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San Juan Bautista considers green energy alternative

City hears presentation about Monterey Bay Community Power, which give customers the option to opt-out of PG&E service

San Juan Bautista City Council members gathered Nov. 17 to discuss the possibility of joining the Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP), a regional project designed to provide a green energy alternative to businesses and residents in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. 

Monterey Bay Regional Climate Action Compact co-chair and Emerging Ecologies Director/Principal, Brennan Jensen, gave a brief presentation about the proposal, saying, "By taking control of the kind of energy we purchase, we have the opportunity to reduce our emissions quite dramatically. In the state of California, we require that California receive 33 percent of it’s energy form renewable resources by 2020 and that bar will increase by 50 percent by 2030. So that’s already within our regulations.” 

Presenters said the proposed community choice energy (CCE) project allows communities to choose a clean energy source at a competitive cost. Working in collaboration with PG&E, the CCE is an “opt-out” program in which MBCP would become the default electric service provider for customers, who would automatically be enrolled in the program at specific times—though if they wish to stay with PG&E they could do so. There are similar programs in Marin and Sonoma counties.

Jensen said the resolution was not binding and asks for the “city's support in empowering the executive officers to continue negotiations with the other cities and counties interested in moving forward.”

She said they would return in to the council in early 2017 with another recommendation to actually form the joint powers authority (JPA).

 Councilman Robert Lund asked Jensen if the recent election has impacted the program.

Jensen said, “It’s a little unclear how those things will move forward … for California a simple answer is 'no' because California has set its own targets in terms of renewable portfolio standards and greenhouse emission reduction. We just had SB 32 pass in September, which extends and hits even higher targets for greenhouse gas reductions by 2020, 2030. California has already made this decisions separate from the federal government.”

Councilman Tony Boch asked how the program would affect those who have already taken the initiative to get their energy from a renewable source, citing the installment of solar panels at his home.

Jensen answered by saying that while PG&E offers a credit system to those who are putting more energy onto the grid than they are using, it does not compensate those individuals. "One of the things community choice power is looking at is the ability to have feed in tariffs, where consumers both residential and commercial could be compensated for that over production,” she said. 

City Manager Roger Grimsley said, "I think it’s worth participating, to explore the potential of what derivatives it can provide us.”

Boch said, “The way I look at this, we can go into this at no cost … If it comes any where close to what they’re offering, it can be good for us.”

Vice Mayor Chris Martorana, pointed out a few oversights in the resolution including Monterey County not being listed and Hollister not being listed in the board seat formation.

The project was first proposed to the San Benito County Board of Supervisors in June. No action was taken at that meeting after supervisors decided more research was needed.

After pointing out the corrections Martorana said, “Other than that, I’m totally in favor of this idea. I loved it from the start when I was sitting in the audience and the first presentation was made. I thought it was a great idea.”

Newly-elected San Juan Bautista Councilman John Freeman, who spoke during the public comment period, said that he had sat in on three prior presentations by MBCP, adding, “I'm enthusiastic about it because it gives a lot more options,” he said referring to the possibility of individuals like Boch being able to be compensated for unused energy.

City Council members unanimously adopted the resolution affirming the city’s intent to participate in government financing discussions for the proposed MBCP joint powers authority with the addition of the corrections Martorana pointed out. 

Below is the recent "Going Green" episode that discussed the MBCP:

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.

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