Your Man Around Town 5/10/17
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Your Man Around Town 5/10/17
We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue
And then we'll take it higher
Oh we gonna rock down to Electric Avenue
And then we'll take it higher
– Eddy Grant

 

Each of us on City Council takes on many responsibilities in our City, County and State by representing local government. One of mine is the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) for Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE).

PCE is a locally controlled community organization that provides our residents and businesses with clean, renewable energy from resources such as solar and wind – and to add, at lower rates than PG&E with no net cost to taxpayers.

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan Lieberman, Director of Marketing and Public Affairs at Peninsula Clean Energy, to discuss the latest developments in the launch of San Mateo County’s official energy agency.

Gary Pollard: So, I understand that there has been a lot happening lately at PCE! Can you spend a few minutes bringing our readers up to date on the latest?

Dan Lieberman: Yes, Gary. The big news is that Peninsula Clean Energy is the official electric provider for all of San Mateo County. As you know, we launched in October, and now we’re serving almost every account in every city across the county. That’s almost 300,000 accounts, from residential apartments to municipal accounts to large businesses. The enrollment process is automatic, so everyone was enrolled without taking action. We show up as a line item on PG&E bills, and the power we provide is greener than PG&E’s, in that it’s sourced mainly from renewable energy sources like wind and solar. And perhaps the best part is that it costs less than PG&E’s power, so a typical residential customer will save a few bucks each month, while supporting clean power.

GP: And there is the ECO100 green power option as well.

DL: That’s right. For customers who want 100% renewable energy, there is the choice to opt-up for a small premium to our ECO100 option. Our standard option, ECOplus, is 50% renewable energy, along with 25% large hydropower and 25% unspecified, which means we buy from the market and it’s usually sourced from natural gas. And customers can opt-out of PCE if they wish, but we don’t want that that happen!

GP: How will the residents and businesses of Foster City learn about PCE?

DL: There are two primary ways – through notices and advertising. We mailed each customer two written notices before they were enrolled, and we send two notices after. We also do a lot of advertising. That has varied from billboards, to bus ads, to newspapers, cable TV, Pandora radio, social media. And even in the Foster City Islander!

GP: As a Board member of PCE, I’ve spent a lot of hours discussing the ins-and-outs of California’s complex electricity markets, but I must say that reading a PG&E bill presents its own challenges.

DL: Yes, the devil can be in the details, right?

GP: Indeed. So, what you can say to help my constituents to better understand their bills?

DL: Yes, that can be tricky. There are three new bill components. Those are the PCE charges, new PG&E charges, and a credit back from PG&E. The credit from PG&E is greater than the sum of the new charges. So when a customer opens their bill and sees the new charge on page 1, I encourage them to look for the Generation Credit, which is usually on page 3. For more information, customers can find detailed instructions about understanding their bill on our website (peninsulacleanenergy.com).

GP: And I guess they can also call for more info?

DL: Absolutely. Our call center is 866-966-0110, and it’s here in northern California. So, can I turn the tables and ask how PCE is being received in Foster City?

GP: So far so good! The City has enrolled its accounts on ECO100. It was an integral part of our Climate Action Plan. Almost 40% of our community’s greenhouse gas emissions were from energy use in residential and commercial buildings, so moving to cleaner electricity sources really moves the needle for us. Having the City enroll in ECO100 was a low-cost way to reduce our footprint. Meanwhile, PCE is providing cleaner power and cost savings to our residents and businesses. And those savings really add up, especially for larger electric consumers like our larger employers here. So PCE is providing benefits to all electric consumers in Foster City, whether they are cost-conscious, or want 100% renewable energy.

DL: That’s great. We’re happy that Foster City is an ECO100 participant. Did you know that nine cities in San Mateo County have switched their accounts to ECO100?

GP: Impressive! So, what’s next for PCE?

DL: As you know from the Board meetings, we have been signing a lot of supply contracts, including the large 200 megawatt solar farm in Merced County. And this year we’re focusing on financial stability, by putting excess revenue into a rate stabilization account. And as a non-profit, any extra revenues beyond that will be used programmatically. So for customers, we hope to roll out some programs that will complement what PG&E offers. We’re not sure if they’ll be for energy efficiency, battery storage, electric vehicles, or local solar. There are a lot of great ideas being proposed; we’ll just need to see what our budget is like, and what the Board’s priorities are.

GP: I look forward to that Board discussion.

DL: Likewise!

I am pleased to say that Foster City is very committed to an environmentally sustainable future. We have proven it through our adopted policies and actions that support energy reduction and the generation of clean energy. So, our partnership with PCE was a natural fit.

In fact, we have taken a leadership role on the Peninsula in implementing measures and programs to conserve water and energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As you may know, Foster City launched the first carpooling incentive program in partnership with a company named Scoop. That program has reduced over 325,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions in the last six months. We have also installed energy efficiency retrofits in City buildings, converted our street lights to LED, and installed more synthetic turf in City Parks to help conserve water. All together the City has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 23% since 2010.

I have made the jump to ECO100 –have YOU?

If you wish to comment or share your thoughts, please contact me at gpollard@fostercity.org or (650)286-3505.

Gary 

Council Corner

May 10, 2017
Your Man Around Town!

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200