San Jose approved a plan this week to pool money from residents to buy energy from clean sources. The unanimous City Council vote Tuesday makes San Jose the biggest city in the nation to adopt what’s known as a Community Choice Energy (CCE) system.
“While leaders in Washington continue to languish in a petroleum-fueled past, cities like San Jose will chart the path to a more sustainable future,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said, in a formal announcement. “Through our CCE program, we will significantly lower our greenhouse gas emissions and boost our renewable energy supply, while also providing cost-competitive electricity rates for our residents and businesses.”
San Jose’s CCE is expected to launch next spring to become the eighth of its kind in California. Several other Bay Area communities have established similar programs, which give people an alternative to utility giants, in this case Pacific Gas & Electric.
San Jose began studying its clean energy plan six years ago, after Marin County created became its own provider of greenhouse gas-free energy. Other programs soon rolled out in Sonoma and San Mateo counties, San Francisco and a 12-city network in the South Bay called Silicon Valley Clean Energy.
San Jose, which spews 22.4 million metro tons of carbon dioxide a year, became the largest single city in the country to adopt a clean energy system. Residents will be automatically enrolled, but can drop out if they want to stick with PG&E.
Under the new plan, customers will get to buy their electricity from greener sources that may end up being cheaper than what major utilities have to offer. The city will offer at least one option with a rate equal to or cheaper than PG&E.
“San Jose Clean Energy will offer more renewable energy choices for our San Jose community as well as reduce our carbon footprint and air pollution,” San Jose Environmental Services Director Kerrie Romanow said. “It will also spur local green energy production and boost the San Jose economy.”
According to a business plan drafted by a city-hired consultant, if all consumers chose an energy option with 10 percent more renewables than PG&E’s, San Jose’s greenhouse gas emissions would fall by up to 18 percent. That’s the equivalent energy use of 56,000 cars or 28,000 homes.
Councilman Johnny Khamis has raised concerns, however, that the new clean energy program could drive up costs for ratepayers. Though he voted for the plan, Khamis said he worries that it could drain the general fund and take away from vital city services, such as public safety and road repairs.
City officials expect the program to break even, but it will require $55 million to get off the ground. That could come from a loan or line of credit. Here is additional information on the clean energy plan.