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Valley Clean Energy now enrolling solar customers

VCEBy Don Saylor

(From press release) Valley Clean Energy (VCE) is our local community choice energy program serving electricity customers in the communities of Woodland, Davis and unincorporated Yolo County. The purpose of VCE is to provide customers with higher levels of renewable electricity, encourage energy efficiency and local generation, and offer rates that are competitive with PG&E, the region’s investor-owned electricity provider.

Decisions on rates, energy resources, programs and finances are made locally, in public, by a local board composed of people elected by the residents of our communities.

Most electricity customers in our area have been receiving their electricity from VCE since June 2018. Their monthly bills display VCE’s electric generation charges and PG&E’s electricity delivery charges.

Based on changes to state regulations, the VCE board decided to delay until 2020 the enrollment of solar customers who had installed solar panels on their homes or businesses before we launched in June 2018. In 2020, these energy-conservation pioneers will begin receiving their electric power from our local agency.

VCE will enroll more than 6,000 solar customers in our service territory during 2020, effective during the month of their “true-up” date. Solar customers usually pay their electric bills once a year. Utilities require that accounts be “trued up” annually to pay customers for outstanding credits (at wholesale prices) or charge them for any remaining balance. Then, their account balance returns to zero.

VCE has begun welcoming these solar customers during their true-up month, to ensure that any of their accumulated generation credits with PG&E are protected. So far, 93% of the eligible solar customers have chosen VCE over PG&E as their true-up dates have arrived.

In addition to a higher proportion of renewable energy, competitive rates and local control, pre-existing solar customers who shift to VCE gain a financial advantage as well. VCE rates match PG&E rates, and VCE pays more than PG&E during the months in which solar customers generate excess energy.

Solar customers will be paid 1 cent per kWh more by VCE for any excess power they generate. That’s a better deal than what PG&E is offering. Additionally, these environmentally minded customers can opt up to 100 percent renewable and carbon-free electricity when they need to purchase energy. Opting up costs an additional 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour. This portfolio offers the greatest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and is over and above VCE’s advertised 42 percent renewable power content.

Here’s another benefit: Winter seems to be behind us, and the sun will be shining more and more as we head into spring and summer. As a result, our solar customers will begin to see the tangible results of their foresight to install rooftop panels as they may generate more power than they use each month.

Major actions taken in the past 18 months by our locally elected VCE board are a testament to the fact that not-for-profit community choice energy agencies such as ours are working:

  • Our electricity generation rates match PG&E’s and there is a potential ratepayer dividend at the end of the year;
  • Our renewable energy portfolio is superior to PG&E’s (48% in 2018 compared to 39 percent for PG&E);
  • VCE pays 1 cent per kWh above PG&E’s rates for excess solar power generation;
  • VCE, in partnership with Davis, Woodland and Yolo County, is installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Yolo County, thanks to a $2.9 million grant from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments; and
  • VCE is governed by elected local officials who understand the community and work to provide benefits that align with community values.

Local residents should be justifiably proud of their local electricity provider. Valley Clean Energy and the 18 other community choice energy agencies throughout California are taking major steps toward a greener and more reliable energy future.

I encourage you to stay informed about our progress by:

  • Attending a public board of directors meeting on the second Thursday of each month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.;
  • Calling us at 855-699-8232.

—Don Saylor is a member of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and chairs the Valley Clean Energy board of directors. He is a longtime Davis resident.

Comments

Donna Lemongello

First of all, I understand when you are new at something it is hard to get it right at the beginning, and the people who run VCE are caring and helpful to the degree they can be, as restricted by board policy. That said, I fell into a donut hole of sorts as I got my solar panels up and running in November, right before they had this fully sorted out. I did my homework and found out that just before my panels were turned on, VCE had started offering service to solar customers and one would be automatically enrolled with one's solar panels if one was already a VCE customer. But who would think to ask if it would be an annual true-up, when that is standard with PG&E and is the only thing that makes sense to get the full value of one's panels? Who would ever think they would go automatically on a monthly try-up? I got nailed because I use my maximum power in the winter and like everyone, generate my maximum power in the summer. So I had to pay for the power I needed now and was never going to be able to offset it by the extra power I generate in the summer, those KWH would have to be sold back to VCE wholesale at a fraction of their value when used. VCE has now changed their policy and offers annual try up to those going with them now, as of a new board decision from the Feb. 13th meeting. My only recourse was to retroactively return to PG&E so I could be on an annual true-up. I appreciate the work done by the VCE staff to help me do this, it took a lot of their time and mine (and it's still not complete). If you have solar panels and your service kicks in with VCE on your true-up month, make sure you get the true-up period you desire, monthly vs. annual.

RonGlick

"Meet the new boss same as the old boss"

I got my true up from PG&E a month early this year in March instead of April. Since I generate the most extra energy in April I figure PG&E did this to maximize what I would owe them before VCE switched me (without my permission) to its service. I get why PG&E did this. I also get why VCE set this up so that I would automatically be changed if I did nothing and would need to take action to prevent the change.

I find the actions of both organizations to be self serving and annoying.

Donna Lemongello

Ron,
I believe retroactively you can return to whatever choice you would have made that they offer, such as staying with PG&E as if you never left. Also, if indeed VCE had the right to switch you automatically, they would have done it on your solar anniversary so something is not right here.

Ron Glick

In the phone business changing somebody's provider without permission is called slamming and I think you get in trouble for it. With VCE they do it without your permission and you need to make an effort to not be changed.
I get that they are using what is called "behavioral economics" whereby you make the path of least resistance VCE's preferred outcome. I simply don't like the self serving nature of VCE's policy.

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