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.