Valley Clean Energy: Should I stay or should I go?

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We have fielded a few dozen calls, emails and text messages over the past week, primarily from Repower homeowners inquiring about Valley Clean Energy (VCE) piqued by recent VCE mailings. Simple questions: What is it? Should I opt out? What are the pros and cons?

Background: We had the privilege of serving on the City of Davis’ Community Choice Energy Advisory Committee. Over 14 months, our volunteer group deliberated yea/nae (should we do this?) and, if yea, in what form? Could be a curse of too much information, but we have been immersed since the start.

On June 1, all PG&E customers in the cities of Davis and Woodland and unincorporated Yolo County will be transitioned to VCE. By statute, this is how it works: You are automatically enrolled in the program; if you do not want to participate, you need to opt out.

What will happen? In simple terms, you will see a slight reduction in your electricity bill (about 2.5%, for starters) and you will enjoy, though it’s not tangible, cleaner electricity (i.e., electricity with a higher renewable energy content than what PG&E currently serves). Nothing will change with your service: PG&E will continue to manage the grid and provide customer service. In short, you will have cleaner electricity at a lower cost, with funds channeled through a community (Joint Powers Authority) organization. Here's a thorough FAQ from VCE's site.

What’s not to like? In our albeit biased opinion, nothing. And, the hallmark program (Marin Clean Energy) has proven that home and business owners can reduce their bills and their carbon footprints.

If you do not have solar panels on your home or business, do it. (In other words, do nothing … you’re enrolled.)

If you do have solar, the decision is a bit more nuanced. When you went solar, you received a 20-year commitment (Net Energy Metering Agreement) from PG&E to credit you for your solar-generated electricity for a period of 20 years. With VCE, this agreement is not broached: It’s between you and PG&E, regardless of who supplies your electricity. If your solar system was well-designed, it should eliminate/cover 90-100% of your electricity use. Hence, you are independently fulfilling the mission of VCE: Transition our community to clean, less expensive energy. And if you have solar, VCE will provide you with a bit more compensation that PG&E does. Click here for a thorough VCE overview for solar customers.

The wildcard: PG&E (and the other investor-owned utilities [IOUs] in California) are not happy. Community choice energy programs are a direct, competitive threat to their monopolies. Within a year, approximately 50% of IOU ratepayers will have access to community choice programs. PG&E has not dropped its shoulders, shrugged, and opined, “So be it.” They have (unsuccessfully and vigorously) fought community choice programs over the past decade, and their will is intensifying. What can PG&E do to solar owners (and all rate payers) in advent of community choice energy? 

With apologies for the ambiguity, feel free to contact us with questions: Click here, call 530-564-4292, or swing by our office (909 Fifth Street; the old Dairy Queen). We may not have definitive answers, but we are happy to elaborate.