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Decarbonization efforts of three Northern California Community Choice Energy Aggregators – MCE, Peninsula Clean Energy and SVCE

Rahul Bahadur

Rahul Bahadur

Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) are governmental entities formed by cities and counties to serve the energy requirements of their local residents and businesses.  They were enabled in California in 2002 via the passing of Assembly Bill (AB) 117.  Following this, the first CCA, Marin Energy Authority, now Marin Clean Energy (MCE), was formed in 2010.  In 2011 AB 790, detailing the rights of CCAs, was passed.  As of June 2022, there are 25 CCAs operating in California; they serve over 11 million customers residing in over 200 cities and counties.

CalCCA, an advocacy group for California’s community choice electricity providers, was formed in 2016.  Its mission is to create a legislative and regulatory environment that supports the long-term sustainability of CCAs in California.  As of June, 2022, CalCCA’s membership includes 24 of the 25 CCAs operating in California and several affiliates.

This article documents the decarbonization efforts of three CCAs from the San Francisco Bay area as of June 2022.  The CCAs featured are MCE, Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE).  Their efforts are presented in context of four areas:

  1. Local Generation and Distributed Energy Resources (DERs)
  2. Buildings
  3. Transportation
  4. Workforce Development and Community Outreach

(1) Local Generation and DER

CCAs operate in a regulatory environment that requires them to plan their energy portfolio to meet specific targets.  The primary state bills driving the planning and targets are Senate Bill (SB) 250, Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 and SB 100, Renewable Portfolio Standard of 2018.

SB 250 established California’s 2030 greenhouse gas reduction target of 40% below 1990 levels. It set 2030 targets for energy efficiency and renewable electricity, along with other actions aimed at reducing emissions across the energy and transportation sectors to meet the 2050 goal of reducing emissions to 80% below 1990 levels.  SB 100 advances California’s renewable energy production. It directs all Load Supplying Entities (LSEs) to procure 60% of their portfolios from Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) -eligible resources by 2030.  SB 100 also directs LSEs to source 100% of their retail sales from zero-carbon resources (or eligible renewable resources) by 2045. In March 2021, California regulators, California Energy Commission (CEC), California Air Resources Board, and the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) issued a joint agency report to clarify which specific resources count toward meeting the 2045 requirement.

In addition to the above, the California Energy Storage Bill, AB 2514 (2010) directed the CPUC to establish energy storage targets for Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs), CCAs, and other LSEs. CPUC Decision 13-10-040 established an energy storage procurement target for CCAs and electric service providers equal to 1% of their forecasted 2020 peak load.

Each of the CCAs has individual efforts to procure renewable energy in progress.  In addition, eight CCAs, including MCE, Peninsula Clean Energy and SVCE, formed California Community Power, a new Joint Power Authority (JPA), to combine their resources to procure renewable energy and grid reliability resources. 

MCE provides electricity service to approximately 580,000 customer accounts and more than 1.5 million residents and businesses in 37 member communities across four Bay Area counties: Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, and Solano that consume a peak load of approximately 1,200 MW. 

Per MCE’s 2022 Operational Integrated Resource plan (OIRP), CCA procured 5.2 million MWh of electricity for its customers and project’s that it will require 6 million MWh of loss-adjusted load by 2031 (loss-adjusted loads include the load lost to the distribution system and hence the projected load is 106% of the retail sales).  In the short-term, MCE plans to procure at least 332 MW of net qualifying capacity by 2026 to meet the CPUC’s mid-term Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) mandate.  In addition to the 810 MW of new California renewables that MCE has already procured, this will include:

  • At least 100 MW of new solar paired with 75 MW of five-hour storage;
  • At least 29 MW of long-duration storage (defined as capable of discharging at full capacity for a minimum of eight hours);
  • At least 29 MW of clean firm/baseload capacity;
  • At least 175 MW of standalone four-hour storage; and
  • 110 MW of new solar paired with 60 MW of four-hour storage

The CPUC’s IRP has directed California LSE’s to procure 1000 MW of long-duration storage by 2026.  MCE’s share of this is 32 MW.

In addition to procuring energy resources, MCE is encouraging local investments in clean energy local residents via a Net Energy Metering (NEM) program and the Feed-In-Tariff program.  The NEM program includes 9.3% of MCE’s customer with an approximate generating capacity of 483 MW.  Roof top solar for low-income single-family households was supported in coordination with GRID Alternatives which administers California’s Single Family Affordable Solar Housing (SASH) program; this program is now closed.  In addition, MCE has programs to support low-income multifamily homeowners.  The previous two programs have installed a total capacity of 800 kW.  The Feed-in-Tariff program incentivizes investments in small-scale renewable energy projects.   These could be solar, wind or biomass and sized from 1-5 MW.  The total target for the program is 45 MW.

MCE’s energy storage programs include incentives for both commercial and residential customers.  Commercial customers  can receive different levels of compensation for the capacity installed in exchange for allowing MCE to dispatch the stored energy when needed.  In addition, in 2020, MCE launched its Energy Storage program to target vulnerable customers and populations disproportionately affected by grid outages.  This initiative targeted 15 MWh of battery storage systems and was supported via funds from the CPUC’s Self Generation Incentive Program and MCE’s $6m Resiliency fund; these programs are now closed.

In April 2021, MCE launched its Peak FLEXmarket Program, a market place program platform designed to shift energy use in its service area away from periods of peak demand.  This is created in partnership with Recurve and will measure hourly reductions in energy and allow MCE to compensate businesses working with customers to reduce energy demand. 

Peninsula Clean Energy was formed by San Mateo County in 2016 as the CCA to serve the 20 cities of the county.  The City of Los Banos joined the CCA in 2020. Its service area includes approximately 300,000 residential and commercial customers representing 765,000 residents. The total energy consumed by its customers was just over 3,000 GWh in 2017 and is projected to rise to just under 4000 GWh in 2029.

Per Peninsula Clean Energy’s 2018 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), it procured 551MW of renewable energy via PPAs for solar, wind and hydro projects.  As of June, 2022, the two more combined solar/storage facilities with a projected capacity of 304 MW are under development.  Peninsula Clean Energy is on pace to exceed the RPS targets well ahead of the requirements (Fig. 13 of the IRP).  The CCA’s 2035 Decarbonization Feasibility and Plan is based on its board’s September 2021 directive that it achieves 100% greenhouse gas free energy by that year.

Peninsula Clean Energy’s Power On Peninsula program is part of its energy resiliency objective and aspires to provide backup power during outages with an emphasis on vulnerable populations, advance clean power over fossil fuel sources, expand local generation and provide resources to stabilize prices while moving to 100% renewable energy.  Customers can take advantage of rebates to install solar plus battery system while enrolling in NEM.   The total capacity of this program to date is 3 MW.

Peninsula Clean Energy is now exploring the path to 24/7 renewable energy by 2025.

Silicon Valley Clean Energy’s (SVCE) was established in 2016 and is operated by the Silicon Valley Clean Energy Authority (SVCEA).   It serves twelve cities and the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County.

Per SVCE’s 2020 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), it procured 1,973 GWh of electricity from renewable resources in 2020 along with 1,350 GWh of mixed types in 2021 for its RPS goals (Table 4) of its IRP plan.   In coordination with 12 other CCAs, SVCE issued an RFI for long-duration storage in 2020; SVCE’s portion of this is equivalent to 48MW.

SVCE has set a 2030 decarbonization goal of 50% of its 2015 baseline.  To support this, it is investing $1bn in renewable energy resources.  In addition, SVCE has partnered with Grid Works to assess Virtual Power Plant (VPP) options such as real time pricing, peak day pricing, demand response auction mechanism, load shift resource and distribution services model. 

(2) Buildings

California updates its Building Standards Codes every three years.  At this time, local jurisdictions have an opportunity to adopt higher standards, or Reach Codes, to achieve their individual energy savings and environmental goals.  Considering that buildings account for twenty five percent of the California’s emissions, these codes are a powerful tool for all communities to assess their investments for their specific targets.  Each of the CCAs documented here have several jurisdictions within their service area which are all in different stages of adopting and/or evaluating Reach Codes.  Instead of documenting those individual efforts, this document covers the broader energy programs across each CCA.  Each of the CCAs has energy efficiency programs, several of which are conducted in partnership with the Association of Bay Area Governments (BayREN) (e.g. rebates for water pump heaters).

MCE’s Reach Codes, also documented in the Energy Efficiency section of its OIRP, cover single family homes and multifamily homes and corporate, industrial, and agricultural sectors.  In addition, MCE administers the Low Income Families and Tenants (LIFT) program that serves income-qualified, multitenant properties which also provides the property owners to replace gas-fired space and water heaters with electric versions. In addition, MCE has partnered with BayREN to offer $1000 rebates to local contractors to replace natural gas or propane water heaters with high-efficiency heat water pump heaters.  In 2022, the forecasted savings are expected to be 30GWh with expected savings rising each year to peak at just under 70GWh in 2027 followed by a decline each year to under 50GWh in 2031 (Fig. 9 of MCEs OIRP).

Peninsula Clean Energy’s adoption of Reach Codes have been a significant part of its decarbonization strategy.  More recently, the CCA has joined a 2022 initiative with other local organizations to accelerate building electrification and expand the EV infrastructure.  The Reach Codes were targeted to new buildings in 2021, new and existing buildings in 2022 and all existing buildings in 2023.  The plan includes financial support for low income families and target’s upgrading 200 such homes by 2023.  The primary incentive for existing single-family homes is to replace gas water heaters with heat pump ones through a program in coordination with BayREN.

SVCE’s decarbonization plan target’s Reach 2.0 for new buildings.  Of the residential buildings, 82% are single family homes that need the highest level of upgrades.  In particular, two thirds of these homes were built pre-1980 and need the most energy efficiency upgrades.  To meet California’s 2035 GHG targets, about 20 homes would need to be retrofitted every day for 10 years from the date of the report. 

In addition to implementing Reach 2.0, SVCE’s efforts include, a feasibility effort to phase out natural gas by 2045 in partnership with PG&E and other CCE’s, supporting policy initiatives to decarbonize existing buildings in partnership with other CCEs and relevant regional agencies (e.g. Bay Area Air Quality Management District), future fit of existing buildings by supporting access to external (e.g. BayREN) funding for customers and developing accessible and scalable equitable finance solutions to enable and accelerate electrification.

(3) Transportation

Transportation accounts for 50% of California’s GHG emissions and is an important part of all the CCA’s decarbonization strategy.  The programs include rebates for electric vehicle (EV) purchases, EV chargers and tools to schedule EV charging during low cost and/or high availability of renewable energy.

MCE’s EV rebates and incentives include incentives and rebates for both electric vehicles and associated charging infrastructure.  Based on income eligibility, EV rebates could be as high as $13,750 for EVs and up to $3,500 for EV chargers.  The rebates for EV chargers are available only to workplaces and multi-family homes, not to individual homeowners.  In addition, regional planning and permitting support is provided.  The program has helped over 170 customers purchase or lease a new EV and will expand in fiscal year 2021/2022 to include used EVs as well. Regarding charging ports, since 2018, 1,500 Level 2 charging ports for workplaces or multifamily properties have been supported. More than 900 ports have been installed which is a little more than half the total level 2 chargers in MCE’s service territory; another 600 ports are in the planning stages.  In addition, MCE is providing supplemental rebates to customer who enroll in PG&E’s EV Charge Network program.  MCE is also targeting workplace EV charging to allow for cheaper and cleaner energy for the 43,389 EV drivers in its service area.  As part of this effort, MCE installed MCE Solar Charge, a public electric-vehicle charging station in 2019 at its San Rafael office.

MCE Sync, an EV smart charging app, provides MCE’s customers the ability to automate their EV charging, track their consumption, costs, savings and environmental impact, and the ability to use the least expensive and cleanest energy on the grid. Customers receive a $30 cash incentive to enroll in the program and up to $10 per month to charge during “low carbon events” when the cleanest energy is available on the grid. 

Peninsula Clean Energy’s EV Ready program in coordination with financial support California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (CALeVIP) is targeting 3500 EV ports installed by 2024.  In particular, this includes several Level 1 chargers for multi-dwelling complexes.  This is paired with financial incentives for low-income buyers to be able to acquire used EVs.  The CCA provides rebates of up to $4000 for used EVs for income-qualified customers and $800 for new EVs.  The program funded 128 EVs in 2018 and is targeting 700-900 EVs by 2024. 

Peninsula Clean Energy is also exploring other methods to reduce dependency on gasoline cars via alternate transportation such as e-bikes (276 participants in 2021 and projected to reach 320 in 2022) and EV car rentals (up to $200 to rent an EV).

SVCE’s Elective Vehicle Decarbonization Plan includes programs to accelerate adoption of EVs, exploration of autonomous vehicle adoption, land use planning to support less automobile use, third party sharing to reduce individual ownership and micro-mobility options (e.g. electric scooters) to reduce dependence on automobiles. SVCE’s Reach 2.0 initiative includes exploration of financing to incentivize an EV ready infrastructure.  The CCE is also looking into streamlining the permitting process, supporting EV rates, creating a customer resource center, and leveraging its VPP initiative.  SVCE has received $6m from the CAleVIP initiative and is planning the programs associated with this funding.

SVCE is supporting adoption of EVs via the use of an EV assistant that provides its customers the range of automobile options available and the costs to use along with the rebates available for each option.  For multifamily homes, SVCE is offering up to $50,000 for DC fast charging to accelerate the adoption of EVs. This is particularly important in that almost 40% of the residents in SVCE’s territory live in multi-unit dwellings such as apartments and condos but account for only 9% of the EV purchases.

(4) Workforce Development and Community Outreach

As the CCAs work to plan and incentivize decarbonization efforts, they see a need for both, skilled labor, and customer demand.  Several of these efforts are complemented by outreach by BayREN.

MCE, through its Workforce, Education and Training (WE&T) program (Worker and Supplier Diversity section of MCE’s OIRP), has launched training programs to create a pool of skilled workers.  Funds are set aside to provide on-the-job training for up to 12 months followed by support to transition to the trainees’ new employment. This effort is in addition to other programs conducted in partnership with organizations such as the Rising Sun Center for Opportunity, Marin City Community Development Corporation and RichmondBUILD amongst others.  In 2018, MCE received a $2.24 million award from the CPUC to prepare a workforce for careers in energy efficiency.  This program prioritizes a “learn and earn” model and aspires to create a link between the upcoming green economy and the working class.

MCE’s outreach events include online data and events such as Electrify Everything session with partners from various agencies and companies.

Peninsula Clean Energy has allocated $2m for innovations.  Projects include design assistance and training from leading technical experts to develop all-electric buildings.  In addition, it is providing free consultations to develop all-electric homes

Peninsula Clean Energy’s outreach includes programs such as the Youth Leadership Program for 9th-11th grade students in San Mateo County, the Energize Colleges Internship program for paid energy and sustainability internships for community college students in San Mateo County, the Environmental Solutionary Teacher Fellowship to advance environmental literacy and allow creative solutions from students and the development of a Sustainability Dashboard Pilot at school districts.

Outreach events include programs such as the Electric Home Workshop in collaboration with the San Mateo Library, a virtual workshop to provide community members with information about rebates for energy efficiency upgrades including air sealing, duct sealing, insulation and high-efficiency furnaces and water heaters, as well as rebates available to electrify homes with electric equipment (i.e., heat pump water heaters, induction cooktops).

SVCE’s development and outreach activities are prioritized towards disadvantaged communities (DACs).  For example, it has procured a solar plus storage contract in Slate, King’s County.   In 2018, SVCE granted $75,000 to in grants to six local nonprofits to support outreach to communities that are generally difficult to reach and underserved.

SVCE is offering technical assistance for building electrification projects to architects, builders, designers, developers contractors and energy consultants to accelerate the adoption of all-electric homes and buildings.  Additionally, in coordination with Utility API, SVCE is providing access to energy data, the SVCE Data Hive, to allow for fast and accurate quotes for a solar installation, an EV charger or an energy efficiency upgrade.


All CCAs are championing the decarbonization of the communities they serve and have directed efforts to all aspects; local clean energy generation, electrifying transportation, making buildings more energy efficient, creating awareness/generating demand, and building a workforce to support the required activities.  With their close ties to and detailed knowledge about their communities, the CCAs are in a unique position to identify the most effective measures to decarbonize their respective service areas and to direct the resources available accordingly.

Each CCA faces challenges to bring about the pace of transformation required.  These challenges include need for more public awareness and motivation, availability of resources from federal and state agencies to fund the programs required to incentivize both the demand and the promotion of clean energy options by customers and providers (e.g., installers of heat pump water heaters) respectively and resources to develop the required workforce. 

Major support for the required new technologies and programs needs to come from governmental resources. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 takes such a step although the detailed implementation of several aspects needs to be finalized and implemented.

Author: Rahul Bahadur Read more

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