Guest opinion: Celebrating two years of clean energy


It has been two years since the launch of Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE), the community electricity provider for Mountain View and 12 other Santa Clara County communities. How is it going so far?

Homes and buildings in Mountain View have been receiving electricity from the same provider for more than 100 years. The difference is that now, when over 37,000 Mountain View households and businesses turn on a light, run their refrigerator or plug in a computer, they are receiving electricity exclusively supplied by clean, carbon-free sources. SVCE purchases clean electricity from solar, wind and hydropower to meet our annual demand, in the place of electricity produced from fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal.

SVCE's clean electricity has helped reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our Silicon Valley communities by 16.6% since 2015 -- a total of 1.1 billion pounds of carbon emissions avoided! For Mountain View alone, about 160 million pounds of carbon emissions were avoided. The SVCE power supply is verified through mandatory state reporting requirements. In addition, SVCE voluntarily reports emissions to The Climate Registry, an independent organization that operates the global standard for emissions reporting. As a community-owned and locally-governed agency, SVCE's financial results have been strong and transparent. The organization has won finance awards for operational excellence and achieved clean audits in its first two years of operation.

In addition to GHG emissions reduction, SVCE saved customers $20 million on their energy bills in 2018. SVCE is chartered with putting our community first in providing cost-competitive electric generation rates for customers and reinvesting locally. Along with customer bill savings, SVCE granted $75,000 to local nonprofits, dedicated $26,500 in high school student scholarships and supported many community events.

SVCE continues to push for a clean and electric future by exploring new, innovative solutions for carbon reduction. Within the electricity system, there is a current timing mismatch between when renewable energy is produced, and periods of highest demand. This gap is often filled by electricity generated from carbon-emitting sources, such as natural gas-fired plants. SVCE is working to help solve this problem. For instance, SVCE has signed long-term agreements for the largest utility-scale, solar-plus-storage projects to be built in the state. These projects allow for solar energy to be stored and supplied after the sun sets through on-site batteries.

To complement the solar-plus-storage projects, SVCE also signed a long-term contract for a new wind farm. The location of this wind project in New Mexico provides a unique timing advantage, as it ramps up electricity production right when California's solar supplies taper off. With these cutting-edge power agreements, SVCE will be able to leverage more clean energy for additional hours of the day.

Aiming to propel Mountain View and all SVCE communities into a cleaner future, SVCE's recently approved Decarbonization Roadmap outlines 10 strategies and 18 programs to further reduce GHGs. Efforts include a heat pump water heater incentive to promote emission-free water heating in homes, a collaboration with communities to help push advanced energy codes to incentivize all-electric new construction, and installing more electric vehicle charging infrastructure to ensure that community members can easily make the switch to electric vehicles.

I am excited to see the future innovation and progress that Silicon Valley Clean Energy helps bring to Mountain View, and I am proud to serve as SVCE's board chair this year. It is encouraging to have a local public agency supporting a healthy Mountain View for future generations.

Margaret Abe-Koga is vice mayor of the city of Mountain View and serves as chair of the Silicon Valley Clean Energy Board of Directors.

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5 people like this
Posted by nihilist
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 29, 2019 at 4:15 pm

All is nice and dandy, but I did not like the fact that nobody asked me before switching my account from PGE to SVCE. I missed the info about this transition and later found out that switching back is not very easy. I still made the switch back to PGE just because

Like this comment
Posted by Rossta
a resident of Waverly Park
on Apr 29, 2019 at 4:59 pm

Rossta is a registered user.

I am happy that SVCE is helping us all reduce our carbon footprint, but I have felt like this transition is hampered by the mysterious billing item that shows up as "Power charge indifference adjustment". I looked into this by calling SVCE and also doing online searches and discovered that this is a charge we pay to PG&E for leaving them and not using the power for contracts they signed on our behalf. Okay, that makes sense - they committed to expensive power and we can't leave the other rate holders on the hook for that cost.
However, this fee appears to be in perpetuity! It should go down every year as contracts expire, right? And now, in bankruptcy court, PG&E is asking these contracts to be nullified, but there is no talk about us then having this charge removed from our bill. This charge is large - 50% of the power generation amount!
SVCE needs to be actively working to reduce and eliminate this charge.

26 people like this
Posted by Bring back our old system
a resident of Jackson Park
on Apr 29, 2019 at 5:08 pm

I hate what has happened to my PG&E bill.

It was not that many years ago I was paying $80 dollars a month, pretty much the same for the entire year.

Now I am in the 3rd teir rate plan paying on average of $400 a month.

These high rates are done on purpose.
Please scrape this plan, it saves no one any money.

22 people like this
Posted by Marcin Romaszewicz
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 30, 2019 at 10:24 am

Marcin Romaszewicz is a registered user.

I'm all for clean power, but I will not celebrate this particular SVCE anniversary because it's an elaborate shell game which makes activists feel good about themselves, while improving nothing and costing us more. I'm quite frustrated with modern government and corporate messaging, where they sell some nonsense to us with promises of it being better, cheaper, faster, while knowing full well that it won't be. It's deceitful. Whenever someone mentions "messaging" around some kind of initiative, it means they're figuring out how to lie about it most effectively.

The electric grid is an incredibly complicated thing. Generation must meet demand exactly, or you have problems with voltages dropping or the A/C waveform degrading. To make this possible, power is moved around the state constantly, and any generation shortfall is supplemented by buying power from neighboring states, some of which is coal power. California publishes stats on this:
Web Link

California doesn't generate enough power to meet our needs, so we import power. This means that any point in time, SVCE and all other generation facilities are generating all they can, putting that power into the system, and we import the rest from out of state. If you buy power from PG&E or SVCE, you are buying the same power from the same sources, there is ZERO difference.

Local governments signed contracts with PG&E long ago, and we broke that contract with this move to SVCE, and you're paying for that too. Look up the PCIA fee on your bill - for me it adds something like $10-15 per month. That's what it's offsetting. If you stuck with PG&E, you would not be paying this.

I opted out of SVCE out of objection to this shell game when I had the opportunity, the opt-out was ignored. I called to opt out afterwards, and still, I'm paying for this nonsense. As far as I can tell, it's impossible to opt out.

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