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Guest column by Steve Tate: Clean energy now a way of life for Morgan Hill residents

Published in the June 7 – June 20, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Steve Tate

Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate

Morgan Hill is a socially responsible, environmentally conscious and economically sound community that embraces inclusiveness with participation by all. That sentence encapsulates our city’s vision of sustainability.

At the city of Morgan Hill’s January goal-setting session, that Sustainable Morgan Hill vision was adopted and the council members committed to using the three pillars of social responsibility, environment and economy as foundations for all our future undertakings. Every one of our agendas this year will include the SMH vision statement, along with our ongoing and 2017-specific strategic priorities.

Coinciding with the adoption of the vision, we were finalizing plans for providing clean energy, at least half of which is from renewable sources, to our community as part of an 11-city partnership that formed and now oversees Silicon Valley Clean Energy. At the beginning of April, Morgan Hill residents started receiving their energy from SVCE and not from PG&E. They are still billed by PG&E and the energy is still transmitted over PG&E’s lines, so the switchover was virtually transparent. But the bills they receive will be slightly less than they would have been had PG&E supplied the energy. Cleaner energy from more renewable sources like wind and solar, and cheaper to boot — quite a bonanza.

PG&E is a for-profit company that is not allowed to make a profit from generation of electricity, so has little incentive to reduce supply costs. SVCE is a community-owned agency run by a board of directors made up entirely of elected officials in Santa Clara County. Their interests are in serving their constituents by supplying clean, renewable energy as cheaply as possible. Although not legally a nonprofit, SVCE intends to use any funds they accrue that exceed costs to invest in securing more renewable energy sources or to be saved to stabilize rates during high market pricing periods. SVCE is working for you, not for a “bottom line.”

The recent implementation of SVCE is fortuitous because it provides an excellent example of the implementation of the SMH vision. Reducing our carbon footprint by use of clean energy that is at least 50 percent renewable. (Residents can “opt-up” to the 100 percent renewable “Green Prime” status by paying a minor surcharge over PG&E rates.) That positively impacts the environment. It reduces greenhouse gases while getting us to energy sources that are truly sustainable. Being able to do this at rates below or only slightly higher than PG&E makes it economically sound and affordable. The fact that less than one percent of potential customers, representing less than half a percent of the total electric load, have chosen to “opt out” of SVCE speaks volumes about its economic viability.

Global warming and sea level rise are real and require attention and action not only by governments, but by industry and individuals. It is a social responsibility for all of us, worldwide. SVCE is a socially responsible undertaking here in Santa Clara County that directly addresses a major global warming issue by reducing greenhouse gases. Morgan Hill is proud to be a founding member of SVCE and is dedicated to making it work optimally to best serve residents and to achieve our SMH vision.

Steve Tate is the mayor of Morgan Hill and is the city’s representative on the board of directors for Silicon Valley Clean Energy.