New Options for Buying Power

The electric bill you receive is actually for two products:  the infrastructure, use and maintenance of the physical wires between your building and the grid, and the second is the actual energy you use.   My county is now following the lead of a group of cities and towns in Sonoma County by looking to adopt a community choice energy (CCE) program.  A CCE program allows municipalities to seize control of the actual costs of energy.  With a CCE program in Northern California, PG&E will still maintain the physical infrastructure and send the bills to the end customers, but the CCE will buy energy from 3rd parties.

Energy Cost

The graphic shows two parts of the energy bill.  The infrastructure part is the set of physical power poles and wires allowing you to charge your home, and billing the customers electronically or by snail mail.

The actual energy can come from a variety of sources:  nuclear, wind, solar, conventional power plants, and hydroelectric.  A CCE program would offer residential and commercial electricity customers new energy options, including higher renewable energy content at competitive rates. If formed, electricity customers in San Mateo County would be able to choose between Peninsula Clean Energy and PG&E as their electricity purchaser.

At the moment in Northern California, the only option for both services is PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric), who owns the monopoly franchise for 2/3 of California from Bakersfield to the Oregon border.  PG&E rates are technically set by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), but the company is a for profit enterprise.  The California State Legislature is currently looking at an overhaul of the CPUC.  One recent controversy was a very damaging environmental leak in Aliso Canyon (Porter Ranch) by the Southern California Gas & Co releasing over 150 million pounds of methane into the environment.  Methane is approximately 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide to trap heat.

Why is a CCE an interesting alternative?  Four main reasons make a CCE a positive choice for all customers.  Customers can now select from a variety of energy mixes.  They can choose to have a percentage of their electricity strictly from renewables.  Secondly a CCE is a non-profit organization not accountable to public shareholders seeking a return on investment.  Any surplus funds are reinvested in local renewable energy.  A goal of the CCE in San Mateo County will be to achieve greater greenhouse gas reductions and a sustainable energy future.  Fourth customers will have energy rates lower than current for profit PG&E rates as demonstrated today in Sonoma County.

I attended one of their public meetings and found the concept very positive.  At a simple level because this will be a non-profit organization, rates will be lower.  The county is also very interested in moving towards more renewable energy, and securing power sources closer to the county to reduce the amount of energy lost in long transmission.  The Tesla Powerwall as a possible addition to the mix was also briefly discussed in the meeting.

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One thought on “New Options for Buying Power

  1. Be very careful about this plan. Please look into what happened to us here in Connecticut. We adopted this about seven years ago. Generation rates are our choice. Eight to twelve cents per kWh. However the elective utility has continually increased transmission rates to be about fifteen cents per kWh so as a result we have some of the highest delivered rates per kWh in the fifty states.

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