Clean energy will be available to local residents through PG&E
GreenStart is 1 percent less expensive than comparable PG&E generation cost
Published in the February 15 – 28, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
By Staff Report
Morgan Hill residents will be able to cut fossil fuel from their electricity needs starting this spring with the launch of the Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority.
“For many people, green energy such as rooftop solar and other alternatives to PG&E seems out of reach,” said Daniel Harney, a Gilroy city councilmember who serves on the board of directors for the new nonprofit public agency. “For the first time, residents and businesses in Gilroy will have more than one choice of electricity provider.”
SVCE will begin serving customers in April with a charter to be a source of renewable and 100 percent carbon-free electricity at competitive prices. The nonprofit is locally run by a 12-member board of directors made up of local elected officials from each of the participating communities. In Morgan Hill, Mayor Steve Tate is on the board, with the city’s program administrator, Tony Eulo, serving as an alternative member.
“Since our community has been so responsive to the drought and has demonstrated a strong interest in green initiatives, offering this program to our customers was an easy choice,” Tate said. “Customers literally don’t need to do anything to get involved. If you are interested in saving money on your power bill while getting carbon-free power, simply do nothing and you will be automatically enrolled in the base program. For those that want the premium greenest power, we encourage you to review the mailed customer notification you will receive from the authority and then refer to the authority’s website for additional information.”
The environmental and economic benefits are significant, he said. When fully operational by the end of 2018, SVCE will enable Morgan Hill residents to make reductions in community-wide carbon emissions, and save money for electricity customers at the same time, he said.
SVCE will pool electricity demand across homes and businesses in 12 participating communities in Santa Clara County. Besides Morgan Hill and Gilroy, Campbell, Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Mountain View, Saratoga, Sunnyvale and unincorporated county areas will participate in the program.
SVCE buys electricity from renewable and carbon-free energy sources, such as solar, wind and hydro-power. Utility company PG&E will be a partner by delivering electricity through existing infrastructure, maintaining the power lines, sending bills and providing customer service.
Enrollment will occur in three phases during a six-month period in April, July and October. Customers in Gilroy will be automatically enrolled in Silicon Valley Clean Energy’s standard electricity product, called GreenStart, Harney said.
“If you are an existing PG&E electricity customer, you will receive two notices in the mail prior to enrollment with SVCE, and two notices after your enrollment date,” he said. “All customers are automatically enrolled in this service, so you don’t have to do anything to get cleaner electricity at a lower cost. If you’re a customer on a special discounted rate like CARE, FERA or Medical Baseline, your discount will not change and you don’t have to take any action to maintain your discounted rate.”
GreenStart is about one percent less expensive than the comparable PG&E generation cost, he said. Electric power provided through the program is 100 percent carbon-free, sourced from 50 percent renewable sources such as solar and wind. The other 50 percent will come from hydropower sources such as reservoir dams.
For a premium of less than $0.01 per kilowatt-hour more than the regular price, customers can upgrade to SVCE’s GreenPrime service in which all of the power they buy for their home or business comes from 100 percent renewable sources such as wind and solar. This allows residents to help accelerate development of new renewable energy projects.
Rates will remain the same until at least January 2019, Harney said. All customers have the choice to opt out of SVCE and remain with PG&E service which provides electricity from 30 percent renewable sources.
SVCE is a community choice aggregator, a program known locally as Community Choice Energy. Enabled through California state legislation AB 117 in 2002, communities choosing to participate form a Joint Powers Authority to pool electricity demand and buy power with the community’s interests in mind, Harney said.
“Under this program, the power itself will be purchased by the authority and then provided to PG&E for delivery to our Morgan Hill customers,” Tate said. “PG&E will still be delivering power, maintaining local power lines, reading meters, and billing all customers. Under this arrangement, power reliability and billing arrangements will not be impacted in any way. The power provided will just be greener and cheaper.”