News

PG&E rival pays back early city investors

 

Mountain View's decision to help launch a South Bay clean-power alternative to PG&E appears to be paying off.

Last week, Mountain View and about a dozen other South Bay cities are marking a milestone for Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE), a new public utility that first went live last year. SVCE officials say they have successfully signed up more than 242,000 customers throughout Santa Clara County, proving that the new utility is a sustainable business model.

SVCE officials announced they would pay back Mountain View and other cities that helped get the utility off the ground. Back in 2015, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino and Santa Clara County put forward the initial $2 million loan for the technical studies and capital costs to launch the utility. Eight other cities later joined the program and contributed smaller amounts.

The terms of the loan specified that this money didn't need to be repaid until 2020; however SVCE board members say they had no reason to wait to make good on the loan.

Comments

21 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 12, 2018 at 10:35 am

" SVCE officials say they have successfully signed up more than 242,000 customers throughout Santa Clara County"

Oh, come on! Unless you opted out by mail from SVCE, you automatically became enrolled. It's pretty easy to "successfully sign up" people when you do it in a sneaky way.


14 people like this
Posted by JG
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2018 at 11:02 am

And by "sneaky way", you mean "the enrollment method dictated by state law", correct?


8 people like this
Posted by BDBD
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 12, 2018 at 12:42 pm

BDBD is a registered user.

I can't imagine PG&E ever paying back a loan early just because it's the right thing to do. I'm proud to be a customer of an ethical and green company, and I'm grateful that MV's leaders created this option for us.


13 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 12, 2018 at 12:54 pm

I wonder how many trees were trimmed by SCVE? Also, how many SCVE trucks were dispatched to restore service outages?


10 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Jackson Park
on Feb 12, 2018 at 12:56 pm

Just because it's state law doesn't mean it's a sneaky way to sign up subscribers.


20 people like this
Posted by JG
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Steve: no, but it ascribes motives and conduct to SVCE that don't exist - they're just following the law, not trying to be sneaky.

Mike: that's not what SVCE does. There are two elements to your power service - generation and transmission. SVCE took over the generation responsibility from PG&E, choosing what contracts to purchase for our share of power usage. PG&E remains responsible for transmission, so they run the trucks, deal with outages, and do any required tree trimming, not SVCE.


10 people like this
Posted by MVWoman
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Feb 12, 2018 at 2:50 pm

MVWoman is a registered user.

I am very happy to have this option. (It was easy to opt out if you preferred to stay exclusively with PG&E). And thank you to Mountain View and the other progressive cities that made this available. It's been a big positive to me!


11 people like this
Posted by Robyn
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2018 at 2:51 pm

Whether sneaky or not, requiring people to opt out is objectionable. Shifting the burden to consumers will usually succeed because few take the time to become informed.
Just because the Legislature made it a law, does not make it honest and open.


8 people like this
Posted by JG
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Requiring people to opt out places the burden on consumers to be informed.

Requiring people to opt in is government preservation of a private monopoly (that's literally why the opt-out model was adopted).

Which one is better for consumers? Asking sincerely.


10 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 12, 2018 at 3:04 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

So who's paying for SVCE's "moral hazard free ride"? Taxpayers, or PGE customers? Something about this whole SVCE setup stinks to high heaven.


8 people like this
Posted by SVCE's billing surcharge
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2018 at 4:05 pm

I had a 30, 40 the n 60 dollar ADDITIONAL change on my bills until I opted out.
They completely mis-informed us about the percentage increase this would add to our bills.
I hate them and I'm a nice cobalt blue environmentalist.


4 people like this
Posted by Rossta
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 12, 2018 at 4:23 pm

Rossta is a registered user.

I think the "surcharge" that is being alluded to is the "Power Charge Indifference Adjustment"? If so, I agree that there is something fishy about this. I looked into a little and this is essentially a payment to PG&E for leaving them, supposedly to cover the cost of commitments they made in contracts to provide energy for us that we will no longer be taking. Okay, that makes some sense that they might have such charges and that, over time, these contracts expire and this charge disappears. The broken part about this is that these charges are not planned to EVER go away - making is seem like PG&E will keep profiting from us forever, even though we aren't getting our power generated by them. It implies they will continue to write contracts for the power we are not taking from them.

This is an issue to take up the CPUC - it is outside of SVCE's control. It is being charged throughout the state, to all of the community energy companies and puts a big headwind against making progress on updating our energy production. Your only escape is to completely drop off the grid.


5 people like this
Posted by JG
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2018 at 4:30 pm

+1 to Rossta

Everyone seems to agree that PCIA will go away. It pays PG&E back for contracts it bought assuming we'd still be using them, and those contracts have to expire at some point. But nobody will say exactly when they expire, causing a lot of CCE supporters to skeptically wonder if they'll ever go away (even though they should, by all rights). Demanding answers from the CPUC is a good thing.

But PCIA is still less than the profit that PG&E was making off of us. So even with PCIA, and even with SVCE setting aside some money for sustainability programs, SVCE is able to hold to its "1% below PG&E's rates" commitment. Last I heard, SVCE's rates were even better than 1% below PG&E as of this year, due to exceeding conservative estimates. Some customer classes are still at 1% below, but some classes were going to be as much as 9% below PG&E's rates. But that was somewhat fluid, and I don't know the final resolution.


3 people like this
Posted by SVCE's billing surcharge
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2018 at 4:32 pm

@Rossta: " Your only escape is to completely drop off the grid."

If the goal is to avoid PG&E altogether, I would agree. Their tentacles are everywhere.

If the goal is to simply have a double digit percentage reduction in your electricity bill, the answer was to dump SVCE.

That's what I did and I'm content again w/ my bill.


11 people like this
Posted by SVCE's billing surcharge
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2018 at 4:48 pm

The eye opener was when I saw I was paying on average about 15% MORE on my first 3 bills because of my forced SVCE affiliation. the 3rd bill was the deal breaker for me...my opt out realization moment.

I'm all in once it's not more expensive, but IMO only sap would stick around to help pay the contracts until (if) they ever expire. Call me once they're paid off, don't call me to pay for them so then MAYBE later it'll be as inexpensive for everyone else.

If people are good hearted enough to be the seed payers for this, Thank you. I simply can't afford to pay for others at this stage of my life.


5 people like this
Posted by ResidentSince1982
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2018 at 9:05 pm

ResidentSince1982 is a registered user.

I think they do the true up differently for solar customers. This means a
change in the monthly bill doesn't reflect a real change in the actual cost for
a year of service. It removes a subsidy from winter months that was really
expected to be paid back in the Summer anyway. So the guy with the $15
higher bill would have gotten a savings in the summer if he had waited.

I have no solar and my bill is just about the same. I don't see the 1%
savings but of course I do see the huge PCIA fee to PG&E. I'm counting that
in when I say the total is about the same, even with that.


3 people like this
Posted by E-member
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2018 at 2:33 am

Cpuc is awfully protective of PGE. The pcia charges are just one example. There are other clean energy collectives in the state, why did MV create their own, instead of going with, for instance, Marin Clean Energy?


7 people like this
Posted by Former SCE & PG&Eer
a resident of Rex Manor
on Feb 13, 2018 at 7:27 am

Many years ago I worked for the two biggest utility companies' finance and rate departments.

Establishing rates is very complicated because of the social engineering programs the PUC and others impose on PG&E to implement, operate, and fund, and the energy markets.

Most of the aforementioned comments are in the "grey area" because of these PUC mandated programs, etc. that PG&E is forced to implement and collect for in a constantly changing market place.

For example:
* All of us pay for those who cannot afford to pay their utilities even though these households may not conserve (yes, I know it goes by the number in the household and type of house etc. but it is still a point approximation and there is no monitoring).
* People with life support medical equipment are on a special account to preclude outage.
* Farmers pay a reduced rate that is collected upon harvest.
* Etc., etc., etc...
Rates are extremely complicated due to not only the energy markets for electricity, gas, oil, solar, wind, etc., but also the social engineering programs embedded in the rates the average household pays on behalf of others.


5 people like this
Posted by @Rates
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2018 at 9:11 am

I agree with the comments about rates, but one simple line on my bill was the 30 or 40 dollar line item that appeared when I joined the SVCE groups. Once I opted out, it vanished.

I hated the fact that I'd work to conserve electricity, get my charges down to about 100 bucks, then a $20 line gets tacked on to my bill.
I'm all about the low hanging fruit when it comes to reducing my energy bill by a 20% chunk ;)


7 people like this
Posted by Rossta
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 13, 2018 at 10:27 am

Rossta is a registered user.

Those that are focusing on the new line item of "Power Charge Indifference Adjustment" and switching back to PG&E to get rid of that are not looking at the whole picture. (if you don't have a bill in front of you to follow along on this, don't bother reading). You need to look at more numbers to get a full view. Above the PCIA is a "Generation Credit" which is PG&E giving you credit for the power you didn't buy from them - it is negative. You also have to look on another page for the SVCE charges. Add up all 3 (I am a solar NEM customer, so a non-solar bill may be arranged differently).
For my bill one month, the SVCE charge is $61.55, Generation credit is -$112.21 and the PCIA is $50.81.
Totaled up it is $0.15, a credit, but essentially break even between using PG&E and SVCE.

So, while I may not be saving any money with SVCE, I am at least getting cleaner power and maybe help save the planet. I am not a sap paying the seed money for others, but I do believe that my participation does help the movement to cleaner power succeed.


3 people like this
Posted by @Rates
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2018 at 10:50 am

I guess it's quite different if you have a solar set up. I'm "regular" and the upcharge is significant...prohibitive for me. It's simply a bottom line situation for me. I'll help the environment in other ways, maybe using some of the $ I'm saving on my electric bill each month.


7 people like this
Posted by Darin
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2018 at 2:37 pm

Darin is a registered user.

Are you really getting cleaner power by using SVCE though? Or is it just an accounting trick? Once it's on the grid, power is power. The accountants can allocate the "clean power" to SVCE customers (and other "clean power" customers), and then allocate whatever is left over to everyone else.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood

on Feb 13, 2018 at 4:05 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


5 people like this
Posted by JG
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Darin: sort of. It's definitely greening the grid in the aggregate.

Power is best thought of as a giant bathtub, where every city has to dump in water from some source, then pulls water out of the tub to use it. We're dumping clean water into the tub as our share. Others continue to dump in from their own source, some of which is clean, some of which is not. In the aggregate, guaranteeing that ours is clean makes things cleaner.

Whether CCEs cause other sources to be dirtier is a good question. For the most part, it doesn't. Other CCEs are likewise guaranteeing clean content in their own (except for a couple that are just in this for lower rates and not clean power). The rest, like PG&E and SDG&E, could theoretically just buy up the dirty sources that we're not using. But they don't, mostly. One, they have their own state cleanliness requirements to meet. Two, the lack of demand is driving the dirtier sources out of the marketplace.

One of the biggest impacts of CCE is to literally change the power generation market. Suddenly, there's an aggressive market for solar and wind, and less of one for the dirtier stuff. More of the clean generators are being built, because it's suddenly economically viable to do so.


3 people like this
Posted by Mike Monahan
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2018 at 5:16 pm

If you true up monthly and you have been or are a PG&E Solar customer on E6 or other TOU's you will lose as PG&E pays in dollars, not kWh's. Check your energy detail on PG&E website, the graph will outline how much you are getting in dollars, you will see that summer will be a huge plus in actual dollars as they pay you the rate for your time of use (TOU) which varies by time of day and off-peak and on-peak differential. Monthly will only pay for excess kWh generated per month


6 people like this
Posted by Jake
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 14, 2018 at 12:54 pm

I was under the impression that the majority of power we get from PG&E was already renewable. From the comments, it seems that if you have solar, it's not so bad, maybe break-even(?) but if you don't have solar you're paying a lot more.


4 people like this
Posted by Rod
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2018 at 9:47 am

The transmission cost you pay to PG&E stays the same no matter what. You have the option of getting electricity sourced by either SVCE or PG&E. The sum of SVCEs electricity charge and PG&Es PCIA fee total 1% LESS than you'd pay getting electricity from PG&E. And SVCEs electricity is carbon-free; better product at lower cost.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood

on Feb 16, 2018 at 11:07 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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