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The Innovative Power of Community Choice

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Jenna Famular's picture
Marketing and Communications Manager MCE

MCE is California's first Community Choice Aggregation agency. MCE has been serving Bay Area communities since 2010, offering our customers an electric service alternative to the investor-owned...

  • Member since 2021
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  • Apr 23, 2021 12:45 am GMT
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This item is part of the Special Issue - 2021-04 - Innovation in the Power Industry, click here for more

What is Community Choice?

Community Choice Aggregation, known as community choice or CCA, gives residents and businesses an opportunity to purchase electricity from locally controlled public agencies operating on behalf of their member communities. CCAs provide many environmental, social, and economic benefits to California communities. Central to the concept of CCA is local choice. Communities benefit from re-investments in tailored programs and services as well as social equity, economic and workforce development opportunities. CCAs offer an unique value proposition that allows communities to control where your energy comes from and how your electricity dollars are spent. This innovative energy model is resonating throughout California. There are now 24 CCAs serving the state of California, with MCE as its first CCA.

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A recent study by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation highlights the massive growth of CCAs in California over the past 10 years. The percent of Californians who have a CCA option has grown from  1% in 2010 to 30% today. Across California, up to 6.2 million residents have a default electricity product that is on average of 50% renewable and 80% carbon-free energy. This is significant compared to the incumbent investor-owned utilities who, on average offer 33% renewable energy and 64% carbon-free energy.

CCAs have played an essential role in advancing California toward its renewable energy targets years ahead of schedule. From 2011 to 2019, CCAs purchased 23.5 million more megawatt-hours of renewable energy than what the state required, or over twice as much.

Who is MCE?

As California’s first CCA, MCE has been setting the standard for energy innovation in our communities since 2010.  MCE offers cleaner power at stable rates, while significantly reducing energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and enabling tens of millions of dollars reinvested in  local energy programs. MCE provides electricity service to more than 480,000 customer accounts and more than one million residents and businesses in 36 member communities across four Bay Area counties: Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, and Solano.

MCE’s standard service, Light Green, has offered a minimum of 60% renewable energy since 2017, meeting state renewable energy goals 13 years ahead of schedule. By 2022, Light Green service will be approximately 95% greenhouse gas free, and it will grow to 85% renewable by 2029. In addition to our standard service, MCE also offers two 100% renewable energy services: Deep Green and Local Sol.

MCE was started by a community committed to environmental justice and clean energy. MCE is governed by a board of locally elected officials who reflect the interests of the communities they serve. As a not-for-profit public agency, our customers can influence our policies and programs through public meetings, ensuring that all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, can influence our development. MCE has been committed to energy equity since our inception, working with our communities to advance equity through our programs and services. Part of our mission is to support those who are most impacted by climate change and fossil fuels.

Community Reinvestment

During MCE’s first 10 years of service, we reinvested more than $180 million into our member communities through programs such energy storage and resiliency, energy efficiency services, local renewable energy development, and income-qualifying rebates to encourage adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), solar, heat pump hot water heaters, smart thermostats, and batteries.

MCE’s Energy Storage Program launched in July 2020 with the goal of deploying 15 megawatt-hours of customer-owned, behind-the-meter battery energy storage systems over two years. The dispatchable batteries are paired with solar and are programmed to provide immediate backup power and daily peak load reduction, resulting in reduced emissions, and electricity costs. In addition, MCE provided immediate support to medical baseline customers during the 2020 fire season by distributing 100 portable, off–grid batteries to medically vulnerable customers. MCE’s Board has approved $10 million to date in support of energy storage and resiliency projects.

Our clean transportation programs reinvested over $4 million in charging infrastructure throughout our service area in charging infrastructure and income qualifying vehicle rebates. With 1,000 new charging ports, MCE’s has met more than 40% of the need for charging infrastructure in or service area.

MCE’s Feed-in-Tariff projects are another mechanism for local reinvestment, helping build new renewable energy and support local economic development through requirements for 50% local hire and prevailing wages. Working with project developers and local workforce development agencies, MCE has reinvested over $81 million in 35 megawatts of renewable projects in our service area. These projects, combined with MCE’s energy efficiency programs and income-qualified solar rebates, also reinvested more than $440,000 directly into workforce development, supporting more than 2,250 work hours and training 60+ individuals.

The Just Transition

As we move toward a more climate-friendly future, it’s important to consider the cost of this shift away from fossil fuels, which still employs a large portion of the energy workforce. In 2017, MCE implemented a Sustainable Workforce and Diversity Policy focused on creating equitable clean energy jobs. This policy outlines our commitment to diversity and inclusion by contracting for power resources, procuring goods and services, and implementing hiring initiatives. The policy calls for quality training, apprenticeship, and pre-apprenticeship programs; fair wages; and direct hiring practices that promote diversity in the workplace.

MCE’s partnership with local labor includes workforce development partners like RichmondBUILD, Marin City Community Development Corporation, Rising Sun Energy Center, Future Build, and North Bay Workforce Alliance, which provide training for careers in the clean energy economy. Training included opportunities to work on MCE’s local renewable and energy efficiency projects, as well as serving in MCE’s Customer Care Center in Pittsburg, California, an MCE community.

These workforce development partners work directly with job seekers in the community, providing on-the-job training and skill building. Many programs work with underserved populations, including low-income residents and those who have a history with the justice system or were previously incarcerated. MCE is proud to partner with these programs to provide direct pathways into family-sustaining jobs in green energy.

Beginning in 2021, MCE encourages , energy suppliers to consider these optional community benefits and equity metrics in their offers:

  • Support for educational programs, environmental justice initiatives, and workforce development and training initiatives
  • Participation of contractors, subcontractors, or businesses owned by Disabled Veterans in a designated Disadvantaged Community, or employing workers living in a designated Disadvantaged Community
  • Use of components and materials manufactured or assembled in the United States

CCAs Working Together

On February 8, 2021, northern and central coast CCAs formed California Community Power, a new Joint Powers Authority (JPA). The JPA allows the CCAs to combine their leverage their joint buying power to procure new, cost-effective, clean energy and reliability resources to continue advancing local and state climate goals.

Current Members include Central Coast Community Energy, East Bay Community Energy, MCE, Peninsula Clean Energy, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, San José Clean Energy, Silicon Valley Clean Energy, and Sonoma Clean Power. These CCA collectively represent 2.6 million customer accounts and 6.6 million residents and businesses across more than 140 municipalities from Humboldt County to Santa Barbara County. Jointly they serve a combined annual load of 32,600 gigawatt-hours, which represents about 40% of PG&E’s annual electric load.

Additional benefits of the new JPA include enhanced negotiating power, larger renewable and storage project procurement, shared risk mitigation, and increased opportunities for innovation, as demonstrated by the first major joint procurement for 500 megawatts of long-duration energy storage.

CCAs have collectively developed over 6,000 megawatts of new clean energy including 1,120 in energy storage. Together we serve an annual load of 52,098 gigawatt-hours and over 4 million customer accounts across more than 200 California communities.

Looking Ahead

MCE and California’s Community Choice Energy agencies have been innovating and advancing clean energy throughout the state since 2010. CCAs are instrumental in our ability to meet and accelerate our clean energy goals and achieve a 100% clean energy grid by 2045. CCAs are able to do this while providing significant community benefits. The power of CCAs is the power to drive innovation while building a brighter future that benefits all communities.

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