Frequently Asked Questions
Background on Community Choice Energy
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What is Community Choice Energy?
Community Choice Energy (CCE) is an opportunity to change the electricity market and provide residents and businesses with a new choice. A CCE agency functions as a new electricity provider, and is entirely locally operated and administered. The new agency buys power on the open market, encouraging the kind of competition that can result in more renewable energy sources contributing to the energy grid at lower rates.
Which Santa Clara communities are participating in SVCE?
Twelve communities have passed local ordinances to join SVCE, including the Cities of Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Mountain View, Saratoga, Sunnyvale and the County of Santa Clara (unincorporated county areas).
I have heard that SVCE is an “opt-out” program. What does that mean?
When a community decides to create or join a CCE, all customers within that jurisdiction are automatically enrolled in the CCE, as mandated by California state law. However, every customer can choose to opt-out and to remain with their investor-owned utility (PG&E) for both power resources and delivery. California state law requires that customers receive several notifications to opt-out at no charge, both before and just after a CCE program launches. All customers will now have the ability to choose which electricity provider is best for them.
If a participant decides to leave SVCE after the initial launch period, is there a cost?
The initial launch period for a participant is 60 days before and after that customer's enrollment date, during which the participant will receive at least four notices with opt-out information. After that period there may be a small, one-time fee to leave SVCE, but this has not yet been determined.
How does this program differ from the utilities that are currently operating in Palo Alto and Santa Clara?
Both the Cities of Palo Alto and Santa Clara run their own municipal electric power systems, which include a portfolio of power generation facilities and their own power lines to bring electricity to their businesses and homes. These agencies are completely independent from PG&E and have been since the early 1900s. SVCE would buy and/or generate power, but PG&E would continue to deliver electricity over existing power lines, maintain the lines and provide customer service.
What does this mean for residents and businesses with rooftop solar?
Residents with rooftop solar that are already enrolled in PG&E's Net Energy Metering (NEM) program will remain in this program when their service switches to SVCE. All customers will remain eligible for participation in PG&E’s NEM program regardless of whether your electricity provider is SVCE or PG&E. If you are on a time of use rate schedule that will not change with SVCE.
The decision to adopt a separate Net Energy Meeting (NEM) program for SVCE customers resides with the SVCE’s Board of Directors, and they have not made a decision yet. But it anticipated that if a program is adopted, it would be similar to existing CCEs' programs.
Other CCEs in the state, such as Marin Clean Energy (MCE) and Sonoma Clean Power (SCP), have implemented NEM programs for their customers, with similar, if not higher incentives than PG&E. These existing CCE programs pay for excess generation at a retail rate, not a wholesale rate like PG&E, and offer an additional $0.01/kWh bonus for any surplus energy production.
For more information, please read our Rooftop Solar FAQ.
Benefits of Community Choice Energy
Why are so many local governments exploring CCEs?
CCEs provide communities with more local control over their energy supply, innovative energy programs tailored specifically for their community, and support for the development of local renewable energy projects. As a local non-profit, all net revenues are returned back to the community. CCEs introduce competition into the energy market where it is currently absent and offer a choice of providers, to ensure consumers are getting the best rates, services and energy product.
What are the economic advantages of SVCE?
SVCE will accelerate the development of local renewable energy projects, which can result in local job creation. In general, renewable energy facilities provide many more jobs per unit of investment than traditional natural gas and coal plants. Based on widely used industry models, local renewable energy projects could generate up to 11,000 construction jobs and as much as $1.4 billion in total economic output statewide. And the ongoing operation and maintenance jobs would create as many as 185 full time equivalent positions, with additional annual economic output of about $30 million. As a baseline, SVCE, would also employ a combination of local staff and contractors, resulting in additional job creation (up to 30 employees per year) and related annual economic output ranging from $3 to $9 million.
What are the environmental advantages of SVCE?
SVCE will choose to purchase from and develop electricity sources that are more heavily weighted towards renewable energy. The production and burning of traditional energy sources, such as coal and natural gas, releases significant amounts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere. These GHG emissions are a leading cause of climate change. Renewable energy can provide electricity with little or no GHG emissions, which is a primary goal of most local community’s Climate Action Plans (CAPs).
SVCE's Board of Directors has approved a target goal of providing 100% carbon free electricity at lower rates for residents and business in Silicon Valley.
How does this relate to my city’s Climate Action Plan?
Many cities and counties now have Climate Action Plans that outline different measures that the city or county can take to reduce its GHG emissions and conserve its natural resources. In Santa Clara County, electricity consumption is a significant contributor of GHG emissions. Participating in SVCE is one way jurisdictions in Santa Clara County can reduce their GHG emissions from electricity and meet their local climate goals.
CCE and PG&E Relationship
What will PG&E's role be?
PG&E will be an essential partner for SVCE. They will continue to deliver electricity over their existing power lines, maintain the lines, send bills and provide customer service as they always have. All customers, whether they are a part of SVCE or PG&E, would continue to pay PG&E delivery charges and receive PG&E bills. SVCE will be responsible for buying or generating all electricity required to meet the demands of the participating communities and SVCE customers.
The graphic below demonstrates what SVCE customers' energy bills will look like. Bills for CCE customers will now display the generation charge for their electricity as coming from their local CCE, not PG&E. The generation charge is highlighted below.
If the power goes out, will PG&E still fix a CCE customer’s outage problem?
Yes, PG&E will still provide the same delivery and customer service regardless of whether that home or business is a SVCE customer.
What happens in an emergency?
SVCE will plan for and procure a sufficient quantity of necessary energy and reserve capacity to reliably meet the needs of its customers. PG&E will be responsible for the delivery of such energy products throughout the region (to both SVCE and PG&E customers). PG&E will also remain responsible for the operation and maintenance of the local electrical distribution system, including emergency maintenance during natural disasters, accidents (such as a car running into an electric service pole) or other issues. In the event of an earthquake (or any other natural disaster) that causes service interruption, customers should notify PG&E, which will be required to repair/replace damaged infrastructure for purposes of restoring interrupted electric service. There will be no difference in the quality of service provided to SVCE or PG&E customers.