San Jose Council Weighs Locally Controlled Clean Energy Plan

As part of a sweeping transformation in California’s energy market, Silicon Valley cities are forming locally controlled agencies that offer ratepayers a higher mix of renewable energy at a slightly lower cost.

On Tuesday, San Jose’s City Council will discuss a plan for shifting authority to buy and sell power from investor-owned utilities to a public model called “community choice aggregation.” While Pacific Gas & Electric—the state’s largest utility company—offers about 30 percent renewable power, the proposed community choice model could potentially provide much more.

Source: E&E News

Source: E&E News

According to the proposal being considered, San Jose would offer two pricing tiers, a default rate anywhere from 35 percent to half renewables or up to 100 percent for a premium.

Several other Bay Area cities have already adopted a similar program, setting a trend for the rest of the state. Residents from 12 local communities have signed on to Silicon Valley Clean Energy, the nonprofit tasked with running the energy agency.

As of this month, there are five operational community choice programs in California with another seven poised to launch this year. Within five years, says Kerrie Romanow, the city’s director of Environmental Services, about half the state’s power load could be served by these new local agencies.

A little more than a year ago, San Jose’s council directed city staff to put out a call for bids to develop, finance, launch and run a community choice program, tentatively titled San Jose Clean Energy.

Instead of signing on with other jurisdictions, the city will consider forming its own community choice entity, with plans to get off the ground in spring of 2018. PG&E would continue to deliver energy, but the city would decide which power plants to buy from.

PG&E customers would automatically get enrolled in the new energy program unless they opt out, Romanow says. The city would not only choose which sources and ratios of renewables to buy, but it would also set slightly lower rates. PG&E would keep charging the same rates for delivery.

Mary Collins, head of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, urged the city to include more specifics in its community choice plan about how it would add more green power to the grid. In a letter to the council, the league asked city officials to specify how it would offer discounted rates to lower-income households. The letter also stressed the importance of telling people about the program ahead of time so they aren’t caught off guard when they’re automatically enrolled.

The council expects to vote on whether to pursue the community choice aggregation model in late April.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for March 21, 2017:

  • Our City Forest, the city-funded nonprofit that plants and cares for trees throughout San Jose, ended last year with a surplus but faces ongoing financial challenges, according to a new audit.
  • The city needs to spend about $259 million on public parks to bring them up to standard. But with funding shortfalls and a park maintenance staffing vacancy of 14 percent, meeting that need will remain a challenge.
  • Developers may soon have the option of paying into the St. James Park Management District, which would collect fees to pay for improvements and events to the city’s flagship park.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

This article has been updated.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. My first thought, City government should not be getting involved in a private sector commodity unless it is completely unavailable. Second community choice is a clever sounding oxymoron for we have made a decision to screw you over with with something we like.
    Great I have a choice between 35% or 100% renewable, how about giving me a choice of the cheapest electricity from an out of state producer at 35% of the cost of your green crap!

    • My first thought is, great! Finally some competition for PG&E, and a choice for consumers. Those who want to reject cleaner energy for some reason are not forced to take it – they can simply stay with what they have by opting out. Nobody’s being forced into anything. Those of us who want Ckeaner Power Sooner have a choice to get it, at really competitive prices. I’d say keep an open mind about this opportunity – the city, residents and businesses will benefit in ways you’re not yet thinking about.

      • Most so called green energy sources have a basket full of not very green associated problems like noise from windmills, bird kills and my favorite, “not in my backyard those are ugly!” Solar panels have become more cost effective over the last 20 years but most go bad or become inefficient before they pay for themselves.
        Stories persist that they may not even produce enough power to create themselves much less pay off the loan to have them installed.
        Hybrid cars would have to be driven in excess of 150,000 miles to pay for the cost of gas at $4.50 a gallon, at $2.50
        lots more and it may cost you a second set of batteries before you get there.
        All electric cars are kind of cool but most of that electricity has to come from someplace that moves water, makes smoke or glows in the dark, green energy is still a drop in the bucket and an expensive one at that.
        If all that weren’t bad enough, if the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine you might be sitting in the dark.

  2. Having compiled a record of failure in the delivery of traditional municipal services the city now sets its eyes on creating its next great debacle, the delivery of electricity. One can only wonder, will it turn out like the now-defunct delivery of sidewalk repair and tree trimming, or the largely abandoned delivery of decent parks and paved roads, or the steadily declining delivery of police and fire services, or the day-late-and-dollar-short delivery of flood warnings? Rest assured, nothing good will come of this.

    If the council wants to coordinate with PG&E to deliver something valuable to the city it would arrange to have electrified every seat on the council dais so that the mayor and each council member could be properly charged for their every dumb comment and decision — as they make it. Trust me, with the chance to voice one’s displeasure without being abruptly cutoff from the mike, audience participation and attendance would both soar, with overtime sessions becoming a thing of the past. Given a chance to condition these attention-deficient dolts with a few well-placed volts the public just might cure them of their destructive political instincts and get their attention back on the city’s true needs.

  3. “Residents from 12 local communities have signed on to Silicon Valley Clean Energy, the nonprofit tasked with running the energy agency.”

    Totally untrue. We did NOT sign on to SVCE, we are being forced into it unless we specifically OPT out of the overpriced “green energy”.

      • JG,

        When the enormous ‘alternative energy’ subsidies are figured in, ‘green’ power costs far more than fossil fuel energy. So this foolish plan would swap inexpensive energy for very expensive, unreliable power.

        I’d give you the numbers, but I’ve found that once someone makes up their mind about ‘green power’, or its corollary, ‘climate change’, verifiable facts mean nothing to them, because their belief system is based on emotion instead of reason- and fact-based critical thinking. Forcing others to switch to ‘green’ power just feels good, and that’s good enough for those folks.

        Example: The rise in CO2 from fossil fuel use has directly raised agricultural productivity by 25% – 50% (NASA’s numbers). The rise in that beneficial and harmless trace gas is causing an observed GREENING of the planet. Isn’t that a good thing?

        The usual eco-response: “But…”. <–[insert fact-free emo-argument, spiced with 'deniers'.]

  4. St. James Park, home to the homeless and druggies but avoided by just about everyone else, is the city’s flagship park? SERIOUSLY?! That speaks volumes about San Jose.

  5. > According to the proposal being considered, San Jose would offer two pricing tiers, a default rate anywhere from 35 percent to half renewables or up to 100 percent for a premium.

    I LOVE the idea that global warming moonbats can pay a premium price and get the pure, pristine renewable energy that their little hearts desire.

    I HATE the idea that the virtue signallers are going to force me to buy energy that is at least 35 percent renewable and, therefore, more expensive than it needs to be.

    Let the consumers of electricity buy any mix of electricity that their wallets and their ideologies agree upon.

    • You can pay more for your energy because it’s green, or you can pay more for your energy because PG&E pays profits to shareholders. It’s your choice, and the end cost to you is roughly the same. With the way renewable prices are dropping, and with the way PG&E is also trying to green its power supply, the two power models are going to converge at some point in the next few years anyway. At that point, the only difference between the two will be the profits you pay to PG&E shareholders in one model.

      • > It’s your choice, and the end cost to you is roughly the same.

        It’s a false choice. There are many, many alternatives.

  6. Silicon Valley Clean Energy’s board consists of 24 elected officials. Savings amounts to price of about 1/2 Starbucks coffee per month for average resident. Ditto for Sonoma and Marin. San Francisco’s CE actually costs more than PG&E.
    Average salary for San Jose Clean Energy exceeds $208,000 and benefits will hike compensation to over $250,000. Most cost pays for consultants.
    SJCE wants to borrow at least $50 million. We’re paying off $160 million per year for the RDA debt (to be paid off in 2037), Mayor Liccardo just released a grim budget forecast, our streets are awful, and we’re facing millions in Coyote Creek flooding costs.

    SJCE is a green-washing sham. Cars generate far more pollution than energy production in our area. Santa Clara and Palo Alto generate own power and substantially cheaper than PG&E (consultant at yesterday’s meeting said Santa Clara power was 91% less than PG&E).Both cities have highest highest jobs/housing ratios and SJ has the area’s lowest.
    We should be thinking about cheap power to attract jobs and reduce the major pollution source: transportation.

  7. frustrated finfan is right. Is the City of San Jose trying to make the Guinness Book for the city that does the most number of things poorly?
    And Taxpayer points out a pertinent fact: SCVE average salary $208,000 per year. $208,000 per year! Frankly, I’d rather support PG&E shareholders- average everyday working people investing in an organization that actually builds, maintains, and is accountable for the effectiveness and reliability of our power grid. What do the 200K/year SCVE board members do? Cash their checks. And what has SCVE ever built? Nothing.
    If our City Council was truly interested in the environment they’d quit facilitating and subsidizing our population growth- the one factor that has the most dramatic effect on increasing San Jose’s collective “carbon footprint”.
    Our politicians have zero interest in environmental science. Political triangulation however, comes to them instinctively.

  8. This is a fools errand. Some cities do manage to sell “green” energy at a cheap rate. But those are cities like Santa Clara w/ its own municipal electric utility. And heres the catch. Back in the later 90’s when CA de-regulated the electric utilities there was a little clause in the regs that allowed MUNICIPAL utilities to buy/sell federal power. Investor owned utilities can’t do this. So Silicon valley Power (Santa Clara’s electric utility) has set up an exchange buying lots of federal power for tomorrow, next week – 6months from now – – and they then sell it through the state power exchange – this Buy Low – Sell High runs all the time. They sell power to companies like PGE. Residents and business in Santa Clara have cheaper electric than people in surrounding cities – because they are subsidized by PGE rate payers.

    Every wonder why Santa Clara has well paved streets, good libraries, clean parks, well equipped schools? Take a guess.

    As well SVP/Santa Clara sells cheap power to industry as an incentive to locate and stay in that town. This generates an enormous tax base. How cheap is the rate for these large tech companies? who knows – a public entity is somehow allowed to have private contracts with industry – WTF?

    SVP/Santa Clara also offer green energy — now pay attention San Jose Yahoos – – – their green energy is affordable because it is mixed in and subsidized by the cheap electric that they are able to purchase.

    Now the SHOCKING truth is out. Maybe San Jose Inside should investigate – — – – – – –

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