Archive for mce

PG&E Imposes Customer Fees for Choosing Cleaner Electricity Service and Calls for Increase, Despite Having $1 Billion to Cover Fees

PG&E argues that Community Choice customers need to pay their “fair share”

 

San Rafael, CA – PG&E recently proposed that Marin Clean Energy (MCE) and Sonoma Clean Power customers should pay even more “exit” fees than they already do to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) every month. The proposed increase ranges from 44% to 127% depending upon customer class, and forces residential customers, including low-income, to pay the highest rates associated with these fees.

 

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) currently authorizes PG&E to impose exit fees on customers who choose to buy their electric generation from local providers like MCE or Sonoma Clean Power. Although these fees are always included in cost comparisons, they reduce the savings that MCE and Sonoma Clean Power customers receive and increase the cost of choosing a local provider.

 

PG&E’s exit fee, called the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA), is billed monthly, based on usage, and charged to customers who choose to buy energy from another provider. When a customer makes this choice, PG&E sells the excess electricity that they bought for that customer. Depending on the market conditions, PG&E may earn or lose money when they sell the power. PG&E has accumulated more than $1 billion from earning money on the market when selling this excess power. However, if PG&E doesn’t earn money through the sale of the excess power, the PCIA fee is applied. This covers any losses incurred by PG&E, forcing the customer to bear this burden and pay for energy that they will never use.

 

Along with their request to increase the exit fees, PG&E also requested to close the account with over $1 billion. When asked how the money would be used, PG&E indicated that it “simply goes away.”

 

“What PG&E is proposing is outrageous. They’ve collected $1 billion from selling excess power on the market but when they aren’t able to make a profit, they collect from our customers to avoid pulling funds from their billion dollar stockpile,” said Dawn Weisz, CEO of Marin Clean Energy. “Those profits should be applied against any losses, so that the homes, schools, non-profits and businesses in our communities are not burdened further.”

 

This year, MCE estimates that its customers will be forced to pay PG&E $19.3 million in PCIA fees. Should the CPUC approve PG&E’s proposed increase, MCE customers are projected to pay $30.6 million to PG&E, in 2016 alone, and residential customers, including low or fixed-income customers, will be forced to pay more than half of it ($16.3 million). PG&E is the only California utility to impose these fees on low-income customers.

 

MCE is protesting the proposed surge in the PCIA fee and calling attention to PG&E’s attempt to close the $1 billion account of ratepayer funds. The CPUC is scheduled to make its determination on the PCIA increase in December 2015.

 

Jamie Tuckey

MCE Director of Public Affairs

415.464.6024 | jtuckey@mcecleanenergy.org

mceCleanEnergy.org

 

Solar facility that could power 500 Marin homes

By Janis Mara, Marin IJ

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Roy Phillips, president of REP Energy, leads a tour of an abandoned quarry on June 9 in Novato. His company, REP Energy, wants to build a solar energy facility at the site near the McIsaac Dairy west of Novato. The quarry, no longer in use, was mined for the mineral serpentine, a source of asbestos. (Frankie Frost — Marin Independent Journal)

A proposed solar facility just outside Novato that could generate enough electricity to power more than 500 Marin homes is up for approval at the Marin Planning Commission meeting Monday.

Located on the isolated grounds of a former rock quarry, the solar farm would have 4,272 solar panels up to 6 and a half feet high on 11.5 acres of the 952-acre quarry. The $6 million project would generate 1.98 megawatts of electricity, delivered to Marin Clean Energy via nearby power lines.

The quarry was once mined for serpentine rock, which contains asbestos. Quarry operations shut down in 1990.

Installations like the solar project “are a good way to use formerly disturbed locations” like the quarry, said Andrew Campbell, the executive director of the Energy Institute at Haas, a research and teaching facility at the University of California at Berkeley.

Campbell said the proposed location also was beneficial because it is close to the people who would use the energy.

“Having the generation close to an area where consumers are also has benefits, since some power is lost when it is transmitted over long distances,” the executive director said.

The site is west of the city of Novato, east of Stafford Lake and about a mile north of Novato Boulevard. It is not visible from the road. County staff has recommended that the permit be granted, with some qualifications.

Crawford Cooley and Beverly Potter, who own the former quarry, would lease the land to San Rafael-based Danlin Solar, along with San Rafael-based REP Energy. Those two companies would own and build the solar installation.

“That’s a pretty typical arrangement,” Campbell said.

“Solar is a green energy source, no doubt about it. There is no pollution or greenhouse gas emitted at the place where you are generating the power,” the executive director said.

“This would be quite a win if it happened. The people who are very concerned about seeing beautiful agricultural land taken up with solar panels have a valid point. You’d hate to lose a lot of natural Marin. That makes this an ideal project because it’s sitting in an abandoned quarry essentially on bare rock,” said Bob Spofford, vice president of Sustainable San Rafael.

“Solar is in some ways the most ideal of all alternative energy because it doesn’t make noise, it doesn’t pollute, it produces power close to the time when it’s most needed, and it does not harm wildlife,” said Spofford.

Addressing Spofford’s last point, “Photovoltaic panels definitely do not kill birds,” said Michael D. McGehee, a Stanford University associate professor and a senior fellow at the university’s Precourt Institute for Energy. McGehee teaches classes on solar cells. Wind turbines such as the ones at Altamont do pose a danger to avian life, perhaps causing some to confuse the effects of this alternative energy source with those of solar, McGehee said.

No letters of opposition to the project had been received by the staff by Friday.

The state Office of Mines Reclamation and the Department of Public works oversaw the reclamation of the land since the 1990s, according to the county staff report. The project is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act because it will not cause environmental impacts, the staff report said.

“My job is to work with clients to help them avoid environmental impacts,” said Dana Riggs, a project biologist with San Rafael-based WRA Environmental Consultants. “We planned it (the project) in a manner to avoid impacts on sensitive resources including species and habitat,” Riggs said.

If the permit is granted, construction could begin as early as mid-August and wrap up by November, according to Frank Gobar of Danlin Solar.

The value of Marin Clean Energy — choice, rates and local power

By Christopher Martin and Larry Bragman

MARIN CLEAN ENERGY is a public agency that helps electricity consumers take action to protect our planet by offering a way to dramatically reduce environmental impacts.

Any Marin electricity consumer can choose to have their energy needs met with one of MCE’s high value options — Light Green’s 50 percent renewable energy or Deep Green’s 100 percent renewable energy.

Customers may also choose to keep PG&E’s 20 percent renewable energy service.

Due to state actions, historically, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) like PG&E, have been the default service provider with no consumer choice.

In 2002, after PG&E’s bankruptcy, state legislators passed California’s Community Choice Aggregation law, transferring the default status from the IOU to local CCA programs. State law mandates that all CCA programs operate as “opt out” programs.

MCE is California’s first operating CCA, although there are several others in development, and as a result, is in the process of becoming Marin’s default electricity provider.

This is ideal because it puts you, the consumer, in the driver’s seat. Participation with MCE is completely voluntary; consumers are mailed five separate notices so they may freely select their energy provider.

Ultimately, the choice is yours; consumers benefit by finally having a real and meaningful choice in their energy supply.

MCE is proud to offer a cleaner, more sustainable energy product at rates that are stable and affordable. MCE is committed to keeping costs as low as possible.

Beginning July 1 2012, it’s estimated that 50 percent renewable energy will cost an average household approximately $2.50 more per month as compared to PG&E’s 20 percent renewable energy.

An average commercial customer can expect to pay approximately $3.31 less in a summer month and $4.67 more in a winter month for MCE’s 50 percent renewable energy.

A rate calculator will soon be available on MCE’s website for account-specific cost analysis.

MCE values public participation and transparency. Rates are developed, discussed, evaluated and approved locally at accessible public meetings. MCE invites you to attend and provide feedback.

Regularly scheduled meetings occur on the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. (750 Lindaro St. in San Rafael).

As a local, community-based organization, MCE reinvests revenues to provide greater rate stability and greener energy to its ratepayers, rather than investor dividends.

A portion of the funds MCE customers spend on their electricity bill stay in Marin to fund programs such as:

• Installing electric vehicle-charging stations;

• Distributing $500 solar or energy efficiency rebates;

• Supporting local community events, youth sports and nonprofit organizations; and

• Developing local, renewable energy projects.

MCE recently signed a 20-year contract with the San Rafael Airport for 972 kilowatts of rooftop solar power, the largest solar project in Marin, and is developing plans for a 1 megawatt solar shade covered parking lot in Marin.

The airport project, which will cover 48 existing roofs, was designed locally by REP Energy and will be financed locally through the Bank of Marin. It will result in approximately 25 local jobs over a 3 month period and is scheduled to provide power for MCE customers by fall 2012.

The 1 megawatt solar project, which will cover about eight acres of already-existing parking lots providing shade for cars and electricity for MCE customers, is scheduled to be operational in March 2014.

MCE provides worthwhile value for a small premium. The increased renewable energy procured by MCE means less dependence on foreign and domestic fossil fuels, a reduced carbon footprint, community support and development, and new green energy.

The choice, as always, remains with the consumer and that’s a win-win situation “… for us, our kids, our environment, and our future.