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01/11/2018 Pioneer Community Energy Update

Barry Stigers, KAHI’s former News Director, now retired, contributes a weekly commentary to KAHI called ‘FOCUS.’ Barry has been working with KAHI News investigating the Pioneer Community Energy switch-over. The following is the latest in a series of investigative reports Barry is doing for KAHI Radio and his FOCUS program.

 

It has been a busy week as we continue to learn more about PIONEER Community Energy and their beginning process to take over the electric power business here in Placer County starting in February. I attended the January 8, 2018 board meeting held at the City Hall in Auburn, CA. There were about 30 members of the public in attendance which is a crowd based on the previous year of meetings where no one attended or maybe one or two. There was an open discussion about the treatment of solar customers that have been in PG&E plans in some cases for many years, and how they would be treated under the PIONEER plan. Also, there were concerns if a solar customer were to join PIONEER and the opt-out returning to PG&E, would they lose their grandfathered status and be forced to take a plan of current offering which could be costly in some cases. It all centers around the way the plans “true up” at the end of the year. Some older plans show usage or credit earned each month, but no payments are made. At the end of the year then the “True Up” determines who pays what based on usage and credits throughout the year. This plan ended and new solar customers get a bill each month for usage and pays for it. The bill shows credits in those months when Solar produces more than usage, and at the “True Up” the customer and PG&E settle who owes who, and payments are made.

The board listened and discussed it, then tabled the subject ordering staff to research the plans offered by PG&E and asses the concerns about losing grandfather rights. I witnessed something at this meeting that would be very difficult to do with the Public Utilities Commission or PG&E, and that is to have concern presented and discussed and get a decision by either board in one meeting. The CCA process does bring the decision process for rates, and rate plans down to a local level, and customers can actually talk openly bringing concerns before the decision makers because they are a neighbor living in the same political jurisdiction that the customer does. This may be one of the largest selling points for having CCA’s.

On Tuesday, I was granted an interview and briefing about the history and current status of PIONEER by the Executive Director, Jenine Windeshausen, who is also the elected Placer County Treasurer. We discussed several things. I ask her how the power purchases would work and she explained that the Northern California Power Agency, a 50-year-old agency that purchases power for all utilities in Northern California, would advise and process. I ask how PIONEER would be tax exempt, which I had heard at the board meeting, and she explained that since PIONEER is a Public Agency, it is not required to pay taxes on earned income like PG&E, an investor owned corporation must do. I also ask her to discuss the CalPine Energy Solutions relationship which is detailed further in this report, particularly on the listed “Call Center Services” that was listed in the December Board approved minutes. Jenine explained that CalPine would provide inbound calls from customers, and route them to the various locations to get proper answers. Some would come to PIONEER, some to PG&E and maybe to the Public Utility Commission. We also discussed the future outlook of PIONEER and if there could be a possibility the agency would expand to other cities and counties? Since Nevada County is next door, and considering the creation of a CCA, could it be a potential partner at some future point? Jenine stated that any opportunity for growth would be examined, and stated several other CCA’s in the state that have successfully expanded. I plan to look into the other CCA’s throughout California in future FOCUS programs.

A complete listing of the previous board meeting by Pioneer is now available on their WEB site as http://pioneercommunityenergy.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/17-12-04-Board-MinutesApproved.pdf

There are many fronts moving CCA activity throughout all of California. There are eight (8) operational Community Choice Aggregate’s (CCA) or Community Choice Energy entities (CCE). There are nine (9) anticipated Launches in 2018 including Placer County PIONEER, and sixteen (16) Cities, Counties or other agencies exploring or are in progress.

The December 4, 2017 board meeting for Pioneer Community Energy has one interesting item listed as:

ITEM 3: Approved an Agreement with CalPine Energy Solutions, LLC and Authorize the Executive Director to Execute the Agreement in the amount of $1.15 per meter per month for an initial term ending December 31, 2020 with automatic renewals for successive one (1) year terms unless, one hundred eighty (180) calendar days in advance of the end of the then existing term, either party does not wish to renew the term of the Agreement for service related to:

  1. a) Electronic Data Exchange
  2. b) Customer Information System
  3. c) Billing Administration
  4. d) Customer Call Center
  5. e) Qualified Reporting Entity (QRE)
  6. f) Settlement Quality Meter Data (SQMD) MOTION:

Gilbert/Ucovich/Unanimous Vote 7:0 AYES: Montgomery, Douglass, Uhler, Maki, Janda.

In checking who is Calpine Energy Solutions, LLC, here is the “About Us” on their Web Site:

Calpine Energy Solutions, LLC., is a subsidiary of Calpine Corporation, a Fortune 500 company and America’s largest generator of electricity from natural gas and geothermal resources. Calpine’s clean, efficient, modern and flexible fleet uses advanced technologies to generate power in a low carbon and environmentally responsible manner. Please visit www.calpine.com to learn more about why Calpine is a generation ahead – today.

As one of the top retail energy marketers in the country, Calpine Solutions supplies natural gas, power and associated energy and risk management services to our customers throughout the United States. We are a licensed retail energy provider in every deregulated state in the US, including California, Oregon, Arizona and Virginia. We tailor our products and services to capture the benefits of customer choice while protecting our customers from unexpected increases in energy prices. Our cutting edge risk management programs are flexible and designed to meet the unique needs of our customers while providing a wide range of solutions to help meet or beat their budget goals for energy expenses.

So, it appears that PIONEER CCA is hiring services from a major corporation; A 500 Fortune Company, Investor owned; and is the largest Generator of Electricity using “Green” resources, in twenty-two (22) markets:

Listed: Arizona; Baja California, and Mexico; California; Connecticut; Delaware; Washington DC; Illinois; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New York; Ohio; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; Texas; Virginia and Washington states.

There is was another report that was issued on January 5, 2018 by:

Stephen Frank’s California Political News and Views: WILL ELECTRIC FREEDOM GET A MAJOR DELAY? The California Public Utilities Commission had an agenda item for their scheduled meeting today to put at least a temporary halt to the establishment and/or expansion of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs around the state. These programs allow cities or counties to let electricity customers choose whether to stick with the existing utilities or switch to a locally-run public entity that buys power from generating companies at the source and brings it to customers via utility company lines.

A yes vote by the PUC could put a real wrench into all this activity for a year or maybe longer. We have verification that the meeting was held today (January 11, 2018) but the results will not be available for a few days. We will follow up and report them on KAHI AM 950 and on KAHI.COM.

There has been a lot of discussion at why the state of California has set a course that appears to be trying to destroy the basic Public Utility Organizations that have over centuries created, established, and invested money into a major generation system, distribution system, and Utility Companies that provides these vital services to homes, business and governments. PG&E was once before driven into bankruptcy, and if the other major utilities in the state were to have the same result, then how could power and other energy be transported to the homes? These CAA’s can buy from anyone, but how does the energy get to your home and business? If the Utilities are forced out of business, then who owns the Towers, right of ways, wires, transformers, meters, switches, distribution centers, etc. Worse yet, these facilities are getting older and someday need to be replaced, and how do we get that done, and who pays for it? As we continue to discuss these matters with officials and others, it does appear that the California PUC has complete control over protecting these infra-structures, and must protect them from being ignored, with power to force maintenance and funding to replace and insure integrity of these infrastructures. Discussion about this potential fear was witnessed earlier last year as we discovered what Puerto Rico learned following last year’s hurricanes that wiped out their utilities due to neglect and ignorance of maintenance. Puerto Rico utilities had bankrupted and the state took over the lines, towers and meters into the homes, and due to lack of maintenance were wiped out, and most of the island is still without power to this day.

We will continue to FOCUS on this major shift in our power process here in Placer County. Stay tuned.

I’M Barry Stigers, the program is FOCUS. We are broadcast on KAHI AM 950 Radio from Auburn, California on Thursday’s at 8:45 AM and 4:30 PM each week. We also stream on KAHI.COM, and soon will also be heard on FM 104.5.

2 Responses to 01/11/2018 Pioneer Community Energy Update

  1. Lonnie Essig Reply

    January 15, 2018 at 5:47 pm

    I believe an error has been made in stating NCPA provides the power for all Northern California a Utilities.

  2. jim phelps Reply

    January 16, 2018 at 10:37 am

    If CALPINE handles Opt Out calls via the “Customer Call Center” then Calpine is in conflict of interest because it also sells energy to CCAs — it doesn’t want to lose customer demand for the energy it’s selling to CCAs. For any who are interested he’s a copy of my email to MCE from last year:

    Jennifer Harris
    Account Manager
    Marin Clean Energy
    1125 Tamalpais Avenue
    San Rafael, CA 94901

    Dear Ms. Harris:

    I attempted to Opt Out of Marin Clean Energy (MCE) on January 20, 2017 immediately after learning that my home would automatically be switched into your program. The process took more than one-half hour. I encountered many of the same obstacles that were experienced by Marin residents in 2010 when MCE originally launched — long waits, updates about my (increasing) wait time, sales pitches for Deep Green and Local Sol, etc.

    Your “Answer Net” representative in Stockton claimed that my address in Marin County was not in MCE’s service territory, so she contacted PG&E and placed me on hold where I got more MCE sales pitches. Then I was switched into a 4-question survey asking about MCE’s customer service, only to have your Opt Out line hang up on me!

    There is ZERO integrity in how MCE treats consumers — making it all but impossible to Opt Out of CCA is no way to build a business. Yet, nothing has changed since 2010.

    One-half hour after starting the Opt Out process I received an Opt Out confirmation number, XXXXXX6D. Please confirm, in writing, that I am not participating in MCE. To better assure that I am indeed Opted Out of MCE, please also confirm the corresponding address and service I.D.

    Regards,
    Jim Phelps

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