Several Contra Costa County municipalities, including Danville and San Ramon, and the county's Board of Supervisors are considering developing a way for residents to buy more electricity from renewable sources while simultaneously abandoning PG&E.
The so-called community choice programs, allowed under a 2002 state law, grant cities and counties the ability to set up nonprofit government entities in order to procure electricity from sources other than PG&E and then to sell it back to local consumers.
County staff will present a draft technical study on the possibility to a Board of Supervisors committee on Monday and to a public workshop later that same day.
"It's a pretty remarkable change in the energy environment here in California," said Jason Crapo, deputy director of the county's Department of Conservation and Development. "It looks like a pretty good possibility that you'll have a majority (of people) in the Bay Area getting their electricity from one of these programs."
Contra Costa County and 14 of its 19 cities last year hired a consultant to draft the $175,000 study, which lays out how the community choice program could work, Crapo said. The five cities not participating are El Cerrito, Lafayette, Richmond, San Pablo and Walnut Creek.
The study spells out three basic options: the county and cities could form a community choice program together, each city and the county could enter an existing program on an individual basis, or they could all simply continue getting electricity from PG&E.
Currently, five of the county's cities are already members of such a program in Marin County, Marin Clean Energy, and more could join in the future.
Also, Alameda County's newly formed program, East Bay Community Energy, might welcome additional cities, although the details of how that membership would work have yet to be established, Crapo said.
If Contra Costa County and its cities start their own program, it would likely start by providing consumers with an electricity delivery portfolio that's comprised of 50% renewable sources, Crapo said.
Over time, it could grow to 80% renewable sources and consumers could also opt for 100 percent renewable electricity deliveries, likely at a slightly higher price, Crapo said.
Over the next couple of months, Crapo and the consultants who wrote the study, Oakland's MWR and Associates, will make presentations to the cities that are considering the community choice option. They will also take public comments and draft a final report that will be circulated publicly.
Each city and the county will then make separate decisions on which option they want to pursue, likely in the first half of 2017. If there's enough interest, they will begin developing a joint program together.
Currently, Marin, Napa, Sonoma, San Mateo, San Francisco and Alameda counties all either have an existing program or will soon have one, Crapo said.
"It's such a big change," Crapo said. "You now have a situation where local governments, particularly here in the Bay Area, are having a huge influence on local energy policy decisions that were previously being made by the big utilities."
The technical study will be presented to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors' Internal Operations Committee at 11 a.m. on Monday and at a public workshop at 7 p.m. that same evening.
More information can be found at the county's website.
-- Kiley Russell, Bay City News Service