By Tom Stallard
The end of each calendar year offers an opportunity to sit back and reflect on the goals reached over the past 12 months and to look forward to a new year of possibilities and challenges.
At Valley Clean Energy — your local not-for-profit electricity provider— we’re working hard to fulfill our mission to deliver clean electricity, energy product choice and greenhouse gas emission reductions, all with local control at competitive prices.
Since June 2018, we’ve been serving 55,000 customers in the cities of Woodland and Davis plus the unincorporated area of Yolo County. That number will grow when customers in Winters are enrolled after the city became an official member of VCE this month.
Thanks to the creativity and dedication of our professional staff, and the visionary leadership of my colleagues on the board, the past year has been jam-packed with accomplishments. Here’s a brief review:
*Higher renewables: An audit of our first year of electricity purchases reveals that we have fulfilled our promise to buy the cleanest, greenest power we could afford for our customers. In fact, we exceeded our own expectations!
While we pledged a minimum of 42 percent renewable energy, we found that our portfolio actually contained 48 percent renewable energy, compared to 39 percent for PG&E. Furthermore, a growing number of VCE customers are “opting up” for our UltraGreen 100 percent renewable portfolio, for an additional cost of only 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour.
*Early loan payback: Gaining approval for a $500,000 start-up loan from each of our jurisdictions — Yolo County and the cities of Davis and Woodland — was quite a victory for VCE, allowing us to launch in June 2018. The only thing better than landing those critical loans has been our ability to pay them back early; that’s exactly what we accomplished this past October.
It is with tremendous pride that our board has repaid this $1.5 million investment far ahead of schedule, particularly since VCE has absorbed financial impacts related to state regulatory actions affecting community choice aggregation utilities. However, our board continues to make wise decisions that represent the best interests of our customers while helping us to meet our environmental sustainability goals even sooner.
*Welcome, solar customers: We’re thrilled to begin enrolling our legacy solar customers — those who installed their solar systems prior to VCE’s launch — starting in January. Solar customers (both residential and commercial) have already demonstrated a financial commitment to renewable energy, and it will be terrific to have them in the VCE fold. We appreciate their patience as we have delayed their enrollment while we worked through some unforeseen program and budgetary constraints.
If you own solar panels, you’ll be automatically enrolled in VCE’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) program during your true-up month in 2020. And here’s one exciting difference between our solar program and PG&E’s: VCE will pay you one cent more per kWh for the excess power you generate.
*Customer dividend program: This program, which launches in 2020, is designed to reward our customers for their loyalty and support, and to share VCE’s positive financial performance with customers.
A dividend will be credited to residential customers once per year (on their October bill) and to commercial customers twice per year (on their April and October bills), after specific financial targets are met.
These dividends are among the many ways in which VCE gives back to its local communities.
*Bid for PG&E assets: On Oct. 18, VCE offered PG&E $300 million to purchase its physical assets — poles, lines and other infrastructure — in Yolo County. The board sees PG&E’s bankruptcy filing as a unique opportunity to take over these assets and rebuild a safer, more stable, more reliable, and cost-effective electric utility in our service area.
We are among numerous communities throughout the utility’s Northern California territory to consider taking control of our electric systems after PG&E shut off power to millions of customers this fall — including many in Yolo County — to avoid the risk that high winds would damage its equipment and spark wildfires.
While our offer was initially rejected, a final decision could be made by the court overseeing PG&E’s bankruptcy rather than by the management of the San Francisco-based utility.
*Winters joins VCE: Our neighbor to the west is the fourth local jurisdiction to join VCE, with the decision made official this month by the VCE board. Adding Winters to our service territory further strengthens our locally controlled power agency.
The West Sacramento City Council also has voted to join VCE as an associate member, giving that city a seat at the table as discussions continue concerning PG&E’s future.
On behalf of the board and staff of Valley Clean Energy, I wish you all happy holidays as we look ahead to an exciting new year. As always, if you have any questions about your local electricity provider, please visit our website at www.valleycleanenergy.org, email us at email@example.com, stop by our administrative office at 604 Second St. in downtown Davis or call us at 530-446-2750.
—Tom Stallard serves on the Valley Clean Energy board of directors (chair in 2019) and is a member of the Woodland City Council.