Editorial: 'Clean energy' program the right choice for local towns


County Supervisor Dave Pine calls it "the biggest single step to reduce (cities') greenhouse gases for decades to come." And a Menlo Park environmental group asserts that signing on with the plan "is the single most significant step our city can take to reduce its carbon footprint."

They're referring to an initiative, preliminarily approved by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors last month, creating a joint powers authority (JPA) that would enable residents of participating cities to get their energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind and bio-energy at what is likely to be a lower cost.

Called Peninsula Clean Energy, the JPA would create a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) system to bypass Pacific Gas & Electric, which has failed to meet the growing and increasingly urgent demand to provide energy from renewable sources; the new CCA system would use the existing PG&E grid to deliver "clean energy" to customers.

Cities across the county are being asked to sign on with Peninsula Clean Energy, and have until the end of next February to do so. The Atherton City Council will discuss the initiative at a Nov. 4 study session, and the item is on the Menlo Park City Council's study session agenda for Nov. 10. Portola Valley will discuss it on Nov. 21.

Cities that join the clean-energy initiative will play a role in determining the JPA's path forward — for example, deciding on the mix of energy sources and the percentage of renewable power available to participants.

Leaders of the new environmental organization Menlo Spark are in full support of joining Peninsula Clean Energy, saying in a prepared statement that the initiative "gives Menlo Park the opportunity to get clean, renewable power at no additional cost, while allowing anyone who wants to remain with PG&E to easily do that." The group, founded earlier this year, aims to help Menlo Park become "climate neutral" by 2025, and executive director Diane Bailey says joining the JPA would put the city "on a sustainable, low-carbon path."

The county and participating cities will not have to re-invent the wheel in launching this initiative. The first community-choice aggregation system in the state was put in place in Marin County in 2010, with powerful resistance from PG&E. Known as Marin Clean Energy, that program has resulted in some 125,000 customers being supplied with electricity from renewable sources, according to the program's website. And, for customers who choose a plan that guarantees that half of their electricity is from clean sources, the price tag is about 18 percent cheaper than if the energy had come from PG&E. More expensive plans provide electricity entirely from clean sources.

Since Marin County launched its CCA five years ago, similar programs have been put in place in Sonoma County and in at least one Southern California community. And about 20 additional counties and numerous cities in the state, including San Francisco and Santa Clara County, are vigorously exploring creating their own programs.

Cities in San Mateo County have an opportunity to join a growing force for change in how energy is produced and consumed in the state. By joining the county clean-energy initiative, they would help move not only their own communities but the entire state toward creating an energy-supply model that supports a healthier environment and keeps the pressure on PG&E to develop its own renewable energy options that would be available to customers where CCAs might not be feasible. Cities should embrace this opportunity.

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2 people like this
Posted by Skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 5, 2015 at 11:16 am

Environmental regulation offers government an enormous opportunity to tax the populace. In the name of clean air or water, officials can invent value -- literally out of thin air. Think about the billions of dollars collected in carbon offset fees in the past few years. The government has placed value on pollutants and sold the rights, creating a market where one did not exist previously. The carbon offset funds will probably be spent of high speed rail, another inefficient boondoggle being pushed on us with an environmental justification.

With the introduction of CCAs, local government can now get in on this scam. How much money does it cost to implement? What does the revenue stream look like?

Government has a role in provisioning public goods and protecting the citizens through regulation and laws. There will always be an argument with respect to how much regulation is appropriate.

Environmental regulation is easy to implement because there are few who protest or disagree. Government entities can raise revenues through it. But, it does not come without cost. Where is the appropriate boundary? Where does it end?

2 people like this
Posted by Advocate
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Nov 5, 2015 at 11:24 am

Where does it end?

Good question, @sleptic. It ends with us handing a healthy environment to our kids' kids. And giving them the opportunity to do the same to their grandkids.

Now a question for you - when did you finally accept the fact that the earth is dramatically warming due to man's burning of natural resources? A year ago? Five years ago?

Like this comment
Posted by Michael Closson
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 28, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Community Choice Aggregation (also called Community Choice Energy) is not a scam. In fact, it is an idea whose time has come. Successfully implemented in Marin and Sonoma Counties, a CCA program enables cities and counties to establish a local government agency that purchases electric power and makes it available to citizens at a lower cost and with a higher percentage of renewable energy than the power provided by PG&E. It helps communities reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, enables participants to save money and any surplus funds can be used to create local solar projects.

4 people like this
Posted by Rob
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Feb 23, 2017 at 6:58 pm

Since this is a "competition" to PG&E, how can they state that PG&E will be maintaining the grid system. What interest PG&E has to do it as before, or would start to do superficial patchy work on grid maintenance. If case of grid failures,who is going to pay - would it be the Peninsula Clean Energy, .g. us, the customers? So suddenly the cost would increase and stay higher since there is no return to lower rates (see sewer, or water bills) once the cities get used to so called "revenues" (indeed an extortion). And the new managing body is formed - how much the payroll will be for those new fat cats (and future pensions). Californians have always been easy to dupe with saying the magic word "environment".
And where those ecological power sources are? Do you see any wind turbines, solar panel farms or hydroelectric plants in the county? No, they are not here. So where the clean energy is going to come from?
Thus is another scam to put the buddies on a payroll, do the lowballing and increase rates later because of.... (lack of clean energy sources so we need to build them/pay for them; to do this studies would be needed, so consultant buddies will be called in).
Do not get duped - they invented another way to live even better on your backs.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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