Archive for November 2015

CCA Digest

CALIFORNIA Roundup, November 2015


A Message from LEAN’s Executive Director

As California’s CCA representatives prepare for participation in the United Nations’ Conference on Climate Change, the recent tragedy in Paris has put the topics of the conference in tragic and immediate perspective.

It is no longer open to question that climate change is here and already affecting communities all over the world. Climate change will increasingly affect the availability of arable land, energy resources and water supplies, which will in turn impact food security and local economies. Scarcity and dramatic environmental changes disrupt stable political systems and create tensions that can evolve into war. We must stand up to the potential challenges climate change presents with concrete, collaborative action. And so we travel to Paris to share the effective, local climate solution that is community choice aggregation.

We look forward to reporting on the UN Conference on Climate during next month’s CCA Market Call on December 11. In the meantime, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!
Shawn Marshall signature
SDG&E Plans Independent Marketing Affiliate

On November 20, SDG&E filed an advice letter with the CPUC stating its intention to form an independent marketing division through its parent company, Sempra. To comply with State law, the affiliate’s marketing activity must be funded by shareholders (not ratepayers), and must comply with the Code of Conduct in terms of factual content and accuracy related to CCA information.
SDG&E proposes an effective date of December 21, 2015, although the CPUC could slow the process if it has concerns regarding compliance with Commission rules.
LEAN Energy and the CCA community are still reviewing the advice letter and discussing a coordinated response.  Protests are due to the CPUC byDecember 10, 2015.  Information about where to send protests is included in the SDG&E Advice Letter, which you can find here.

Update on CCA Program Developments in California
The City of Paradise in Butte County recently hosted a meeting on the County’s potential move toward CCA.

Dozens of other California communities continue to move ahead with technical studies, community outreach and program planning. The following provides highlights only– for more information about activities in other communities, get in touch with LEAN Energy.

Other updates …   

City / County of San Francisco  
Prop H passed with support of CleanPowerSF advocates: IBEW 1245 measure (Prop G) removed from ballot / defeated
Humboldt & Lake Counties   Plan to issue RFP for CCA technical and program services–week of November 16
San Mateo County   
Board of Supervisors passed CCA ordinance; JPA resolution to be heard on 11/17; October 2016 program launch
City of San Jose  
Business and local government outreach underway; may form as a single city
Los Angeles County / South Bay Cities  
County moving ahead with tech study and business plan. Hermosa Beach pursuing two options: form as a single city or join County’s effort
Contra Costa County  
Exploring program options: form county-wide JPA, join MCE or join Alameda County’s effort
Silicon Valley Clean Energy   
Tech study complete; outreach to other Santa Clara County cities underway with March 2016 deadline for passage of JPA resolutions and CCA ordinances. Plan for early 2017 launch
Monterey Bay Tri-Counties
Tech study complete in December; targeted summer 2017 launch

PG&E’s proposal to nearly double its PCIA in 2016 would affect the viability of existing CCAs as well as communities considering launch in 2016, and will hurt all CCA customers, especially low income customers. In the CPUC’s proceeding on this issue (A1506001), MCE and LEAN have opposed the drastic increase in the PCIA and proposed ways to stabilize the PCIA without hurting existing utility “bundled” customers.

On November 13, the CPUC Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) issued a proposed decision that would approve PG&E’s proposal and reject all proposals to reduce the impacts of the PCIA on CCA customers.Here is the link to the decision.


Click here for more detailed information including draft letters, where to send your letter, and an overview of the PCIA provided by MCE. Your letter must reach the CPUC Commissioners before December 17 when the Commission will vote on the decision or an alternative.
LEAN and the state’s CCAs will continue to work at the CPUC to assure fair cost allocations to CCA customers and policies that assure Californians get the benefit of customer choice and other benefits of CCA programs.

The Future of Behind-the-Meter Solar:
Net Energy Metering 2.0
CCAs care about solar power as a supply resource and as a way to serve their customers’ interests in local clean power and lower utility rates. All three of California’s operating CCAs have made a commitment to developing local solar as a way to support their local economies. One of the ways CCAs promote customer investments is to pay customers for the excess power they produce and deliver into the grid–called “net energy metering” (NEM).

NEM has been a successful incentive for investments in onsite solar projects by customers of CCAs and private utilities. The economics of investments in small solar systems, however, may be changing soon. The CPUC is currently considering changes to utility rates and NEM tariffs in response to AB 327, signed by the Governor in October 2013.

CCAs and CALSEIA (California Solar Energy Industry Association) report in on CCA NEM programs and utility proposals before the CPUC.
Sonoma Clean Power’s NEM Tariffs — Amy Rider, SCP Program Manager, describes SCP’s net metering tariff, called ProFit, which pays solar customers retail for excess power and permits customers to “cash out” their credits rather than rolling over credits to the following year (as PG&E does). SCP has so far paid out more than $200,000 to its customers, mostly to local schools, for the excess solar generation they have produced onsite.

Marin Clean Energy’s NEM Tariffs — Justin Kudo, MCE Customer Accounts Manager, reports that MCE has over 5,000 NEM accounts and customers may cash out their credits at any time. MCE pays the retail rate plus $.01/kwh as an incentive for its customers to produce solar power. Please see MCE’s updated NEM information here.
Utility Proposals to Change Solar NEM Payments and Other Rates 

California utilities have proposed some significant changes to NEM transmission charges that will affect CCA solar customers. As part of an elaborate rulemaking inquiry at the CPUC in response to AB 327PG&E, for example, has proposed changes that could cut into solar customer bill savings by more than 10%.  The most significant of these proposed changes include:
  • A “demand charge” on residential solar customers of $3/kilowatt/month (plus a new $10 minimum bill/month)
  • Reduced payments for power going into the grid from average 16.3 cents/kwh to 9.7 cents/kwh — effectively eliminating credits related to T&D for utility customers as well as CCA customers.
CALSEIA Response to Utility Proposals

CALSEIA’s Director of Policy, Brad Heavner, reports on solar industry concerns regarding proposed changes to net energy metering presented to the CPUC:

  • Utility estimates of bundled customer support for solar customer rates is about 8-9 cents, compared to CALSEIA’s estimate of about 1 cent;
  • For customers who invest in solar projects, utility proposals would increase payback period to as much as 20 years, compared to current payback of about 7 years;
  • The timing of the utility rate changes presents a negative double whammy for solar development– utility proposals are timed to coincide with the phase-out in 2017 of the “investment tax credit,” which will add additional ‘rate shock’ to the market.
  • Utility proposals would disporportionally affect the cost-effectiveness of residential and small commercial customer investments, not those of large commercial or agricultural customers;
  • CALSEIA is proposing gradual increases to proposed NEM 2.0 charges and is considering proposals to extend or increase the current peak period “caps” on net energy metering
The CPUC’s proposed decision is expected in December 2015. We will keep you posted on how this issue unfolds in the coming months!
Regulatory Update from Lancaster Choice Energy
Barbara Boswell, LCE’s Program Director, reports that the CPUC staff rejected SCE’s advice letter proposing that CCA CARE customers pay the PCIA. Although SCE’s PCIA is expected to be zero for 2016, this staff decision protects LCE’s low-income customers from increases in subsequent years (at least for the time being). Almost 40% of LCE’s residential customers are low-income CARE customers.

LEAN Energy US / 415-888-8007

PO Box 961 / Mill Valley / CA  94941

Marin Clean Energy

What’s Inside?
  • MCE Travels to Paris to Participate in 21st United Nations Conference of the Parties
  • MCE Commits to 80% Renewable, 95% Carbon-Free by 2025
  • Tips to Reduce Your Energy Bill This Holiday Season
  • Take the Cool California Challenge and Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
  • Deep Green Champion of the Month – Tamalpais Community District Services

Local Leadership to Present Story of Marin Clean Energy at COP21 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris
Marin Clean Energy (MCE) is honored to be joining countries and world leaders from around the globe later this month at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris. This year’s annual conference is critical because the expected outcome is a new international agreement on climate change, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.
Official COP21 Video
After the devastating attack
on Paris earlier this month, many events have been cancelled; however, COP21 has decided to move forward proving the importance of creating a binding agreement to protect our global environment.
On behalf of MCE, our
thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the devastating attack in Paris. We hope that the Climate Conference will serve as a shining light for a
brighter future.
COP21 will feature an esteemed delegation representing California’s trailblazing CCA policies-including leadership from the Governor’s office, Marin Clean Energy, LEAN Energy US, and the City of Richmond-organized by Kyoto USA and the Sequoia Foundation.

“Our mission is to address climate change by reducing energy related greenhouse gas emissions and securing energy supply, price stability, energy efficiency and local economic and workforce benefits. We are honored to be joining nations from all over the world to discuss a matter of critical importance to our communities, and to share solutions that can make change.”  MCE CEO, Dawn Weisz

MCE Sets Goal to Reach
80% Renewable, 95% Carbon-Free By 2025
MCE strives to provide electric services to its customers at stable and competitive rates, utilizing the cleanest possible sources of electric energy 
MCE is continuing to push the envelope with its mission to reduce energy related greenhouse gas emissions. By 2025, MCE has set the goal for its Light Green program to be 85% renewable and 95% carbon-free, currently 56% renewable and 60% carbon-free.

In addition to its ambitious renewable and carbon-free goal, MCE is also planning for increases of new, in-state energy generation. MCE set a policy to limit unbundled renewable energy certificates (RECs) to 3% of its energy supply starting 2016.

What’s a REC you ask? Click here to learn what they are and how they are used.

‘Tis the Season to Reduce Your Electricity Bill

Lower Your Carbon Footprint – Win Your City

The CoolCalifornia Challenge is a statewide competition between 22 communities to see who can lower their carbon footprint the most. The challenge runs from October 1, 2015 – March 31, 2016. Only one community will prevail, but when it comes to reducing our energy and water use, everyone wins!
Proudly, nine of this year’s 22 Challenge communities are MCE members – Benicia, Corte Madera, El Cerrito, Fairfax, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Richmond, San Pablo, and Sausalito!
We Invite You to Join the Challenge and 
Earn Points Here
This online tool will track your energy usage and record the points you earn.

Meet Tamalpais Community Services District
Deep Green Champion of the Month
The mission of the Tamalpais Community Services District (TCSD) 
is to protect and enhance a healthy community in Tamalpais Valley
TCSD programs are carefully crafted to serve the public and  preserve the environment. Thanks to TCSD, residents in Tam Valley enjoy: free woodchips and compost collection, along with complimentary collection buckets and rolls of BioBags©. Composting participation in Tam Valley is almost double the national average! TCSD also collects e-waste, batteries, CFL light bulbs, and medical waste, making  it easy for households to dispose of waste properly.
“Choosing Deep Green 100% renewable energy aligns perfectly with the mission of the Tamalpais Community Services District to protect and enhance a healthy     community in Tamalpais Valley. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through Deep Green is an easy way for us to be better stewards of the environment.” 
General Manager, Jon Elam


Community Choice Aggregation


Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) from the film “The Future of Energy: Lateral Power to the People” January 2015   

Market-based, Flexible, Local.

Aggre-what? We know—it’s a wonky name for a relatively simple concept called group purchasing: in this case, electricity. In dictionary speak, Community Choice Aggregation1 allows local governments and some special districts to pool (or aggregate) their electricity load in order to purchase and/or develop power on behalf of their residents, businesses, and municipal accounts.2Established by law in six states thus far, CCA is an energy supply model that works in partnership with the region’s existing utility, which continues to deliver power, maintain the grid, provide consolidated billing and other customer services.

how it works_final

Why Do It?

Through CCA, local governments and their constituents are achieving a powerful range of objectives:

  • Competitive, often significantly lower, electricity rates3
  • Transition to a cleaner, more efficient energy supply
  • Consumer choice, consumer protection, and local control4
  • Local jobs creation and economic development
  • Local delivery channel for new and existing energy programs such as feed-in-tariff, net energy metering, energy efficiency retrofits, PACE, distributed rooftop and community-shared solar, and demand response technologies
  • Development of new power projects to augment contracted power

Options, Options

Energy aggregation can be done on an opt-in or opt-out basis (depending on state statute), but the most common and successful programs are opt-out. This means that customers are automatically enrolled after a successful public referendum at the local level, as in Illinois and Ohio; or, enrolled when their local elected representatives (city council or county board) vote to form or join a CCA program, as in California. The opt-in approach is voluntary but participation rates are traditionally very low which reduces the value of group purchasing and makes it harder for local programs to achieve economic viability. Opt-out aggregation achieves the necessary market scale for effective group purchasing, but allows a customer to switch back to utility service at any time.5 Either way, customers always have the choice to stay or go.

Public Power Benefits Without the Infrastructure Price Tag

Non-profit municipal utilities, or munis, provide highly reliable electricity supply at rates averaging 15 to 20 percent below the rates of traditional investor-owned utilities. Like munis, CCAs offer cost efficiencies, flexibility, and local control. But unlike munis, they do not face the capital-intensive and open-ended challenge of valuing, purchasing, and maintaining expensive utility infrastructure. CCA offers a “hybrid” approach that exists between the investor-owned (often monopoly) utility and a municipal (or member coop) utility. CCA reaps the benefits of controlling power supply and generation without the financial drag of purchasing and maintaining sometimes antiquated utility infrastructure. In this way, it is a great option for municipalities who want control over their power supply but don’t want the financial and operational burdens of owning their own utility.

Utility Chart 10_15_13

How Do You Pay for It?

Because CCA is revenue-based—not government subsidized—CCA programs are self-supporting from an existing revenue stream. That is, the electricity rates that consumers pay to a retail electric supplier or an investor-owned utility are bundled and redirected to support the group purchase of electricity through a local CCA program.

So What Happens to the Utility?

In restructured (or “retail”) states, there is a defined functional separation between energy generation and energy distribution. In this scenario, the partner/distribution role of the incumbent utility is well established and retail supply competition already exists. In these states, the utility is a ready and willing partner for aggregated communities. The retail energy suppliers understand the market value of group purchasing and compete at the municipal rather than “door to door” sales level to win supply contracts.

In partially restructured or un-restructured states (“wholesale” markets) where utilities hold monopoly positions, the reaction to CCA has been less than supportive. After all, a CCA disrupts their monopoly control of the power supply market. It’s important to note, however, that bundled utility customers are not adversely impacted and the utilities themselves are “made whole” on departing load through a mechanism called cost recovery surcharges (or exit fees). In both models (retail and wholesale), the utility retains ownership and management of the transmission and distribution infrastructure, and all power delivery, line repair, billing, and customer service functions remain with the existing utility.

  1. Also called municipal aggregation and government energy aggregation in the midwest and northeast, respectively
  2. CCA is statutorily enabled in CA, IL, OH, MA, NJ and RI with a handful of other states considering legislation; CCAs in CA and IL are permitted to develop power projects as well as contract for power. Some states (e.g. OH) also allow for gas aggregation.
  3. Current aggregation contracts in the midwest are yielding up to 25% rate savings with rate savings on the east coast averaging between 10%–14% (as of 9/2013)
  4. Especially relevant in non-restructured states such as California
  5. National average opt-out rates range from 3-5%


California Solar

California continues to be the leading solar market in the United States. A plethora of sunny days combined with supportive solar policies have created an ideal solar market. As older fossil-fired and nuclear generation plants (such as SONGS) come offline, statewide carbon reduction efforts escalate, and load growth increases (due, in part, to the anticipated increased deployment of electric vehicles), additional renewable energy procurement will be required within California. These factors, as well as changing consumer behaviors related to electricity production and delivery, offer substantial opportunities to continue to grow the solar energy market in California.

Click here to download the fact sheet.

Facts on the California Solar Industry

California installed more solar in 2014 than the entire country did from 1970-2011.
  • There are currently more than 2,262 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in California,employing 54,700 people.
  • In 2014, California installed 4,316 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking it 1st nationally.
  • The 11,535 MW of solar energy currently installed in California ranks the state first in the country in installed solar capacity.  There is enough solar energy installed in the state to power 2,891,000 homes.
  • In 2014, $11.773 billion was invested on solar installations in California.  This represents a 66% increase over the previous year, and is expected to grow again this year.
  • Average installed residential and commercial photovoltaic system prices in California have fallen by 5% in the last year.  National Prices have also dropped steadily- by 6% from last year and 53% from 2010.

View more solar industry data.

2014 Legislative Update

Solar Property Tax Exclusion Extended

In July, Governor Brown signed SB 871 which extends the existing solar property tax exclusion until January 1, 2025. The continuation of this policy will allow homeowners and businesses to install solar energy without a reassessment of their property taxes. In addition, extension of the exclusion will enable California utilities to achieve their renewable energy targets at a lower cost to ratepayers.

SEIA California State Solar Policy Priorities

  • Encourage policies promoting robust penetration of customer-sited and wholesale distributed generation to help meet the Governor’s 12 GW goal.
  • Establish a favorable net energy metering successor tariff (NEM 2.0) that ensures robust market growth.
  • Protect and expand residential and commercial utility rate design which encourages deployment of customer-sited solar energy.
  • DEnable access to solar energy to ratepayers who otherwise would not have had such access, such as apartment tenants and low‐income customers.

Notable Solar Installations in California

  • Desert Sunlight was completed in 2015 by developer First Solar.  This photovoltaic project has the capacity to generate 550 MW of electricity — enough to power over 160,000 California homes.
  • Several large retailers in California have gone solar, including Walgreens, Johnson & Johnson, Walmart and IKEA. Campbell’s Soup has installed one of the largest corporate photovoltaic systems in the state with 2,300 kW of solar capacity at their location in Sacramento.
  • At 250 MW, Mojave Solar is among the largest solar installations in California. Completed in 2014 by Abengoa, this concentrating solar power project has enough electric capacity to power more than 61,000 homes.

See our solar installations maps.

Solar Companies in California

There are currently more than 2,262 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in California.  These companies provide a wide variety of solar products and services ranging from solar system installations to the manufacturing of components used in photovoltaic panels.  These companies can be broken down across the following categories: 413 manufacturers, 86 manufacturing facilities, 1027 contractor/installers, 146 project developers, 159 distributors and 524 engaged in other solar activities including financing, engineering and legal support.

Agriculture Solar Energy Dairy Project

Agriculture Solar™ energy agricultural dairy farm projects handle operations for thousands of head cow dairies, and without sacrificing acres of farmland.The sun heats the hot water heating system and creates solar energy power on dairiesThe sun heats the hot water heating system and creates solar energy power on dairies. Clients from around the world are able to see new photovoltaic solar panels and solar thermal tubes that make their dairy project a “solar-powered milk farm.”

Agriculture Solar™ dairy project“It was really a no-brainer thing,” said Agriculture Solar™ dairy project customers, operators, and owners of family operations. “If we choose to buy the system outright, it will be all done paying for itself in just a few years. Or, we have the choice to purchase the electricity with no money down and low maintenance, in the Agriculture Solar 0% Down Lease.”

Many dairy operators are content to rely on the utility grid for their power, are used to running water wells, milking machines and other equipment for daily dairy farm management. However, Agriculture Solar dairy customers want to take the idea of self-sufficiency to a different level with their Agriculture Solar™ energy power, hot water system, combined with LED light systems and heat-recovery off of refrigeration system.

dairy farming milk production powered by solarFor customers who need the bottom line to pencil out. It does. Agriculture Solar allows you to lock in savings and incentives in 7-10 year lease agreement, when they were especially favorable for dairy farming milk production. Agriculture Solar™ financing is enthusiastic about providing their financing to large projects that generate the majority of a dairy’s annual electricity, hot water, and gas cost needs.

Agriculture Solar™ SystemThe whole Agriculture Solar™ System is designed to come close to, but not exceed, your annual electricity power demand. Under most existing laws, you can’t sell surplus power to your utility company. Agriculture Solar’s team of engineering do a completesite analysis and feasibility study for each dairy project to find the best renewable energy package for you.

solar dairy system generates powerAgriculture Solar customers verify that the agricultural solar energy dairy project cost nothing out of pocket to build the system. Dairies really likes about it when the solar dairy system generates power during the hottest part of the day, when they would otherwise be paying the highest electricity and gas rates.

Agriculture Solar Energy“The main thing I look forward to each month is cutting my power bill,” an Agriculture Solar Energy customer said. “We can predict our electricity and gas costs for the next couple of decades, so as the utility company raises the rates, we save more and more. Everybody says, they want to go green. For me, It has to pencil out. It does.”

Agriculture Solar Energy Dairy ProjectsAgriculture Solar™ Energy Dairy Projects envision even more self-sufficiency in future dairy industry daily operations. For example, dairy owners and operators look at their manure and could see the potential for capturing methane and using it to run their diesel-powered vehicles, and also put it in an Agriculture Solar™ Biomass Digester. And large scale solarenergy power storage is also an option that can create a dozen more revenue streams for the dairies’ owner and operators.

“Dairies by nature are do-it-yourselfers. We like doing our own thing,” Agriculture Solar Energy dairy customers share.


Drones for Safety | FAA Pathfinder Milestone

Commercial UAV News
Much of this week’s newsletter has to do with the use of drones to improve safety, including the first ever inspection of a cargo oil tank on an operational FPSO, mining company Fortescue’s use of drones for stockpile measurement, and the notion of using drones for avalanche control. We also cover the groundbreaking flight by Boeing subsidiary Insitu to inspect a 132-mile stretch of BNSF’s rail lines in the national airspace in New Mexico as part of the FAA Pathfinder initiative.

Commercial UAV Expo 2015 exhibitors Trimble and Pix4D are mentioned in this week’s round-up. Returning exhibitors get first dibs for booking space at the 2016 show that will take place Oct 31 – Nov 2 in Las Vegas. After November 13th, the floor opens up to new companies. Learn more about exhibiting at the 2016 show here.

First ROAV Inspection of Cargo Oil Tank on Operational FPSO

Cyberhawk Innovations completed its first ever ROAV inspection of a cargo oil tank on an operational FPSO. The world-first took place on board the Gryphon FPSO, owned and operated by Maersk Oil.

Fortescue Using Drones For Stockpile Surveying, Mitigating Risk for Surveyors

Fortescue trialed a number of UAVs at Cloudbreak to perform stockpile volume and topographic surveys before purchasing a Trimble UX5 with Pix4D software.

Using Drones for Avalanche Control Would Improve Safety

The concept of dropping sticks of dynamite from drones near a ski resort is guaranteed to give OSHA second thoughts. But considering the way things are currently done, armed drones would be a serious safety improvement.

bizUAS Demonstrates Power Line Inspection Using a Drone

bizUAS was one of six teams across North America selected to give a live presentation on the inspection of energized power structures to representatives of the North American electric power industry.

Small Drone Makes Its Own Maps to Navigate Indoors | MIT Technology Review

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have demonstrated a small drone that can build its own 3-D map of an unfamiliar environment and then plan its own routes around a space.

Boeing Subsidiary Using Drone to Inspect BNSF Rail Line

The Boeing Company’s unmanned aircraft subsidiary Insitu is flying a small surveillance drone to inspect rail line for BNSF Railway as part of the FAA’s Pathfinder initiative.