News

South Bay prepares to start clean-energy alternative

South Bay cities in the coming weeks will be flipping the on switch for a new clean-energy alternative that is being presented as a rival to PG&E.

The new utility -- Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) -- is set to roll out in the coming months. Ratepayers will automatically be enrolled in SVCE unless they request to stick with PG&E. By default, new customers will be signed up for SVCE's "GreenStart" program -- a 100-percent carbon-free package, about half of which comes from renewable sources. Even with the clean energy program, SVCE officials believe the basic package should be slightly cheaper than standard PG&E rates.

Starting in April, customers in Mountain View will be gradually added to the new energy alternative unless they opt out. The rollout will occur in three phases in April, July and October, which will begin on the southern side of Mountain View and move north. Specific boundaries for when individual neighborhoods would be added to the new program are not currently available.

Households that want to go further with clean energy can pay a surcharge to sign up for the "GreenPrime" program, which is sourced entirely from renewable power. That program is expected to cost about $4 a month more than the standard "GreenStart" package.

More information on the new clean-energy alternative will be shared at an upcoming Mountain View meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 23, at the City Council Chambers at 500 Castro St.

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South Bay prepares to start clean-energy alternative

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Sat, Feb 25, 2017, 6:42 pm
Updated: Mon, Feb 27, 2017, 11:35 am

South Bay cities in the coming weeks will be flipping the on switch for a new clean-energy alternative that is being presented as a rival to PG&E.

The new utility -- Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) -- is set to roll out in the coming months. Ratepayers will automatically be enrolled in SVCE unless they request to stick with PG&E. By default, new customers will be signed up for SVCE's "GreenStart" program -- a 100-percent carbon-free package, about half of which comes from renewable sources. Even with the clean energy program, SVCE officials believe the basic package should be slightly cheaper than standard PG&E rates.

Starting in April, customers in Mountain View will be gradually added to the new energy alternative unless they opt out. The rollout will occur in three phases in April, July and October, which will begin on the southern side of Mountain View and move north. Specific boundaries for when individual neighborhoods would be added to the new program are not currently available.

Households that want to go further with clean energy can pay a surcharge to sign up for the "GreenPrime" program, which is sourced entirely from renewable power. That program is expected to cost about $4 a month more than the standard "GreenStart" package.

More information on the new clean-energy alternative will be shared at an upcoming Mountain View meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, March 23, at the City Council Chambers at 500 Castro St.

Comments

John F
Cuesta Park
on Feb 25, 2017 at 8:20 pm
John F, Cuesta Park
on Feb 25, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Hello
What are other South Bay Cities being included and when? I live in Morgan Hill and have many clean energy friends in south San Jose.


ratepayer
Cuesta Park
on Feb 26, 2017 at 9:11 am
ratepayer, Cuesta Park
on Feb 26, 2017 at 9:11 am

"Ratepayers will automatically be enrolled in SVCE unless they request to stick with PG&E."

Holy cow, talk about stuffing this down our throats. No way am I going to change unless this boodoggle has been running reliably for a few years.

The article pointedly had no information and the transfer starts in APRIL


ratepayer
Cuesta Park
on Feb 26, 2017 at 9:12 am
ratepayer, Cuesta Park
on Feb 26, 2017 at 9:12 am

No information on how to opt out


CARE program user
Monta Loma
on Feb 26, 2017 at 9:24 am
CARE program user, Monta Loma
on Feb 26, 2017 at 9:24 am

What about those that are participating in the low income CARE program with PG&E??


This is great
Monta Loma
on Feb 26, 2017 at 9:55 am
This is great, Monta Loma
on Feb 26, 2017 at 9:55 am

I'm happy to be able to get my energy from renewable sources and will gladly pay the small surcharge to help protect our environment.


J
Monta Loma
on Feb 26, 2017 at 1:02 pm
J, Monta Loma
on Feb 26, 2017 at 1:02 pm

Their website is Web Link and there's an opt out form at Web Link (and supposedly you'll get a notice in the mail)

Areas include "Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Saratoga, Sunnyvale and unincorporated County of Santa Clara"

I'm cautiously optimistic but I'd like to see a breakdown of PG&E's "you're not buying from us" exit fees, especially for people with significantly lower or higher than average electricity usage. For solar NEM households running close to zero, the metering charges and minimum fees can cost more than the actual usage.


Neighbor
Monta Loma
on Feb 27, 2017 at 10:24 am
Neighbor, Monta Loma
on Feb 27, 2017 at 10:24 am

Hopefully there will be a lot more information in a follow-up article, but this much I do know:
- a lot of other cities have alternate energy companies (many in the east bay, for example).
- since PG&E owns the lines and the grid, this isn't a new company just "coming in" and "taking over" all the power and starting fresh. That would be worrisome. It's just a different power source running on the same lines and same wires and even your bill will still come from PG&E.

I think a lot of what was said (or not said) in this article makes this switch sound huge and scary and in actuality it's not as big of a deal as it sounds. This is common, not a beta test of electricity that we should fear, and hopefully will be less expensive and better for the environment.


Op-Ed
Old Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2017 at 10:50 am
Op-Ed, Old Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2017 at 10:50 am

For CARE program users, the website links noted above provide some answers. Specifically, under Enrollment Terms and Agreements:
"Financial assistance programs like CARE (California Alternate Rates for Energy), FERA (Family Electric Rate Assistance) and Medical Baseline Allowance remain the same with SVCE. If you are enrolled in any of these programs with PG&E, those programs will continue to apply to you as a SVCE customer."

As a NEMS rooftop solar generator, I just did an early sign-up to GreenPrime at Web Link.


Resident
Old Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2017 at 2:49 pm
Resident, Old Mountain View
on Feb 27, 2017 at 2:49 pm

This sounds like a bookkeeping exercise rather than clean power. I'd love to see breakdowns of costs of SVCE vs PG&E for various usage scenarios, it's really difficult to find that on their site.

CA does not generate enough power to meet its needs, it's short by about 2/3. The rest of that power is imported:
Web Link

What this means, is that all of CA generation capacity, PG&E and SVCE included, is always running, and then we import the remaining 1/3 of the power we need. CA's mix of generation isn't changing due to SVCE, all that's changing is the accounting for it, since rather than selling to PG&E directly, these clean generation facilities will now sell to you directly. The actual mix of electricity which we use isn't going to change here - the hope is that over time, IF this new arrangement allows clean generation to make more money, then maybe more clean generation would be built, which is a lot of IF's.

I will decide based on who's cheapest, given that my CO2 generation footprint won't change one bit under SVCE.


Bruce England
Whisman Station
on Feb 27, 2017 at 5:29 pm
Bruce England, Whisman Station
on Feb 27, 2017 at 5:29 pm

This is great news for our city and the environment as a whole. Many thanks to those who tirelessly worked on making this happen; efforts we all will benefit from.


Realist
Shoreline West
on Feb 27, 2017 at 6:41 pm
Realist, Shoreline West
on Feb 27, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Rate comparison here: Web Link

Sample Residential Cost Comparison, including PG%E fees. No mention of exit fees, I will call & find out.
(Cut & pasted from that page. To see parameters used, go to that page and click on the "i" next to "Sample Residential Cost Comparison.")

GreenStart: $98.19
Opt Out (PG&E) $98.67
GreenPrime: $102.07
(100% renewable)

I, for one, am ecstatic about this. Being about to use energy that is 100% greenhouse gas free, AND it costs less than regular "dirty" energy?? Or choose 100% renewable energy for only $4 a month more?? No need to go for an expensive solar set up and I know that it is all 100% renewable? Sign me up!


Tom
Castro City
on Feb 27, 2017 at 9:18 pm
Tom, Castro City
on Feb 27, 2017 at 9:18 pm

I’m confused, if I opt for 100% greenhouse free electricity and my neighbor doesn’t, how do I know that I am getting %100 greenhouse free electricity and not some of his dirty electricity?


Resident
Old Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2017 at 7:03 am
Resident, Old Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2017 at 7:03 am

You don't. That's why I said above that it's an accounting fiction. Instead of the green power generators selling electricity to PG&E, who sells it to you, SVCE sells the electricity to you, then has deals with PG&E to adjust the billing. In the end, though, the same generators generate the same power into the same grid (minus the 1/3 which CA imports), and you get the combination of PG&E, SVCE, and imported power at your house. If you stick with PG&E precisely the same thing happens.

I would really love to see some real competition here, but it's impossible. Maybe one day I can afford battery backed rooftop solar and buy nothing from PG&E.


SunnyvalePatient
another community
on Feb 28, 2017 at 10:13 am
SunnyvalePatient, another community
on Feb 28, 2017 at 10:13 am

@Resident
Your information is out of date. See a recent (2/5/2017) article in the LA Times:
Web Link

Californians pay 50% more for electricity while we have a too much generation capacity.


Resident
Old Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2017 at 2:10 pm
Resident, Old Mountain View
on Feb 28, 2017 at 2:10 pm

Actually, we're both right. CA has far more generating capacity during the day than it needs due to solar, and it has to import power at night when the sun isn't shining. As more electric cars are on the roads, we'll need more and more power at night.
Web Link

What we have is a horrible mismatch between supply and demand at different parts of the day, which makes cost effective and efficient base-load power plants pointless, since it takes days to spin one of these up or down. So, we have a lot of peaker plants, which are less efficient, coming up and down all the time to fill in the gaps, and we still import a lot of power. Have a look at that link I posted above, it's straight to CAISO, the government agency which runs CA's electricity marketplace.


John M.
Monta Loma
on Sep 22, 2017 at 3:48 pm
John M., Monta Loma
on Sep 22, 2017 at 3:48 pm

I was automatically added to SCCE and now my electricity costs have gone up by at least 20% ! Now the PG&E "delivery charge" is the same as my electric bill used to be, but now also tacked on is the "silicon valley clean energy electric generation charge" Seems like just a creative way to raise our rates! Wishing I had opted out before two billing cycles because now they make it prohibitive to opt out with fees and higher than normal rates to go back to only PG&E.


ResidentSince1982
Registered user
another community
on Sep 24, 2017 at 1:17 pm
ResidentSince1982, another community
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2017 at 1:17 pm

There should be a credit shown on the PG&E portion called "Generation Credit" and
it plus the "Power Cost Indifference Charge" should add up to roughtly
the amount SVCE charges. If this is not the case, something's wrong with the bill.

You should look at the kilowatt hours charged and verify whether these have gone
up or not. It's not just about dollars on these bills, they do give the
energy used too.


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