Community choice in action: the power of MCE

Community Choice Aggregation, known as community choice or CCA, gives residents and businesses an opportunity to purchase electricity from locally controlled public agencies operating on behalf of their member communities.

Dawn Weisz, CEO, MCE

What is Community Choice?

Community choice aggregation, also known as community choice or CCA, allows residents and businesses to purchase electricity from locally controlled public agencies operating on behalf of their member communities. Communities benefit from re-investments in tailored programmes and services as well as social equity, economic and workforce development opportunities. CCAs offer a unique value proposition that allows communities to control where their energy comes from and how their electricity dollars are spent. This innovative energy model is resonating throughout California and there are now 24 CCAs serving the state, with MCE as its first CCA.

A recent study by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation highlights the massive growth of CCAs in California over the past 10 years. The number of Californians who have a CCA option has grown from 1 per cent in 2010 to 30 per cent today. Across California, up to 6.2 million residents have a default electricity product that is an average of 50 per cent renewable and 80 per cent carbon-free energy. This is significant compared to the incumbent investor-owned utilities who, on average, offer 33 per cent renewable energy and 64 per cent carbon-free energy.

Who is MCE?

As California’s first CCA, MCE has been setting the standard for energy innovation in its communities since 2010. MCE offers cleaner power at stable rates while significantly reducing energy-related greenhouse gas emissions and enabling tens of millions of dollars to be reinvested in local energy programmes. MCE provides electricity service to more than 480,000 customer accounts and more than one million residents and businesses in 36 member communities across four Bay Area counties: Contra Costa, Marin, Napa and Solano.

MCE’s standard service, Light Green, has offered a minimum of 60 per cent renewable energy since 2017, meeting state renewable energy goals 13 years ahead of schedule. By 2022, its Light Green service will be approximately 95 per cent greenhouse gas free, and it will grow to 85 per cent renewable by 2029. In addition to our standard service, MCE also offers two 100 per cent renewable energy services: Deep Green and Local Sol.

MCE was started by a community committed to environmental justice and clean energy. MCE is governed by a board of locally elected officials who reflect the interests of the communities they serve. As a not-for-profit public agency, our customers can influence our policies and programmes through public meetings, ensuring that all people, regardless of race, colour, national origin and income can influence our development. MCE has been committed to energy equity since its inception, working with its communities to advance equity through its programmes and services. Part of its mission is to support those who are most impacted by climate change and fossil fuels.

Community Reinvestment

During MCE’s first 10 years of service, it reinvested more than $180 million into its member communities through programmes such as energy storage and resiliency, energy efficiency services, local renewable energy development and income-qualifying rebates to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), solar, heat pump water heaters, smart thermostats and batteries.

MCE’s Energy Storage Program launched in July 2020 with the goal of deploying 15 megawatt-hours of customer-owned, behind-the-metre battery energy storage systems over two years. The dispatchable batteries are paired with solar and are programmed to provide immediate back-up power and daily peak load reduction, resulting in reduced emissions and electricity costs. In addition, MCE provided immediate support to medical baseline customers during the 2020 fire season by distributing 100 portable, off-grid batteries to medically vulnerable customers. MCE’s board has approved $10 million to date in support of energy storage and resiliency projects.

Its clean transportation programs reinvested more than $4 million throughout its service area in charging infrastructure and income-qualifying vehicle rebates. With 1,000 new charging ports, MCE has met more than 40 per cent of the need for charging infrastructure in its service area.

MCE’s Feed-in-Tariff projects are another mechanism for local reinvestment, helping build new renewable energy and support local economic development through requirements for 50 per cent local hires and prevailing wages. Working with project developers and local workforce development agencies, MCE has reinvested more than $81 million in 35 megawatts of renewable projects in its service area. These projects, combined with MCE’s energy efficiency programmes and income-qualified solar rebates, also reinvested more than $440,000 directly into workforce development, supporting more than 2,250 work hours and training over 60 individuals.

The Just Transition

As we move toward a more climate-friendly future, it’s important to consider the cost of this shift away from fossil fuels, which still employs a large portion of the energy workforce. In 2017, MCE implemented a Sustainable Workforce and Diversity Policy focused on creating equitable clean energy jobs. This policy outlines our commitment to diversity and inclusion by contracting for power resources, procuring goods and services, and implementing hiring initiatives. The policy calls for quality training, and apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programmes; fair wages; and direct hiring practices that promote diversity in the workplace.

MCE’s workforce development partners work directly with job seekers in the community, providing on-the-job training and skill-building. Many programmes work with underserved populations, including low-income residents and those who have a history with the justice system or were previously incarcerated. MCE is proud to partner with these programmes to provide direct pathways into family-sustaining jobs in green energy.

Looking Ahead

MCE and California’s CCA energy agencies have been innovating and advancing clean energy throughout the state since 2010. CCAs are instrumental in our ability to meet and accelerate our clean energy goals and achieve a 100 per cent clean energy grid by 2045. CCAs are able to do this while providing significant community benefits. The power of CCAs is the power to drive innovation while building a brighter future that benefits all communities.

The climate is in our hands. What action will you take? The future is now. For more information, visit www.mcecleanenergy.org

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