Two clean energy programs launched on Santa Barbara County’s South Coast this month with the goal of moving toward clean and renewable energy sources for electricity.
Electricity service is still delivered by PG&E and Southern California Edison, but clean energy programs such as these have goals of using carbon-free, renewable energy sources for the power production.
PG&E and Edison will continue to deliver power, maintain infrastructure and issue bills to customers enrolled in clean energy programs.
Santa Barbara Clean Energy launched on Oct. 1 for Santa Barbara city residents.
The program automatically enrolls customers in the program’s 100% Green option, which costs about $5 more a month on customers’ Southern California Edison power bills, according to Alelia Parentau, climate and energy manager. The program has higher per-kilowatt-hour rates for residential and commercial customers.
Santa Barbara customers can opt out of this program to the Green Start option, which offers 50% or more carbon-free energy at the same standard rates that Southern California Edison offers, and the Resilient option, which offers 100% carbon-free energy and solar for net metering customers — or people who already have solar.
Santa Barbara Clean Energy, the city’s program, automatically enrolls all customers in the 100% Green option (which increases electricity costs for customers) and had a 97.5% participation rate as of this past week, which means not many people have opted out.
The participation rate is “really showing how supportive our community is of this incredibly impactful climate initiative that was 100% established to serve our community specifically,” Parentau said.
On Oct. 7, residents of Carpinteria, Goleta and the unincorporated area of the South Coast were automatically enrolled in Central Coast Community Energy’s (3CE) clean energy services. That is the same program already launched in Santa Maria, Solvang and the unincorporated areas of northern Santa Barbara County.
3CE offers two choices to customers: 3Cchoice and 3Cprime.
3Cchoice generates electricity from clean and renewable resources such as wind, solar and geothermal, and will reach 60% clean and renewable energy by 2025 and 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030, according to program spokeswoman Shelly Whitworth.
3Cprime supports 100% California eligible renewable energy generated solely from solar and wind, and is available to all customers at an added cost of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, Whitworth said, or about $5 extra a month for residential customers with average monthly consumption of 300 to 500 kilowatt hours of electricity.
Customers are automatically enrolled in the 3Cchoice program, which has the same billing rates as PG&E and Southern California Edison.
Many people have asked Noozhawk what the switch to clean energy actually means for Santa Barbara County residents, so Noozhawk has gathered answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Is My Area Participating in a Clean Energy Program?
The Central Coast Community Energy Program includes Santa Maria, Solvang, Goleta, Carpinteria, unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County, and out-of-county areas. More information is available here: https://3cenergy.org/.
Santa Barbara Clean Energy includes the city of Santa Barbara. More information: https://www.sbcleanenergy.com/.
Does All Power for Clean Energy Programs Actually Come from Carbon-Free, Renewable Sources?
That depends on the program.
Some of the options say they will use entirely renewable sources for energy production, such as Santa Barbara’s 100% Green option and 3CE’s Prime option, while others have goals of using renewable sources for the majority of power production in the future, like the 3CE Choice default option.
Santa Barbara Clean Energy contracts with solar, wind, hydroelectric and battery storage facilities for its power, according to Parentau. Santa Barbara Clean Energy customers were automatically enrolled in the 100% Green option, which is exclusively made up of these carbon-free resources, she added.
3CE has already reached its interim goal of achieving 60% clean and renewable energy by 2025 through new renewable projects such as solar and storage, and wind and geothermal, according to Whitworth.
“Geothermal is important because it provides baseload power (available 24/7), unlike other renewable sources,” she said.
Does the Money Charged for Administering the Programs Get Invested Into Renewable Energy-Producing Facilities?
Whitworth said that the revenue generated by 3CE supports two ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on behalf of customers. One of those ways is by contracting for new large-scale renewable developments (such as solar, storage, wind and geothermal) that will be added to the state’s electrical grid, she said.
The other is by providing rebate and incentive programs to local customers that help residential, commercial and agricultural customers electrify their transportation, buildings and agricultural equipment.
“Our energy programs support the clean energy transition and help improve local air quality for the communities we serve,” Whitworth said.
Parentau said one of the main goals of Santa Barbara Clean Energy is to reinvest in the community’s economy and energy resilience.
“We ultimately will be looking to build generation systems throughout the city in order to provide enhanced energy reliability and resilience here locally,” she said. “We are already encouraging local renewable development by offering discounts on solar arrays, battery storage systems and other innovative energy programs.”
How Will the Clean Energy Programs Affect Solar-Producing Customers?
All solar-producing customers will be auto-enrolled into Santa Barbara Clean Energy’s Resilient program, which pays more than double what SCE pays for the annual net surplus compensation rate, according to Parentau.
“So people with solar on their home or business who produce more energy than they use on an annual basis will actually get paid more than they would with Edison,” she said.
Additionally, Resilient customers are also auto-enrolled in 100% Green for any supplemental energy that they need to purchase throughout the year, she added. The 100% Green option costs slightly more than the Southern California Edison rate, Parentau said. For solar customers who do not typically purchase much supplemental energy, the premium of $0.012/kWh is expected to have a minor impact on bills, she said.
All net energy metering solar and wind customers in the 3CE program will transition to 3CE’s service in January, and will experience a “true-up” with SCE at the time of enrollment, Whitworth said.
Customers who receive net surplus compensation payments will receive higher payments with 3CE and will receive the same lower rate as other residential and commercial customers that enrolled in October, which is 2% less than SCE for electric generation services, she added.
Why Are Santa Barbara Residents Automatically Enrolled in the Program That Increases Electric Bills?
Santa Barbara Clean Energy auto-enrolls customers in the 100% Green option, which has higher per-kilowatt-hour rates than Southern California Edison service.
Parentau said lawmakers included auto-enrolling for community choice programs in legislation to ensure the success of these programs.
“Additionally, customers do actually get a better (cleaner) energy product,” she said. “Ultimately, Santa Barbara Clean Energy customers get so much more out of their energy service than they would with Edison.”
How Do People Opt Out or Change the Program Option They Have?
Santa Barbara Clean Energy customers can opt down to Green Start and pay the same price as they would to SCE, or they can opt out overall by calling the customer service center at 805.897.1979 or through the website at SBCleanEnergy.com.
Here are the links to:
» Learn more about the differences in program options
» Opt down to the Green Start program (no rate changes from Southern California Edison service)
» Re-enroll if you have opted out
» Opt up to the Resilient program
“I would like to emphasize that there is no customer benefit to returning to Edison since we have energy products to meet everyone’s needs or preference,” Parentau said. “If someone is on the fence, I encourage them to call me directly at 805.564.5475, as that is a major benefit of having a local energy provider — you get to speak with the team that’s serving you directly.”
For Central Coast Community Energy (3CE) customers, they can stay on the default 3Cchoice rate by taking no action, but may also opt up to the 100% renewable service offering for around $5 more a month, according to Whitworth.
The enrollment period is 60 days after the official start date, which occurs on the October statement due, she added. Outside of enrollment, opting out is a nominal fee of $5 for residential customers and $25 for business customers.
Customers may opt out at any time through 3CE’s website, 3cenergy.org, by phone or via e-mail.
Here are the links to:
» Learn more about the program options
» Opt up to the 3Cprime program
» Re-enroll in the program if you previously opted out
— Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.