.
We are asking that all of our county and city partners in the project make their decision to join the community choice energy agency by this coming fall. There will be several more months of work before we can launch, or provide green electricity to customers, but the goal is to complete the necessary steps and go live sometime in 2017, preferably in the summer.
Last Tuesday, the Santa Cruz County Board voted to take the next step and engage with the project partners in serious negotiations regarding agency formation. The Board asked our executive staff to coordinate the regional dialogue and provide a recommendation to the by September.
This is an exciting opportunity for the county and the entire region that changes the game for the future regarding our carbon footprint and energy self-sufficiency. I envision our community will be creating its own renewable energy, having local control over our rates, creating local renewable energy projects and jobs, and eliminating our greenhouse gas emissions from our energy use. It’s a future I believe in.