VCE solar

Valley Clean Energy is here: Choice is good for solar homeowners

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Change can be a good thing. Or, it can be bad. Or, somewhere in between.

Choice, however, is good. If you had one option — for anything you do or buy — you’re stuck. You have no choice and must opt for the sole solution.

Choice enables consumers to make a decision, to weigh options and decide what’s in their best interest. Choice makes markets healthy and efficient, thus benefiting consumers.

For the past few generations, Yolo County residents have not had a choice regarding their electricity: PG&E, the de facto monopoly, was it. That ceased in June with the debut of Valley Clean Energy (VCE). Though nothing changed with our electricity delivery, customer service and billing, VCE was a change that confused some. This is understandable: Consumers now had a choice.

As we’ve shared in prior posts (here, here and here), if you do not have solar panels, VCE is a no brainer: Participate and you’ll save a few bucks each month while reducing your carbon footprint. Or, stick with PG&E and pay more to an investor-owned utility for dirtier energy. Case closed.

Furthermore, if you have solar or are considering going solar, VCE is a viable option. It provides solar homeowners with a choice for how to net-meter their electricity.

When VCE commenced its solar net-metering program in June, we identified and shared a few (in our opinion) flaws to their accounting methodology. In short order, VCE staff absorbed our input, consulted the public, and amended their solar program. This efficient, transparent and productive process evidences the virtue of a publicly-controlled program. (Imagine trying to get PG&E to modify their solar program … no chance.)

Effective January 1, 2019, VCE’s new net-metering program will take effect and homeowners with solar will have a choice. Here’s a quick summary:

  • If you installed solar before June 1, 2018 you will stick with your annual true-up date (that you currently employ with PG&E) and you will be enrolled in VCE’s program at your true-up.

  • If you went solar after June 1, 2018, your annual true-up date will be in March.

  • In both cases, your net-metering accounting will occur every month (versus once/year with PG&E). At the end of your 12-month solar accounting calendar, your true up ($) will be the same, except …

  • … with VCE, if your solar system generates more electricity than you use in a given month, you will receive an additional one-cent per kWh credit.

Importantly, when you go solar, you receive “permission to operate” from PG&E and you are grandfathered in for 20 years under the prevailing (California Public Utilities Commission mandated) net-metering program. Participating in VCE’s net-metering program does not impact your 20-year utility agreement. (This is critical; we received written acknowledgement from PG&E.)

So, congratulations, you now have a choice. Options are good and, for solar homeowners, VCE will put a few extra dollars in your pocket without harming your solar interconnection agreement.

Feel free to stop by our workspace or contact us with questions. Viva community choice!

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.