Clean power on its way to San Benito

New agency signs up all businesses March 1, residences July 1

PG&E will still maintain power lines and equipment and handle billing for new non-profit agency.

After five years of work, electricity consumers in San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties this month began receiving lower cost, “cleaner” electric power.

The Monterey Bay Community Power agency began delivering power to business and commercial customers March 1. Residential customers will be connected to agency’s “green” power sources July 1. Residents and businesses are automatically enrolled as customers of Monterey Bay Community Power.

All but two local jurisdictions, Del Rey Oaks and King City, signed up to join the joint three-county non-profit power agency, which offers several “green energy” alternatives to all PG&E customers. All commercial customers beginning March 1 and all residential customers beginning July 1 are automatically enrolled in the alternative, which will provide not only energy from cleaner sources but also a 3 percent cut in electric rates.

Some 37,500 commercial, agricultural, industrial and municipal customers representing nearly two-thirds of the region’s total power load started receiving Monterey Bay Community Power service on March 1, while about 235,000 residential customers will come online July 1.

In multiple mailings this spring, customers are given a choice to “opt out” of the automatic enrollment, if they want to continue getting electricity from PG&E.

Allowed under state law since the early 2000s, community choice energy agencies like Monterey Bay Community Power have been in operation since 2010. There are now a dozen in California including Santa Clara County, Los Angeles County and Ventura County.

Under the community choice model, Monterey Bay Community Power takes over the purchase of power from PG&E, replacing it with purchases from carbon-free hydroelectric, wind and solar sources. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the new non-profit, intergovernmental agency offers customers slightly lower rates.

PG&E will continue handling power distribution through its existing system, along with maintenance, billing and customer service, and will charge local customers for those services.
Residential customers will be offered 3-percent rebates on their annual bills, while non-residential customers will get their 3-percent rebate on a quarterly or bi-annual basis.

The new power agency will collect 2 percent of annual power generation revenue projected at $175 million this year and $260 million next year for investment in local green energy projects such as wind and solar.

The agency will offer customers an opportunity to sign up for one of three programs, including MBchoice which will credit the 3-percent rebate to customer bills, MBgreen+ which will allocate the 3-percent rebate to local green energy projects, and MBshare which will allow customers to donate the 3-percent rebate to local non-profit green energy initiatives through the Community Foundation.

The new agency offers three key benefits, available through all service offerings: reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, lower cost to customers and investment in our local community. MBCP procures electricity from 100 percent carbon-free sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric.
In addition to being carbon-free, the new agency’s power offerings are classified as 30 percent renewable, exceeding state requirements. It will not procure power from nuclear or fossil-based sources.

Less than 1 percent of all non-residential customers have opted out of then new agency, according to power agency staff, and a slightly higher percentage of residential customers are expected to do so.

Monterey Bay Community Power outreach coordinator Marc Adato said in response to non-residential customers’ concerns about fluctuating power rates, the agency is working on a proposal that would offer those customers a guarantee that their local rates would never exceed PG&E’s no matter how much they fluctuate in addition to a minimum 1.5-percent rebate. The proposal still needs approval from the power agency’s policy board, Adato said.

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