Frequently Asked Questions

Renewable Energy Questions


Q: What are fossil fuels?

A: Energy sources formed by the decay of plants, dinosaurs, and other animals over millions of years; coal, oil, and natural gas are fossil fuels. These energy reserves form so slowly in comparison to our rate of energy use that they are regarded as a finite resource.


Q: Can municipal solid waste generate energy?

A: Yes. Trash or garbage is used to produce heat or electricity by burning it or by capturing the gases it gives off and using them as fuel.


Q: What is nonrenewable energy?

A: Fuels that are not naturally replaced as we use them. This includes fossil fuels, nuclear fuels, and municipal solid waste.


Q: What is renewable energy?

A: Sources of energy that are either continuously resupplied by the sun or tap inexhaustible resources, such as wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal energy.


Q: What types of renewable energy can a CCA purchase?

A: Solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass and biogas.


Q: How does solar energy produce electricity?

A: Solar panels contain photovoltaics – a technology that uses semiconductors to directly convert light into electricity.


Q: How is energy generated from wind?

A: Wind is used to turn a turbine to generate electricity which is connected to the grid. A wind farm is another name for a wind power plant where multiple turbines are usually spread out over a relatively large area of land.


Q: What is geothermal energy?

A: Heat energy stored in the Earth’s crust, which can be harnessed to produce electricity or heat water and living spaces.


Q: What is hydropower energy?

A: The energy of flowing water, which can be harnessed to make electricity or to do mechanical work.


Q: What is renewable energy from biomass?

A: In the renewable energy industry, biomass usually refers to the wood, wood-processing residues, agricultural residues, and energy crops that are used to create electricity, generate heat, or produce liquid transportation fuels.

Q: Doesn't biogas contain methane and pollute more than natural gas or coal?
A: Natural gas produces half the CO2 as coal.  Biomass digestion systems do create methane (biogas), but the systems are closed-loop so the

methane can be recovered as a fuel.  Biogas systems require much less energy input to create methane than natural gas or coal production. Biogas systems use more efficient natural processes. Natural gas and coal use energy intensive methods to; extract, transport, and covert these raw products even before they can be processed into usable fuel.  The primary difference between the greenhouse gas effects from  biogas versus natural gas is in the extraction, production and transportation of natural gas which adds more CO2 than just the utilization of the fuel.


Q: What are energy crops?

A: Crops grown specifically for their fuel value, including food crops such as corn and sugarcane, and nonfood crops such as willow trees and switchgrass.


Q: What is renewable energy from biogas?

A: Biogas is a fuel gas, composed of a mixture consisting of 65% methane (CH4) and of 35% CO2. It is a renewable source of energy resulting from biomass. Biogas is produced by the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic digestion). Biogas can come from animal manure or from organic solid waste that is processed at a local resource recovery center in a bio-digester.


Q: Could biomass be generated in the Monterey Bay Region?

A: Yes. The Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority and the Monterey Regional Waste Management District have both expressed interest in selling renewable energy generated from the production of biogas. Other local resource recovery centers could also be potential candidates for producing biogas. CCAs are a potential buyer of biogas electricity that would be generated and consumed close to the source of production.


Q: Why is more renewable energy beneficial?

A: The investment in renewable energy provides economic, environmental and national security benefits.

  • More jobs are created from the development of renewable energy than fossil fuel energy.

  • Buildings consume 42% of America’s energy (and 72% of its electricity). Transportation consumes 71% of U.S. oil – (13 million barrels/day). Eliminating waste in the built environment and transportation sectors will make America stronger and safer by keeping that $1 billion/day oil-import cost at home. The U.S. would be less buffeted by volatile oil prices and less anxious to defend access to oil.

  • The reduction of harmful greenhouse gas emissions is critical to combat the devastating and costly challenges of global warming.


Q: Why doesn’t PG&E buy more renewable energy?

A: Renewable energy is currently more expensive. PG&E’s business model requires shareholder profits. The extra cost of renewable energy, combined with PG&E’s profit margin, make it more difficult for PG&E to buy more clean energy and keep their electricity rates from rising.


Q: How much renewable energy does PG&E provide?

A: PG&E currently provides about 19.4% of renewable energy in their electricity portfolio. PG&E is mandated to provide 33% renewable energy in their electricity portfolio by 2020. PG&E is considering offering a 100% clean energy option at a rate premium price.


Q: How much renewable energy can a CCA provide?

A: When local communities have control over electricity purchasing they can determine how much clean electrical energy they want to offer their customers and at what price.

  • For example, the Marin Energy Authority (MEA) began delivering 33% clean energy at a rate only 2% higher than PG&E. As MEA continues to pay down their start up debt with interest, they are now delivering 50% clean energy for the same price as PG&E. The MEA is also offering a 100% clean energy option for a higher electric utility rate.


Cost Questions


Q: Will my electricity rates go up?

A: The goal of a local CCA is to provide more clean energy for the same price as PG&E (rate parity). CCAs buy their own energy mix and set their own electricity rates.


Q: Will a local CCA result in rate parity?

A: A Technical Feasibility Study will need to be conducted to determine the costs and benefits of a CCA in our area.


Q: How do CCAs generate profit?

A: CCAs are run by a not-for-profit local public agency and operate as a market driven social enterprise that generates its own revenue. Ratepayers provide revenue, and this revenue provides the local CCA with a surplus that can be used to fund local electricity generation, lower electricity rates and pay off debt.


Q: How do CCAs fund the construction of the Distributed Generation + Intelligent Grid?

A: CCAs can provide funding for renewable energy projects and energy efficiency programs. CCAs can be a catalyst for local build-out of the DG + IG system of the 21st Century by providing funding to implement new technology. The Phase I Feasibility Study will determine how much local solar, wind, and biomass could be generated in Monterey Bay Region.


Q: How would solar be financed?

A: Currently, it is difficult for customers to sell excess solar energy back to PG&E. Those that do make an arrangement to sell power to PG&E are offered less than what their power is worth. CCAs can provide an incentive by paying property owners fair market rates for the energy that their solar systems produce. In addition, CCAs could provide 0% loans to leverage expansion of roof-top solar generation.


Q: How does a CCA procure electricity?

A: A CCA must submit a plan to the California Public Utilities commission that specifies how it will purchase 115% of the estimated electricity demand for its area for a period of one year. CCAs negotiate the purchase of electricity on the open market by entering into power purchase agreements with energy providers. All energy that is generated is identified by certificates that guarantee the type of energy and location of production. CCAs must also enter into a contract with PG&E to transmit the electricity that the CCA buys over PG&E’s transmission lines.


Q: How does a CCA affect the Independent Operator Utility (PG&E)?

A: The CCA takes control of the procurement of electricity, decides what mix of renewable energy will be delivered to its customers and sets the electricity rates. PG&E continues to provide natural gas energy, maintain the transmission system and provide customers service.


Q: Where does the start-up money for a CCA come from?

A: The Phase I Technical Feasibility Study is estimated to cost $150,000. Phase I of the will be paid for from private donations.  If a CCA proves feasible for customers in the Monterey Bay Region, then a Phase II Implementation Study would need to be conducted. The cost of the Phase II Implementation Plan will be identified as part of the Phase 1 Study. The Phase II Implementation Plan can be funded with a combination of borrowed revenues, private capital, and public/private grant sources. Borrowed funds would be repaid with interest from the revenue generated by the CCA once it was operational.


Economic Questions


Q: Is there an economic benefit to having a CCA in the local region?

A: Yes. CCAs allow a local region to capture the electrical energy revenue that has been going out of the area to PG&E. CCAs may then redirect a portion of their surplus revenue (formerly PG&E profit) to fund local renewable energy projects and energy efficiency programs. This is a new source of local revenue that will generate new jobs.


Q: What is an economic multiplier?

A: An economic a multiplier effect occurs when a change in spending causes a disproportionate change in total demand.


Q: Do CCAs help provide a local economic multiplier?

A: Yes. CCAs may redirect their surplus revenue to fund clean energy projects and programs. This creates new jobs and new income for people in the region. As people spend money in their communities, these dollars create new demand for goods and services. The multiplier effect represents both the new income from clean energy jobs, and the jobs created to support this additional spending.


Q: Does the formation of a CCA cost jobs?

A: One of the goals of a CCA is to help create additional local renewable energy jobs. The jobs currently serving the PG&E transmission domain will be retained. Large utility scale renewable energy projects will be constructed by PG&E and their workforce. Smaller scale locally distributed renewable energy projects are intended to creating net new jobs for local cities and counties.


Q: Has the Marin Energy Authority been developed renewable energy projects?

A: The first obligation for the MEA is to repay their start-up loans before using surplus revenue to fund local projects. The MEA is on currently on schedule to repay these loans with interest while at the same time building a solid financial reserve fund.The MEA is now planning at least one large local solar project which will create local jobs and provide a significant positive infusion to their local economy. The MEA is also pursuing a variety of other programs to increase the up-take of more clean energy.


Q: How can a CCA be cost competitive with PG&E?

A: CCAs have lower costs because they can:

Procure energy from inside a region making transmission more efficient. Are not required to provide shareholder profits or margins. Function as a not-for-profit public agency with lower operating and borrowing costs.


Governance Questions


Q: Who is going to buy the electrical power for the cities and counties?

A: Energy procurement would be done by a not-for-profit public agency with a small staff that would be established to manage the local CCA. The local CCA would hire energy procurement specialists to assist in the structuring and purchasing of electrical energy. The agency would be a Joint Powers Authority governed by a local board approved by the participating cities and counties. All agency activities would be transparent to rate payers via regular local public meetings and deliberations.


Q: Aren’t CCAs replicating the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)?

A: No. The CPUC oversees the Independent Operator Utilities (PG&E) and CCAs. However, CCAs bring the process of energy procurement to the local region. This gives residents and business owners more opportunity to participate in the energy procurement and investment process.


Q: Would the CCA still pay for energy transmission?

A: Yes. CCAs only provide the procurement piece of energy delivery. Transmission and customer service would still be provided by PG&E and those profit margins would still be included in customers’ bills.


Customer Service Questions


Q: As a customer, will I still get a bill from PG&E?

A: Yes, your utility bill will still come from PG&E and PG&E will continue to provide you with customer service. PG&E will continue to bill you for your natural gas and will indicate that you are buying electricity from your local CCA.


Q: Who do I call when my power goes out?

A: PG&E is responsible for the transmission of gas and electricity. PG&E will still maintain the utility grid. Any issues with the delivery of your utilities will continue to be handled by PG&E.


Q: Can I opt in or out of a CCA program?

A: Yes. Typically, a current PG&E customer is given four opportunities to opt out of the CCA program. Customers may opt out and then opt back into a local CCA program as well.


Q: Can I get rid of PG&E smart meter?

A: Customer related PG&E service issues, including smart meters, are still handled by PG&E.


Q: If we installed solar panels on our building would we need a Power Purchase Agreement to sell our excess energy to a CCA?

A: No. The CCA would be able to offer property owners fair market rates for their excess energy production without a PPA.


Q: Would the Monterey Bay CCA propose an unaffordable clean energy program?

A: No. The Phase I Technical Feasibility Study will focus on a program option that will deliver more clean energy at rate parity with PG&E. It will also include several other clean energy program options – some of which may or may not cost more.


Phase I Technical Study - Process Questions


Q: What role does the Community Foundation Santa Cruz County (CFSCC) have in this project?

A: The CFSSC is the fiscal sponsor for the Monterey Bay CCA Phase I Technical Feasibility Study and provides the governance structure for the project (see About Us for more details).


Q: Who is going to pay for the Phase I Technical Feasibility Study?

A: Private donors will be fund the Phase I Technical Study through charitable contributions. There will be no general fund impacts to participating cities and counties.


Q: What is the Project Development Advisory Committee (PDAC)?

A: The PDAC is the oversight group comprised of one representative from each participating city, county or joint powers authority. The PDAC will direct and oversee the Phase I Technical Feasibility Study and report their findings to CFSCC and their participating jurisdictions.


Q: Can the public come to PDAC meetings?

A: Yes. All PDAC meetings will be open to the public. Public notice will be given on the website in advance of all PDAC meetings.  A public meeting schedule for 2013 will be posted on the website by 6/13/13.


Q: What will the Phase I Technical Feasibility Study focus on?

A: The Technical Study will focus on the following; 1) cost/benefit analysis, 2) procurement operations, 3) rate/price modeling, 4) employment projections, 5) greenhouse gas emissions/reductions, 5) potential sites for renewable energy, and 6) identify start-up costs.


Environmental Questions


Q: If a CCA is created for the Monterey Bay Region, who would get credit for the greenhouse gas reductions?

A: The Joint Powers Authority would decide how to divide the greenhouse gas reductions among the various jurisdictions, water districts or utilities.


Q: Have CCAs proven to improve air quality?

A: Yes. The Marin Energy Authority has helped Marin County dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The MEA is on track to meet their AB32 Global Warming Solutions Act 2020 targets after only 3 years of operation.


Policy Questions


Q: Are there advantages to including jurisdictions from the Tri-county Area?

A: Yes. There are economies of scale to gather PG&E electrical energy load-data from jurisdictions in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties and analyze various options for CCA customer delivery at the same time.

  • For example, Marin County conducted their Technical Feasibility Study without the City of Richmond. Richmond decided that they wanted to participate after the study was done, and this cost them an additional $70,000. However, it is possible for jurisdictions to “on-board” at a later time.

Q: Is there a connection between CCA and various Desalinization Plant Proposals?

A: No, there is not a direct connection. CCAs offer a variety of community benefits independent from any desalinization plant proposals. However, CCAs would provide an additional source of local clean energy that could help reduce or off-set the increased energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions of any proposed desalinization plant.


Q: Could a CCA off 100% clean energy?

A: Yes, CCAs can have different rate structures. The Joint Powers Authority would determine how much clean energy would be offered to local customers based on policy goals, customer needs, and the need to maintain rate parity with PG&E.

  • Based on the experience of the Marin Energy Authority, a local CCA could initially deliver 25% - 33% clean energy for rates that are comparable to PG&E - which is currently delivering 19.4% clean energy to the Monterey Bay Region.

Q: Does PG&E offer a 100% clean energy option?

A: PG&E is considering offering customers a 100% clean energy option at a premium price. The benefit of purchasing clean energy from a local CCA is that the revenue stays local which helps create jobs and meet local environmental mandates for greenhouse gas reductions.


Q: What is Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program?

A: Based on AB811, 14 counties in the State of California are piloting various approaches to set up the California First Program which is designed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This program allows property owners to purchase renewable energy technologies through reimbursable grants to significantly reduce costs through energy savings.


Q: Would a CCA be beneficial to a community if they are already pursing a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program:

A: Yes. Forming a CCA in the Monterey Bay Region would create a revenue generating partner for local PACE programs. This would help to:

  • Provide additional an additional funding source to support the marketing and installation of solar, wind or thermal renewable generation systems for businesses and residences.
  • Pay property owners fair market rates for their excess energy.
  • Ensure that rates remain low and stable so that customers can realize the cost savings of their renewable energy generation.

Sign up to receive email updates and follow Monterey Bay Community Power!

Join Our Mailing List
For Email Marketing you can trust