To provide residents with options for lower-cost electricity from carbon-free sources, the Guadalupe City Council on Tuesday narrowly approved a resolution to join Monterey Bay Community Power Authority's community choice energy program.
Community choice energy programs are an alternative to the investor-owned utility that allow local governments to purchase power on behalf of residents and businesses while still receiving transmission and distribution service from the existing utility provider.
On Tuesday, the Council voted 3-0 — council members Eugene Costa Jr. and Gina Rubalcaba abstained — to join MBCP. The two said they felt there needed to be more outreach to residents before joining.
Interim City Administrator Robert Perrault said the second reading of the resolution would be considered during the Aug. 27 meeting.
Santa Barbara County residents and businesses may be getting greenhouse-gas-free electricity from renewable sources in a year or so after the Board of Supervisors voted to join the Monterey Bay Community Power Authority. Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday, with 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam dissenting, to obtain the county customers’ electricity through the Monterey Bay Community Choice Energy project, although the board will have opportunities to pull out before the power starts flowing to customers, probably sometime in 2021.
City staff will work to get a public workshop with MBCP staff scheduled before the second reading to ensure residents are aware of what their options are under the plan.
Using the community choice energy system, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. routes the MBCP-procured electricity through existing lines to customers and remains in charge of billing.
MBCP’s standard plan provides energy that is 100% carbon-free. Around 33% comes from renewable sources like solar and wind; the remainder comes from hydroelectric plants.
Around 80% of PG&E’s electricity is carbon-free.
During Santa Maria and Guadalupe council meetings, MBCP staff have pointed to the organization’s nonprofit status as one of the ways it can deliver lower rates than PG&E, a publicly-traded corporation that pays taxes and dividends to shareholders.
Guadalupe businesses and residents would begin receiving MBCP electricity in January 2021. Customers would be automatically enrolled but have the option to opt-out.
Mayor Ariston Julian said he felt it was important the council take a position to show that protecting the environment was a priority for the city.
“I think we need to take a position to say we want an environment that is as much pollution-free as possible,” he said.
Tuesday was the second time the Guadalupe council considered joining the community choice energy program.
During its July 9 meeting, Guadalupe council members tabled their vote on the Monterey Bay program to see what the county and city of Santa Maria would do.
At the time, the county was gearing up to present the results of a feasibility study regarding the formation of a Santa Barbara County program.
The county’s study ultimately showed that forming its own community energy program would result in higher rates than PG&E but create some local jobs.
Joining Monterey Bay, the study found, would result in lower energy rates but would likely create zero or few local jobs.
The Guadalupe City Council opted Tuesday to wait for more information before making a decision about whether to join Monterey Bay Community Power Authority's community choice energy program. Community choice energy programs, which are government run, are an alternative to the investor-owned utility that allows local governments to purchase power on behalf of residents and businesses while still receiving transmission and distribution service from the existing utility provider.
On July 16, the county Board of Supervisors voted to join MBCP. The decision will affect homes and businesses located in the unincorporated part of the county.
In addition to the county, several cities in San Luis Obispo County, including Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo, Grover Beach and Paso Robles have signed on to become part of MBCP.
The Santa Maria City Council discussed joining MBCP during its May 21 meeting but did not take any action. The city plans to bring the item up for discussion during an upcoming council meeting.
Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @razisyed
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