Clean Energy Choice Coming to Los Altos

Posted on February 1, 2017 by  
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Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View are set to join nine other communities in Santa Clara County in the switch from PG&E-supplied electricity to a new Community Choice Aggregator in April.

Local homeowners, renters and businesses will receive notices in the mail about the new energy provider – Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCEA) – in coming months. Los Altos City Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins served a key role in the formation of SVCEA last March.

“We recognized that this was the single most effective action we could take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make significant progress in meeting our Climate Action Plan goal,” she said.

The plan will offer customers two service options: GreenStart comprises a 50 percent renewable and 50 percent hydroelectric energy blend, and GreenPrime offers 100 percent renewable energy that is greenhouse gas-free. GreenStart, the default option, is estimated to be slightly less expensive than previous PG&E service. Customers can choose GreenPrime, which will be slightly more expensive, or opt out of the Community Choice Aggregator and continue to receive their energy from PG&E. That option would give customers a 30 percent renewable and 60 percent carbon-free energy combination.

No matter which option customers select, PG&E will provide their electricity infrastructure and billing services. The undergrounding of electricity infrastructure will continue apace.

According to Don Bray, SVCEA account manager, little will change on the customer side. “Your energy bill will continue to come from PG&E,” he said. “If the power goes out, you still call PG&E.”

Bray estimated that a PG&E energy bill of $198.13 would be $197.27 with GreenStart. The same level of energy consumption would run $204.33 with GreenPrime. “Price renewables have come down significantly,” he said. “Co-op buying is really efficient, with significantly less overhead than PG&E.”

Bray also pointed to the publicly owned nature of SVCEA, which holds public meetings twice a month and posts its minutes and documents online. “If you don’t like your rate,” he said, “go down to Cupertino Community Hall on a Wednesday night and make yourself heard.”

The city of Los Altos has embraced SVCEA. At its Jan. 10 council meeting, the Los Altos City Council voted to use the GreenPrime option for municipal operations. According to a staff report, city officials expect communitywide emissions from electicity to decrease by more than 90 percent once the entire city is under SVCEA service by the end of the year.

SVCEA will begin by launching in municipal accounts, small and medium commercial properties and 20 percent of residences in April. It will expand into large commercial uses in July and hit 100 percent of residences opting into the system by October. Users with solar grids are treated slightly differently by the system and will receive notices outlining how the rate schedule will treat them.

Bruce Karney, president of the community group Carbon Free Mountain View, said his group “was very excited by the decision that was made, and we look forward to its implementation.”

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Water District Keeps Reduction Target

Posted on January 28, 2017 by  
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The Santa Clara Valley Water District Board of Directors voted Jan. 24 to continue its call for water-use reductions of 20 percent compared with 2013 water-consumption levels.

In 2016, Santa Clara County used 28 percent less water than in 2013. While statewide and local conditions have improved significantly, the board members emphasized that dry conditions could return, and the community’s water savings achievements should be continued.

At its Tuesday meeting, after the Town Crier’s press deadline, board members planned to issue a new resolution for a continued limit on watering ornamental landscapes to no more than three days per week. Officials said the district would drop its prior call for retail water agencies, local municipalities and Santa Clara County to implement mandatory measures, as needed, to achieve the 20 percent water-use reduction target.

The water district does not have the authority to enforce mandatory water-use restrictions on the customers of each local water provider. Since 2014, the board’s resolutions have instead requested that water providers implement their own mandatory water restrictions to reach the target. By dropping the “mandatory” language now, board members expect that local water providers will not use drought surcharges or penalties to motivate customers to meet the 20 percent goal.

Certain activities that waste potable water are permanently prohibited by the State Water Resources Control Board, including hosing off sidewalks, driveways and other hardscapes; washing automobiles with hoses not equipped with a shut-off nozzle; using nonrecirculated water in a fountain or other decorative water feature; watering lawns in a manner that causes runoff or within 48 hours after measurable precipitation; and irrigating ornamental turf on public street medians.

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