Antioch Council tables proposal for community choice energy program

By John Crowder

At the June 13 meeting of the Antioch City Council, councilmembers declined to move forward with a proposal that would have resulted in all current Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) customers in Antioch being automatically enrolled as customers of Marin Clean Energy (MCE).

As explained in the City Staff report on the agenda item, in 2002, the Governor signed a law that allows any city in California, “to combine the electricity load of its residents and businesses in a community-wide aggregation program known as Community Choice Aggregation (CCA)” through a joint powers agency, such as MCE, which was established in 2008. Staff Report on MCE for Antioch Council 06-13-17

So far most of the 19 cities in Contra Costa County and the County have joined, with El Cerrito, Lafayette, Richmond and San Pablo currently being served. Concord, Oakley, Pittsburg, Danville, Moraga and the County have voted to join during the current inclusion period. As of the June 13th meeting, Martinez, Pinole and San Ramon were still deciding whether or not to join.

In 2009, the Antioch City Council unanimously approved a resolution adopting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.  Then, in May of 2011, the City Council adopted the Municipal Climate Action Plan, which outlines ways in which the City can meet the emissions reduction goals previously set, including through the purchase of renewable energy.

MCE’s energy procurement plan targets more than 50% renewable energy content.  PG&E’s standard energy procurement option is 32% renewable.  Data provided in the staff report estimated the cost of a user consuming 500 kWh per month to be $112.27 per month under the PG&E plan, and $111.97 under the MCE default plan.  The amount of emissions estimated under the MCE default plan is less than that emitted under the PG&E default plan.

However, PG&E also provides a “50% solar choice option” which, according to the documents, would provide for less emissions than the MCE default plan.

Both PG&E and MCE also have options available for customers that provide for 100% renewable sources, which bring estimated emissions to zero.  These plans are more expensive for customers, the PG&E plan estimated to cost $125.32 and the MCE plan estimated to cost $116.97 per month for the 500kWh consumer.

A provision in the MCE agreement would allow customers to opt out within 60 days at no charge, and to opt out beyond that time for a fee.

A staff presentation explained that a survey of residents asking their preference generated slightly over 100 resident responses, with approximately 55% supporting joining MCE, and 40% preferring to remain with PG&E.

Council members, though, expressed concern that many residents do not know about the proposed action to switch energy providers, or about their ability to opt out and stay with PG&E.

Council Member Tony Tiscareno said that, although he was a strong advocate of clean energy and the environment, he believed residents were not informed about the potential action they were contemplating, and how to opt out.

“I want to make sure that everyone is absolutely in the know,” he said.

Council Member Lori Ogorchock said there were, “only 130 out of 114,000 people in this survey.  People don’t know.  They have no clue.”  She discussed the idea that there is already choice to buy renewable energy from PG&E, and discussed the fact that many residents are on a fixed income.  “The reason I brought this up last time was to see if people truly knew what was going on.  And they don’t,” Ogorchock stated. “So, in good conscience, I can’t do this.”

Other discussion included Mayor Sean Wright asking how plans contemplated by MCE to build out additional renewable energy sites along the northern waterfront might impact future economic development, and Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe asking questions regarding residents who have already put in solar panels, and whether they receive credit for excess energy generated by them.

Following the discussion of the matter during the May 23rd council meeting Thorpe explained his opposition to joining MCE.

“This is about meeting our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. But what they’re branding themselves as is creating jobs, giving residents choice and reducing their utility bills,” he said. “But there is no guarantee for those things.”

“I feel we as a city didn’t engage the public,” Thorpe added, asking “How are we going to change 33,000 houses’ energy provider without talking to them, first? I just think we should stop.”

Council Member Monica Wilson added her concerns, stating, “I didn’t hear from the others at EBCE (East Bay Community Energy in Alameda County) or from the public. I just didn’t think there was enough information. I just want to give everybody the chance to speak and to hear from the public, first.”

Following discussion at the June 13th meeting, Mayor Wright asked for a motion.  None was provided by any member of the City Council, so the item was tabled.

After the meeting, some members of the public who supported joining MCE, wanted to know if there was still a chance the council could change their minds.

Antioch’s Environmental Resource Coordinator, Julie Haas-Wajdowicz said “The city has to approve it by the end of the month (of June) to be included in this inclusion period. We have to wait for the next inclusion period. Based on the number of cities that are already included in this one, there may not be another inclusion period until after 2018.”

In response to what can be done if Antioch does not join, now, Dawn Weisz of MCE stated, “I think what we can do in the interim, is go through the process of Antioch submitting a letter requesting membership and to be added to the board. But service in the community would likely be delayed for a year or two.”

Haas-Wajdowicz suggested that the council should consider updating the Municipal Climate Action Plan.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

the attachments to this post:

Staff Report on MCE for Antioch Council 06-13-17
Staff Report on MCE for Antioch Council 06-13-17

2 Comments to “Antioch Council tables proposal for community choice energy program”

  1. Marty Fernandez says:

    We watched this presentation by Dawn Reisz of MCE and felt the council made the right decision. Her presentation was one holding the city hostage and trying to force them to move NOW. It was blackmail. There is not enough information on cost and many of us feel PG & E will be cheaper in the long run. Everything I have seen shows MCE to be at least 20 a month higher.

    Thank you John for your article. As usual excellent reporting.

  2. […] Antioch Council Tables Proposal for Community Choice Energy Program, by John Crowder, Antioch Herald, June 22, 2017. […]

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