The San Benito County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting June 9 to discuss the formation of Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP), a regional project is designed to provide a green electricity alternative to businesses and residents in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.
Advocates say 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, “residents would experience little change in how power is being delivered and paid for, but it does change where the power is coming from,” said Shawn Marshall, executive director of LEAN Energy US.
The CCE is an “opt-out” program in which MBCP would become the default electric service provider for customers. Customers would automatically be enrolled in the program at specific times but if they wish to stay with PG&E they could do so.
The project enables local governments to procure and/or develop power on behalf of facilities, residents and businesses. The company says it is also responsive to environmental goals, helps create jobs, supports revenue and offers customers a choice.
Santa Cruz County Supervisor Bruce McPherson said, “We can have a community power source in our three counties.”
“It’ll be the only tri-county collaboration and the only one of this size in the state,” he added. “I think it’ll be very well received.”
Supervisor Margie Barrios asked the presenters, “how do you guarantee local jobs?”
Mark Landman, a board member of Sonoma Clean Power, said, “It’s largely your decision. You decide where it is best to invest it.”
Landman also serves as a Cotati city councilman, which has the program in place.
Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz voiced his concerns over the proposed CCE. He said he felt as though San Benito County would only be used for its customers and the land, especially since San Benito is smaller than Monterey and Santa Cruz. “I’m reluctant to agree because we have other partnerships,” he said.
According to the feasibility study, the CCE model helps to ensure local economic growth and sustainability because money from rates paid by local customers stays local helping fund renewable energy projects, create jobs and stimulate the economy.
“It's important to note that we have come to this point without spending a dime of the general fund,” said McPherson. “Through fundraising and donations from the Santa Cruz Community Foundation we were able to fund the feasibility study of the project."
County supervisors took no action after saying more research would be required on the issue. Richard Stedman, vice chair of the Project Development Advisory Committee, recommended that the board take action by Oct. 31 so the MBCP would be ready to launch by 2017.
For more information visit: www.mbcommunitypower.org.
The next Board of Supervisors' meeting will take place Monday, June 13 at 6 p.m. at Hollister City Hall.