Contra Costa County goes solar power, could save residents 55% on monthly bills

By Daniel Borsuk

Feeling the heat from environmentalists, residents, and politicians, Contra Costa County supervisors took the big step Tuesday of picking a solar power plant developer that could potentially help consumers on average cut monthly bills up to 55 percent.

“Our customers pay less than PG&E for our supply, and our supply contains more renewable content,” said Dawn Weisz, chief executive officer of MCE Clean Energy.

On a 4-1 vote, with supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill casting the lone dissenting vote, Contra Costa supervisors selected San Rafael-based MCE Clean Energy to develop solar power plants preferably in the county’s sprawling northern waterfront area to lower PG&E electric rates for residential and commercial electricity customers.

Mitchoff favored a competing proposal submitted from a freshly minted company called EBCE that Alameda County officials have recently adopted as their solar power plant developer.  “I think that the EBCE program is better for our long-term growth,” Mitchoff said.

Other supervisors were more impressed with MCE’s seven-year track record, financial stability and $25 million in reserves and capability of generating good paying union jobs.

Some 285,000 residents residing in unincorporated Contra Costa County could see electricity rates decline in comparison to PG&E rates.  For a large solar power project generating 5 megawatts per hour, the average monthly bills could potentially decline from $105 per Megawatt Hour (MWH) to $85 per MWH

For Board Chair Federal Glover the selection of MCE Clean Energy could mean the potential development of solar power plants in the Northern Waterfront Area.  He is overseeing a planning study of the 28,000-acre area stretching from Hercules to Oakley that can potentially generate 18,000 jobs in a variety of technical fields by the year 2035.

Glover said he already envisions the development of a battery storage and a call center in parts of the northern waterfront, especially Pittsburg.

“With MCE we will be able to lower rates for consumers and bring jobs and growth to the Northern waterfront area,” Glover said.

Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said he felt comfortable with the MCE program because of its seven years of experience.  “There is less risk with the MCE choice,” he said.

“This is an historic day,” said Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville.  “MCE has the established credit rating and reserves.”

Supervisor Diane Burgis of Brentwood favored the MCE proposal based on how it will create “long term jobs” for county residents.  Fifty percent of the jobs created must go to county residents.

“I also hope in the next five to 10 years we’ll become self-sufficient,” Burgis added.

Supervisors listened to a majority of the more than 30 speakers urge them to approve the MCE Clean Energy program over the EBCE program.

Elected officials from Lafayette, Richmond, Walnut Creek, Orinda, San Pablo and  Moraga encourage supervisors to approve the MCE program over the EBCE program.  Those cities have already approved the MCE program over the EBCE program, with Moraga most recently inking a contract with the company.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt encouraged supervisors to approve MCE as its solar power provider based on the city of Richmond’s experience with the company. “It’s been a very good move for Richmond.  Our residents have been saving millions of dollars,” he said.  MCE has developed two solar power projects worth more than $12 million for the residents of Richmond, he said.

“Join MCE,” urged Moraga City Councilman Dave Trotter. “It’s a better choice.”

Byron resident Steen Larson encouraged supervisors to approve MCE as the solar power contractor.  “MCE is the best choice,” he said.  “This company will fulfill the need for job training and providing the best paying jobs.”

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4 Comments to “Contra Costa County goes solar power, could save residents 55% on monthly bills”

  1. Skip says:

    Where to even begin . . . This is crony capitalism at its finest. From my uderstanding, MCE doesn’t actually produce the amount of solar that they appear to, but rather they buy financial instruments to give them clean energy credit that they can claim. This means that changes in the market could cause the cost savings to go away. In fact, defections from pge customers were in part of what prompted the shift in strategy. Millions of dollars at stake and consumers paying the bill whether they like it or not. Federal Glover really did us a dirty on this one. Its too bad its so hard to see where MCE PAC contributions go. It sure would be interesting to see how many of the supervisors were helped by them.

    • Just a thought says:

      Yes, reading between the lines makes everything a little clearer. All this politics gets in the way of the true benefits of something like this. This is why we’ll never make inroads to building a better planet and future due to everyone’s own greedy agenda. Trying to line their pockets with all this vested interest. Shame – shame.

      • Westcoastcynic says:

        aw, jeez. ok so there’s greed and bribes, if i understand skips’s reply. well, it’s solar though. i’d rather money support people short of bribes, of course, but money will always move the world, so i’d rather it be solar than pipelines. If your read on it is true. not saying it isn’t. just saying.

        • Westcoastcynic says:

          If CCE is going to decrease rates for 285K people living in unincorporated areas of CCC, what about the rest of us 715K living here?

          Arcadia Power will provide you with 50% Wind energy for free, no decrease, but still. and for $.015 per kwh, will supply 100%. It’s an option. Residential or businesses. I’m hoping that its on the up and up.

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