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San Jose Creates New Clean Energy Department for 100% Renewable Clean Energy

Category : Energy , Environment , Politics

San Jose Clean Energy, approved unanimously this May by the City Council, is a new program that offers a choice for more renewable energy at competitive rates with local control and benefits than currently offered by the investor owned utility, PG&E. Many cities in California have created their own Clean Energy alternative and San Jose is one of them! The program, which will offer electricity to residents that is cleaner and/or more affordable while creating more local clean energy jobs, includes a new department, director, 20 staff, and a Citizens Advisory Committee. 

These programs are enabled by a 2002 state law (Assembly Bill 117) that allows cities or counties to choose their electric provider and the source of their electricity.

Communities can purchase and generate electricity according to their own community priorities – greener than PG&E offers, at a competitive cost.  PG&E still maintains the power lines (and manages delivery and billing), but the power purchase contracts are set by the city’s CCE program. Proven successful programs in Marin, Sonoma, and Lancaster (see below) are delivering electrical power with a much higher portion of renewables than PG&E currently provides, at lower costs than PG&E.

The benefits to San Jose are:

Clean Energy: San Jose will, with this one action, enable the community to make a major transition to clean energy faster than any other way.  Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a major goal for the State, and a focus area of San Jose’s Green Vision.

Choice: Each customer personally chooses the energy plan that best fits them. Whether to potentially pay less than they pay now for a cleaner energy mix, pay a bit more for 100% renewable energy, or pay the same price they pay now for the same mix (stay with PG&E) there are no risks to individual rate payers.

Community Control and Economic Benefit: San Jose has made buying locally produced clean energy a priority so local energy companies and producers will have an increased market which stimulated localrenewable energy development projects, helps create local jobs and attract businesses, and puts competition in the energy utility market. San Jose can  capture some of the approximately $400 million per year that San Jose pays PG&E for electricity generation, and have the decision-making control to save customers money, and invest revenues locally to produce jobs and benefit the local economy.

As an example: Since the launch of Sonoma Clean Power (SCP) in 2014, they have increased the percentage of overall spending in Sonoma County from an estimated 3% of dollars by PG&E prior to SCP launch, to over 25% today by SCP, and this percentage is expected to increase over time. SCP has already achieved $50 million in direct customer savings plus over $35 million in shifted spending back into the county.

Marin Clean Energy and Other Leaders

Three community choice districts are already successfully operating in California, and CCE’s operate in at least 5 other states as well.  Originally termed Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), the terms CCE and CCA are interchangeable.

  • Marin Clean Energy (MCE) was the first CCE/CCA in northern California: it first came online in 2010, and by year end 2014 had grown to serve over 125,000 customers in Marin County, unincorporated Napa County and the cities of Benicia, El Cerrito, Richmond and San Pablo. It serves residential, commercial, and municipal customers, and is expected to increase the number of communities it serves in 2016.
  • Sonoma Clean Power is a CCA serving most cities (and all unincorporated areas) in Sonoma County, and came online in 2013.
  • The southern California city of Lancasterlaunched their CCA in early 2015. Lancaster represents a single-city CCA model.

More locally, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties have created Community Choice Energy programs in 2016!

  • In San Mateo County all 20 cities plus the County Unincorporated area have voted to join the local CCE program, Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE).. Program launch in August, 2016.
  • In Santa Clara County all but one of the 11 cities in consideration have voted to join the Silicon Valley Community Clean Energy Partnership (SVCCEP), started in late 2016. 
  • San Francisco has established a CCA (CleanPowerSF), offering service in May of 2016.

Other California communities are investigating CCEs as of June 2015, by formal action of elected bodies (list possibly incomplete):

  • Los Angeles County, including the cities of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Carson, Torrance, Inglewood, Culver City and Santa Monica.
  • Santa Cruz/Monterey/San Benito Counties (and all cities therein)
  • Lake County
  • Mendocino County
  • Humbolt County
  • San Luis Obispo County
  • Santa Barbara County
  • City of Morro Bay
  • City of Davis
  • City of Solana Beach

Links to Marin’s, Sonoma’s, and Lancaster’s CCAs, and other resources, are here at our Resources page.

San Jose′ Community Energy (SJCE) is a group of residents committed to bringing affordable renewable energy to our community.  We advocated for the formation of a CCE program in San Jose′. 

San Jose plans to roll out the new program incrementally over the next year. To learn more visit the City’s website: sanjoseca.gov

By: Cheryl McGovern


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