It is my belief that the city council has made a mistake. During a city council meeting in March, Mayor Mike LeBarre and council members Darlene Acosta and Carlos DeLeon initially voted not to join Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP), a tri-county-wide, nonprofit alternative to PG&E that would double our use of renewable electricity while reducing rates. The three council members forming a majority vote decided to instead further explore the option of starting our own Community Choice Energy (CCE) program. Unfortunately, I believe the council majority is gambling on the risky private option in the hope it will generate revenue for the city’s general fund, as King City has many needs.
While I respect the research and presentation presented by City Manager Steve Adams in recommending the city go with its own CCE, I believe it was a bad decision.
As a nonprofit, MBCP can offer superior savings. Our monthly electricity bills will be higher if the council majority hires a private CCE firm at a cost of $1 million over the next five years. MBCP will lower our rates by 3 percent in year one, while the private option might cut rates by 1.5 percent. Or not. We just don’t know. It could also lose up to $1 million during the first year. Projections show that there is a 33 percent chance that revenue will be negative by month 12.
All we do know for sure is that the new program is entirely experimental, since no privately run CCE exists anywhere in America. Moreover, we would be one tenth the size of the smallest currently operational CCE in California. King City is far too small to run an effective CCE without dedicating additional staff resources — which would cost the city even more. MBCP would require almost no staff time or resources.
MBCP is also the more reasonable option for the environment. The private company would not increase our use of renewables, while MBCP would raise our portfolio of clean energy by 100 percent or more, helping us reach mandatory California standards more than a decade ahead of schedule. That would be something to be proud of!
Joining the established CCE model embodied by MBCP will save money, create local green jobs (because excess revenue would be earmarked for regional renewable projects perfectly situated for our South County landscape) and move us away from dependence on fossil fuels.
There are seven large, nonprofit CCEs currently operational in California, all saving ratepayers millions of dollars while slowing carbon emissions at an astonishing rate. Publicly run CCE is now the proven, most effective way for local municipalities to fight climate change. And our council is saying no.
Over the past four years, Sonoma Clean Power set aside $45 million for local investment in renewable energy production. It also cut rates by 10 percent last year. MBCP will be similarly successful. An enormous organization (270,000 ratepayers), it will put all surplus revenue — projected at $20 million per year — back into the program, thereby driving down rates and creating options for local workers.
On Tuesday, May 23, approximately 25 concerned citizens attended our city council meeting to encourage our elected officials to link arms with 19 other jurisdictions throughout our region by joining Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP). As of this date, they have chosen not to.
More than 100 other King City residents have already joined me in taking action to let our council know where we stand on MBCP, either by signing petitions or showing up at meetings. We want rate cuts, a more stable program with less administrative distraction, local jobs and benefits to the environment we all rely on as an agricultural community.
It’s not too late for us to join MBCP, but we must act quickly. We must put it back on the June 6 council agenda for a public hearing, which would allow further discussion and another vote. My sincere hope is that Councilman DeLeon or Councilwoman Acosta will join the current minority and allow us to join our sister cities in the tri-counties in moving toward a greener future — rather than contributing to our identity, as many city residents see it, as “the Island of King City.”