A growing number of communities in California are becoming their own electricity providers by creating what’s called a Community Choice Energy non-profit, or CCE. The goal is to provide greener electricity at a lower cost.
So far there are nine CCEs up and running in the state. The newest is Monterey Bay Community Power, which will serve Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties.
Today, that begins for commercial customers. Residential service begins in July. Everyone is automatically enrolled. Marc Adato is with Monterey Bay Community Power. I asked him what this service will mean.
Marc Adato (MA): It means that when you flip on the switch, whether you’re a commercial industrial agricultural customer or residential customer, you’re going to be buying carbon-free energy at a lower cost.
We're buying 30 percent of renewable energy right out of California. And this is coming from solar and wind generators and then we're buying the other 70 percent of carbon-free energy from large hydroelectric out of the Pacific Northwest.
Erika Mahoney (EM): You say this electricity is going to be cheaper for the customer? How can you ensure that?
MA: Well the way that we’re able to maintain lower costs with a local community choice energy company, it runs as a non-profit. None of the initial startup costs, by the way, came from tax-payer dollars or general fund monies, it was all grant funded in terms of its initiation. And now that we’re in operation, all the funding comes from the revenue streams from ratepayers. And so we keep the profits local and those can go into program buckets that essentially help maintain and lower rates for lower income rate payers as well as promote renewable energy development in our area.
EM: So how does this work? What happens to PG&E? What happens to my bill?
MA: So essentially the Community Choice Energy model, it’s a hybrid model. PG&E continues to deliver the power. They maintain the power lines, they provide customer metering and billing services. And so the local CCE is the entity that goes to the wholesale market to procure electricity on behalf of customers in their territory. And in terms of the billing, very little is going to change. The billing is going to look the same. The last page will have the electricity generation that is going to go to Monterey Bay Community Power, but all of the other parts of their customer billing remain the same.
EM: On your website it says customers will be automatically enrolled in a program called MBchoice. With MBchoice, they’ll get a three percent cost savings off their electricity portion of the bill. But there are other programs where you can direct the cost savings elsewhere?
MA: If you would like to take your 3 percent rebate and direct it toward MBgreen + that's a program that will provide additional money for building out renewable energy projects and programs in our area. Or you could take your 3 percent rebate and direct toward MB Share. And so the MBshare program is really designed to help lower income rate payers stabilize their rates.
EM: As we approach July with the residential rollout, what can residents expect?
MA: Yes, so they’ll get two notices in the 60 days prior to the July launch for residential accounts, then there will be a follow up on terms of two additional notices. So within that window, folks can opt over to the other programs that we have or they can opt out and stay with PG&E.
That’s Marc Adato with Monterey Bay Community Power. The new energy service launches today for commercial customers. King City and Del Rey Oaks are the only two communities not joining.