In my last email/blog, I described how net energy metering, meter aggregation, and virtual net metering have allowed us, as utility customers / generators, to produce and move electricity more intelligently than we could before. This email describes how Community Choice further enhances these positive developments.

A quick synopsis first:

  • Net metering allows a utility customer to offset his electricity bills by producing electricity on site. From moment to moment, depending on how much electricity he is producing and using, he can export his surplus electricity to, or import additional electricity from, the grid. Any surplus or deficit from one month is carried forward to the next. At the end of the year, the outstanding balance is (usually) cleared.
  • Meter aggregation allows one customer who has multiple meters on contiguous properties that she owns or leases to offset the combined loads of these electricity meters with a net metered renewable energy system.
  • Virtual net metering allows multiple customers who are served by a single service delivery point to offset the combined loads of their meters with a net metered renewable energy system.

These programs are not available to everyone. Net metering is on a first-come first-served basis until the earlier of a utility reaching its 5% cap (See current levels here) or July 1, 2017, after which no new customer will be able to participate in net metering. Even now, with net metering available, renters and customers with site or credit constraints can’t develop net metered projects. Meter aggregation and virtual net metering have additional constraints: If a customer’s properties aren’t entirely contiguous (someone else owns a parcel between a customer’s otherwise continuous chain of parcels), or the name of the parcel owner isn’t the same as the customer of record for the electricity meters being aggregated, or customers are served by two service delivery points on one parcel, meter aggregation and virtual net metering tariffs can’t be used.

For more people to have access to renewable energies now and after net metering ends, we need another tool. Luckily we have one in the form of Community Choice Aggregation or, simply, Community Choice, which was enabled by legislation (California Assembly Bill 117) in 2002.

With Community Choice, cities and counties can form a service area within their borders and supply renewable energy to their residents and businesses. Those who cannot or do not want to generate electricity themselves can get cleaner, and usually cheaper, electricity when their community procures power on their behalf. The electricity can be sourced from renewable energy projects, including ones developed locally. Important to note: the community takes over only the “generation” component of a customer’s utility bill. The utility continues to provide all the other services, including transmission, distribution, customer support, metering, and billing. Please see the graphic from LEAN Energy U.S. below.

With Community Choice:

  • Customers will have a choice of electricity supplier and renewable energy content.
  • Customer-generators, who receive meager or no compensation for their annual kWh or credit balance, will instead be fully compensated for the generation portion of their annual kWh or credit balance.
  • Local governments will be able to meet their emission reduction mandates.
  • Project Developers will be able to develop larger local renewable energy projects using a “feed in tariff” model rather than net metering, and continue to drive down electricity costs.
  • Communities will benefit from
    • local job creation
    • local renewable energy resource development
    • increased energy independence and resiliency
    • increased revenues from the export of surplus power
    • adoption of emerging, proven, and appropriate technologies
    • modernization of our electric infrastructure
    • electrification of our transportation system

Marin Clean Energy (MCE) and Sonoma Clean Power are the only two operating Community Choice programs in California at the moment, but many more are currently forming in Alameda County, Monterey Bay (Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz counties), San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, and other communities.

MCE currently serves residents of Marin County and the city of Richmond. Starting in February 2015, residents of unincorporated Napa County will also be served by MCE. MCE will be presenting its program to Napa County residents through a series of presentations. I hope the cities in Napa County will also join MCE within the next year.

You can learn more about Community Choice by contacting providers/advocates in the San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey Bay, Napa, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, and Sonoma. For other parts of California and the U.S., contact LEAN Energy U.S.

Once you have learned more about the benefits of Community Choice, please forward this email to your friends and urge your city councilmembers to bring Community Choice to you. It will be a great gift from our local elected representatives to us.

Thanks, Happy Holidays, and a fantastic 2015 to you!