John Freeman. Photo courtesy of John Freeman.
John Freeman. Photo courtesy of John Freeman.

This column was contributed by John Freeman, San Juan Bautista Councilmember and Central Coast Community Energy Policy Board Member. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors. BenitoLink invites all community members to share their ideas and opinions. By registering as a BenitoLink user in the top right corner of our home page and agreeing to follow our Terms of Use, you can write counter opinions or share your insights on current issues.

In 2017 the three counties of the Central Coast (Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito) formed Monterey Bay Community Power. Two years later the counties of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara joined the organization to approximately double the number of customers that the organization serves. 3CE buys and resells CO2-free electrical power to their customers.  PG&E stills provides transmission for both 3CE and PG&E own customers.  Your electrical power bill, if you are a 3CE customer, will be divided between about 60% transmission charges from PG&E to 40% power charges from 3CE. 

I attended the annual meeting of 3CE in Paso Robles last week. The main item for the meeting was the budget, which consists of 92.4% of 3CE’s income allotted for power purchases, and 5.9% going to programs such as “Electrify My Ride” and many other customer-oriented incentives to help electrify our state to fight Climate Change. 1.7% goes to administrative expenses such as salaries and rent for offices. 

In our service area 3CE has funded:

  • 323,000 Million Tons of CO2 reduction from Power Purchase Agreements (compared to natural gas plants)
  • 3,500 Million Tons of CO2 reduction from 3CE Customer programs 

3CE Customer Programs (electrification incentives)

  • 700 Electric Vehicle & School Buses
  • 600 EV Chargers
  • 200 Affordable Housing Units (many in San Benito County) 
  • 16 Accessory Dwelling Units 
  • 126 Heat Pumps for Home Heating and Cooling
  • 21 Agricultural Vehicles and Farm Equipment
  • 430 Back-Up and Emergency Readiness Projects & facilities

The above is the direct contribution of 3CE customers to fighting climate change and helping to clean up our environment. The rate comparisons between PG&E and 3CE favor 3CE by a substantial margin. Here are some examples;

Actual Rates: 3CE Residential Rate  $0.116 KWH/ PG&E Residential Rate $0.138 KWH

  • Residential 16% lower rates than PG&E        
  • Small Commercial 17% lower rates than PG&E      
  • Medium Commercial 22% lower rates that PG&E      
  • Large Commercial 21% lower rates than PG&E
  • Agricultural 18% lower rates than PG&E
  • Streetlights 3% lower rates than PG&E

The unfortunate news is that the above rates will be increased by $0.01 per KWH, October 1st.  The other news is that PG&E is also increasing their rates on both the power side and transmission side of the equation. The difference between PG&E and 3CE’s pricing is going increase, with the lower pricing in favor of 3CE.  These rate increases are being caused by the CPUC mandating a resource adequacy requirement on all load serving entities for power, such as 3CE and PG&E.  Resource adequacy is basically an insurance policy for the CPUC to make sure that the state has enough electrical power on the hottest days.  It requires that both 3CE and PG&E procure more back-up power from additional sources than we will most likely need.  

This increased demand for extra power has pushed wholesale generation prices up across the board. This situation was heightened by an incident that occurred last September 6, 2022, when the total electrical load in California almost exceeded the capacity of available power in the total system.  A text message was sent out from the state ISO (Independent System Operator) to over 25 million Californians asking for people to reduce their power usage (shut off their air conditioning).  Within 10 minutes power consumption dropped over 10% averting shutting down the grid. The state does not want that to happen again.  The blue line on the graph below shows the solar plants fading and the green line indicates an increase in Natural gas that needed to increase to pick up the difference. Please note that both lines turned down after the tweet went out after 5 PM (19:00 on the graph).

A graph of a number of different colored lines

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We are all in a period of transition from fossil fuels to renewable fossil free power sources.  Solar, wind and geo-thermal along with hydro-electric generation will be the new power sources of the future.  Natural Gas and other fossil fuel combustion-oriented power plants will be phased out.  The benefits in fighting climate change will be enormous and a beneficial side effect is a cleaner and greener environment.

3CE is now investing in fossil-fuel free energy plants.  The Casa Diablo Geothermal plant at Mammoth Lakes, California is an excellent example of this. It opened this June and 3CE was there to celebrate the grand opening of the first recent geothermal plant in California to come online in the past twenty years. We are lucky to have 3CE helping California fight climate change and providing this region this clean green electrical power. 

The Casa Diablo Geothermal plant at Mammoth Lakes. Photo courtesy of Central Coast Community Energy.
The Casa Diablo Geothermal plant at Mammoth Lakes. Photo courtesy of Central Coast Community Energy.