Woodland solar

Valley Clean Energy + Solar: Just the facts

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Our community cares. A lot, about a lot of stuff. With conviction, unfortunately, there’s oftentimes confusion. Valley Clean Energy (VCE) is a contemporary example.

On April 18, we provided our perspective regarding VCE. In short order, it became the most-read blog post in the history of our site. Again, lots of curiosity (and some confusion), especially via several NextDoor threads.

As we originally opined, if you do not have solar, VCE is a no brainer: Do it (read: do not opt out) and you’ll save a few bucks and enjoy cleaner electricity. Nothing changes with your service — PG&E still manages the grid and bills you. There’s no downside (unless you’re an anti-government conspiracy theorist). Effective June 1, you were enrolled in VCE … enjoy!

Back in April, we were less definitive about VCE for the ~7,000 NEM (net-energy metering, or solar) customers in Davis, Woodland and unincorporated Yolo County. At that point, our recommendation was to love the one you’re with: Stick with PG&E until a few details (read: our concerns) were ironed out. Thereafter, we invested considerable time working with VCE staff to mitigate our concerns and improve VCE’s net-metering program. We also recommended they put the program on hold.

Fortunately, VCE was all ears and brains: They tabled the NEM program, listened to our concerns, analyzed our recommended changes, and revised their net-metering program. Then, they held public forums in Davis and Woodland … more than 90 people attended each. VCE is diligently doing the right thing.

We reached out to Jim Parks, Director, Customer Care and Marketing with VCE, for his perspective:

Here is what we are proposing, pending VCE Board approval in September.

  • Residential NEM customers will keep their annual billing cycle unless their annual balance exceeds $500.  Then they will go to monthly billing.
  • NEM customers will retain their existing true-up date.
  • VCE pays 1 cent per kWh more than PG&E for excess energy on a monthly basis. This will roll over as credits during excess generation months and will be trued-up on the annual true-up date if needed.  Over $100  credit balances will be paid to customer. Under $100 balance will roll over as a credit.
  • For excess energy at the end of the year, VCE pays what PG&E pays (wholesale) plus 1 cent per kWh, providing a financial benefit to NEM customers.
  • The transition from PG&E to VCE will occur on the customers true-up date in 2019.  This means that NEM customers will be moving to VCE over the course of the entire year, depending on their true-up date.

The transition from PG&E to VCE will be seamless to NEM customers and they will automatically receive the higher incentives that VCE provides. Customers also receive other VCE benefits including choice of providers, local control, higher levels of green and carbon-free energy, and reinvestment in the community.

Thanks, Jim. Count us in. 

And, a final note: This process of rapid improvement and adaptation would not occur with an investor-owned utility. VCE listened to its constituents, applied common sense and logic, and improved their solar program … in a matter of months. Yet another reason why local control makes sense, let alone the virtues of reducing utility bills and our carbon footprints.

Feel free to contact us or stop by if you’d like to discuss further.

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.