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APAL Climate  Action Team approaches San Juan Bautista on clean energy efforts

The committee will be making a recommendation to move forward with the project at the next city council meeting.

At the San Juan Bautista Strategic Planning Committee meeting on Oct. 5, members listened to a presentation by chairs of the APAL (Aromas Progressive Action League ) Climate Action Team, Leslie Austin and Seth Capron, about the possibility of partnering with San Juan Bautista to bring green energy solutions. 

Based in Aromas, the team of about 40 members explores the ways in which to engage in a community-wide effort to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions. The group, which started six months ago, has already begun talks with the Aromas Water District and the Aromas - San Juan Unified School District about working with solar energy. They also held their first Climate Action Team Community Meeting in coordination with Congressman Panetta in September resulting in approximately 75 attendees.  

"We want to explore the possibility of partnering with the city of San Juan to bring clean energy to San Juan Bautista in addition to Aromas," said Austin.   

"We are all aware that the federal government has really pulled back from taking action and we're fortunate to live here on the central coast. The state of California has really been way out in front to address the climate goals. Regionally, as you guys are aware, San Juan Bautista was part of the effort to approve the Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) which is going to have a big effect on the source of energy as far as electricity we use in the whole region," said Capron.  

In March, San Juan Bautista city council members unanimously voted to join MBCP,  allowing residents to choose a clean energy source at a competitive rate to PG&E. The city will share the 11th seat on a governance committee composed of local government entities in San Benito, Santa Cruz, and Monterey counties. 

Capron continued saying, "What we're hearing more from climate scientists is that it seems like the picture on one level gets worse rapidly, we don’t have a lot of time, our group is trying to do what we can to move our area more quickly. We know San Juan Bautista has taken action to be a model green city so we feel like the time for action is now."  

"We have one simple goal," added Austin. "We want to understand what efforts the city of San Juan Bautista has undertaken thus far, so we have a sense of what progress you've made or what ideas you’ve had, and we also want to connect you with information on what solutions are economically viable we think for the city of San Juan and also for residents." 

Austin and Capron suggested the committee work with Rob Hymes of Mynt Systems to look at the city's PG&E records then move on to looking at possible options.  

"His business it to go in to comprehensively identify savings and possibly bring in solar," said Capron. "He's been very generous to donate a lot of time working with us. His expertise has been really key to helping us move forward both from a technical side and from a regulatory side."  

Councilman John Freeman added he and Mayor Chris Martorana looked at the city and school district's PG&E records about a year and a half ago but had hit a roadblock. 

Austin and Capron also floated a couple ideas to the committee including exploring bond measures to fund a large scale renewables project, crowd-sourcing a project within the community, a Power Purchase Agreement that would allow the community to invest in the community effort to generate more clean power, and possibly looking into Renewable Energy Self Generation Bill Credit Transfer.  

"What we're looking at with our group is not an immediate action, we are looking at a medium term action...," said Capron.  

Member of the Agriculture, Environment, & Land Use sub-committee, Joleen Cosio asked if  the APAL Climate Action Team was looking to form a joint powers authority between the cities of Aromas and San Juan Bautista. 

Austin answered that she had not discussed it with her team adding that from her experience  San Juan Bautista needed to be a leader in their own efforts. 

"Having been a part of this community for 30 years and remembering the experience we had when we formed the school district and the lessons learned from that primarily for me,  San Juan needs to be in the drivers seat. We can support you, we can be whatever you need us to be. We will look up information, we will research options, we will help, we'll be a part of the team but it is important for this community to lead," she said. 

The committee will be making a recommendation to the city council that they release whatever information is available to Hymes with the understanding that they would be allowing the sub-committee to move forward. 

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Laura Romero (Laura Romero)

Laura Romero is a general assignment reporter for BenitoLink, covering topics like education and city government. Formerly, she worked as an assistant account executive at Pembroke PR in San Francisco, where she assisted with press outreach, event coordination, and social media planning. Her PR skills will be put to use as she helps implement social media strategies and develops an online giving campaign.


News release, March 2017, "Nearly 70 percent of the electricity PG&E delivered to its customers in 2016 came from greenhouse gas-free resources, the company announced..."  They also delivered an average of 32.8 percent of its electricity in 2016 from renewable resources including solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydroelectric sources.

Personally, I believe renewable energy resources are the most important factor and that is where we are lagging.  Some of the solutions, such as solar, fulfill both requirements.

Additionally, Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) is a new energy agency made up of local governments that will provide an alternative to PG&E power for all ratepayers in Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey Counties and they are well on their way.  Why not just join up?

A word of caution, PG&E has lots of problems as does every "public monopoly", if everyone is allowed to cherry-pick away all the easy, profit-making, sectors then PG&E as the primary public utility will have to raise the rates for their mandatory clean-up and back-up expenses.  Translation - there is not free lunch.  

I hope none of the APAL committee members are also among the environmental radicals that opposed the PV2 solar project in classic NIMBY fashion - that would give me both second and third thoughts about their integrity and honesty. 

Marty Richman

I am sure there will be charges from PGE to utilize their transmission lines.  This was the case when I utilized a different gas supplier. The gas was cheaper but the gas delivery charges were exorbitant.

Some things just are not meant to be. IMHO, virtual reality will go nowhere, gee whiz watches that measure your hiccups when you exercise will go nowhere, small "progressive" mom and pop green electric companies will go nowhere. Rates will never be competitive with PG&E just because of operational scale. OK, so PG&E is not 100% green energy yet, but they will be. By the time a tiny generator finally starts selling (not producing) green electricity, the PG&E elephant will have rolled over on it. Why not focus community efforts on improving PG&E even faster? State law AB-32 mandates a reduction in greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020-PG&E signed on. State law SB-350 mandates 50% renewable energy in use by 2030--PG&E agreed. So let's get tougher.

There is a lot we can do other than make an end-run around the elephant. Let's demand more green energy from PG&E. Why not outlaw gas-fired generation plants in California? Let's support large solar installations like PV2. How about approving the HERO loan for homeowners in Hollister and SJB and San Benito County to encourage independent solar generation? Where is our law on new green-certified houses to make them totally efficient? Who the heck is working on livestock emissions? They are a worldwide methane producer (80 times worse than CO2 on the atmosphere).  Let's all go vegan and buy a FitBit watch. <Now that was sarcasm.>

--William McCarey

Submitted by (robert hymes) on

Operational scale actually has little to do with why PG&E's rates are always going to be more than local distributed renewables. The fact is that generating power in a more distributed manner, i.e. having a small solar array on your roof, does not require the billions of dollars in maintenance and construction of transmission infrastructure that PG&E must account for. With the levelized cost of solar reaching a point that is comparable to carbon based power generation, even at a residential scale, there is no longer an argument for supporting centralized 'dirty' power generators.
Secondly, energy storage has reached a point at which individuals and even whole communities can 'detach' from the grid, powering their own "micro-grids" which are actually more resilient than a grid tied community.
And finally, maybe most importantly, PG&E costs do not account for the true costs of GHG emissions and environmental disasters caused by fossil fuel exploration, harvesting and distribution. The real price we pay for supporting non-renewable focused energy providers will be in the escalating health care costs of dealing with asthma and cancer, as well as the massive ecological catastrophe left for the next generation to deal with.
Local Community Choice provides enormous value to us the rate payers as PG&E will never make a point to redistribute the benefits or profits of their business - doing so is antithetical with their shareholders only objective which is explicitly their own corporate profits. MBCP will create a circular economy in which the surplus revenues created through more cost effective energy distribution will be redistributed back into the community and used to incentivize even more renewables and more efficiency and more clean tech related jobs.

LAustin's picture
Submitted by Leslie Austin (LAustin) on

Coming in Spring 2018, electricity for San Benito, Monterey, and Santa Cruz Counties will be provided by Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) through the Community Choice Energy (CCE) model, which allows us to choose clean-source power at a cost that is equivalent to or less than PG&E. MBCP will be our clean, renewable energy service provider, and all existing PG&E customers will be automatically opted in. PG&E will continue to maintain power lines and billing.

These counties (and nearly all cities) entered into a JPA with MBCP to provide clean-source energy to the Central Coast. This supports the overwhelming desire to further reduce our carbon foot-print, while saving money and providing investment and jobs. This also supports the eagerness of some to break PG&E’s local monopoly.

The APAL Climate Action Team is a volunteer group of Aromas and SJB community members. Clean energy is now recognized as the economic choice, so we’re leading the shift to clean energy to do our part.

We are partnering with local governments, educators, businesses, non-profits, and community members to implement cost-effective solutions that meet their unique needs. We support CCE, and understand that MBCP might be the best fit for some. We also recognize that those wishing to end a lifetime of monthly energy bills will move beyond CCE to solar or wind systems, enjoying the added benefit of tempering the potential for clean energy monopolies to take PG&E’s place.

We are not affiliated with the project Marty mentions, so no need to sew controversy…and we realize there are many things that should be done, as William notes. We sincerely hope that people will work together to create solutions to these issues.

LAustin's picture
Submitted by Leslie Austin (LAustin) on

NOTE: The difference between PG&E’s 100% “green” power option and MBCP’s 100% “renewable” option follows:

PG&E E1 basic rate: $0.19979/kWh

PG&E 100% solar: $0.22589/kWh

MBCP proposed basic rate (3% below PG&E): $0.19380/kWh

MBCP estimated "Deep Green" rate: $0.21911/kWh

MBCP's rate goal is to charge 3% less than PG&E, and their basic package will be 60% renewable, 95% GHG free. PG&E's basic package is 30% renewable, 59% GHG free. Currently PG&E's 100% renewable package is 100% solar. MBCP is working on power purchase agreements now, so the precise mix of renewables they will offer in their 100% package will soon be established.

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