By Scott Laskey
The Monterey Bay Community Power project has been making headlines lately, but what does it mean for your family or business? Californian pioneers of the renewable power industry believe that this initiative represents a chance to make major strides in clean energy, especially for citizens and business owners who’re considering purchasing solar panels in Monterey.
Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties threw their firm support behind the Monterey Bay Community Power program since its earliest days. Leading the charge to change the way homes and businesses consumed power, these locales garnered support from communities throughout the Central Coast. In March 2017, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors decided to take part in the tri-county initiative.
With all three counties and 18 cities signing on, Monterey Bay Community Power became California’s biggest Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA. CCAs let individual jurisdictions purchase and develop power on behalf of their residents, government facilities and private businesses by aggregating and leveraging their demand.
The biggest distinction between CCAs and utility company energy delivery is that CCAs make it possible for consumers to choose clean energy sources. Even though Central Coast residents and businesses can still have their power delivered via the PG&E grid, they get the benefit of knowing that what they use originates from sources like solar, wind and renewable biomass.
CCAs have an established history of creating positive changes in communities nationwide since the 1990s. Their usage of existing grids, for instance, facilitates smoother transitions away from fossil fuels.
Even with their significant environmental benefits, however, CCAs don’t force consumers to pay higher tariffs or rates. The utility company still operates the grid, so the municipality doesn’t have to assume burdens like facilities maintenance, customer billing or technical management.
Another significant advantage of CCA programs is that they take consumer choice to the logical next level. Local governments in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties get to retain more administrative control over the power that they depend on. As a result, they can put the excess revenues generated by environmentally friendly energy to use within the community instead of letting it fill PG&E’s coffers.
CCAs can redirect their profits into new green energy projects, create jobs and help communities move towards a cleaner future, but are they really all good? As with any other power delivery scheme, there are pros and cons. Here, however, the potential benefits suggest that participating locales have made well-considered decisions.
Early CCAs faced opposition from utility companies whose investors didn’t want to share the market. With the defeat of would-be constitutional initiatives restricting municipal voting rights, such as 2010’s Prop 16, however, CCAs became increasingly viable. Today, Californians enjoy the freedom of choice that makes programs like Monterey Bay Community Power possible.
Consumers who oppose the CCA measure don’t have to participate because there are multiple opt-out opportunities. Those who are enthusiastic about it, on the other hand, can go even further than merely opting-in by donating to fund the early technical feasibility studies. As a revenue-generating non-profit entity, however, the Monterey Bay Community Power program will eventually become self-funding.
As we’ve noted in our other blogs, many homes and businesses that generate their own power want to sell it back to PG&E for fair rates. The move to CCAs could make this much easier.
The key factor is that the profits that CCAs generate typically go towards local renewable energy development. Because they don’t generate power themselves, CCAs have greater incentive to pay local property owners more equitable rates for their excess solar energy. The CCA can also use its revenues to provide zero-interest loans to fund property owners’ new solar installations in Monterey and other participating areas.
The Monterey Bay Community Power program may be just getting started, but its future holds ample promise. Community Choice initiatives are becoming increasingly common in California, and the state’s clean energy programs reap the benefits. If you live in the Central Coast, this latest development is poised to make green power options like solar panels all the more worthwhile.
Sandbar Solar has been a local pioneer in renewable energy and environmental stewardship for more than 13 years. In that time, we grew to become Santa Cruz County’s largest installer of residential and commercial solar panels. We’re proud to keep innovating as we design and complete solar installations in Monterey and in the central coast. Discover what we can do for you by browsing through our portfolio or getting in touch for a free analysis.
Scott is the founder of Sandbar Solar. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from UC San Diego, Scott has an NABCEP certification, and has lectured on and taught many high-tech construction practices and solar PV technical concepts to education institutions, including Stanford University and state-recognized electrician apprenticeship programs. Scott enjoys sharing his knowledge of the evolving renewable energy space and making a difference in his community.
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