As a former city councilmember, I am very familiar with the proposed electrical energy consortiums available to city residents. Monterey Bay Community Power, now called Central Coast Community Energy (3CE), promised clean energy and lower bills for customers. My research revealed pitfalls; I voted NO on joining. The City Council is again considering signing on with 3CE, with proponents lobbying hard for Atascadero to join.
Before signing up, ask yourself why does the City have to sign up rather than offering the service to individual citizens to opt-in or out? The reason is that 3CE needs the City to “underwrite” the leases that they enter into with outside energy providers, just like co-signing for a loan.
The electrical consortium must have long-term leases to provide reliable energy, which is delivered through PG&E’s electrical system. If the price of power goes down, we will still be responsible for paying off the leased energy per kilowatt, meaning that prices may be lower on your bill now, but may end up being higher later.
Further, If the City decides to opt-out of this service, the other members of 3CE must “allow” us to leave and may send us a bill to pay off if we are allowed to leave. Remember, cities are responsible for the leased energy, so why would Atascadero be allowed to leave? The bill would then become higher for cities still in the consortium.
The recent energy crisis in Texas was caused by a lack of back-up power during cold weather. Some people received exorbitant electrical bills, although their electrical company promised lower bills but at “current market rate” rather than a fixed-rate. Customers were billed for thousands of dollars when the rate per kilowatt hours skyrocketed. Could this happen here? We need to know before signing up!
Solar and wind power require back-up power to keep the electrical grid stable. Storage batteries are expensive and only provide back-up power for short durations and cost thousands of dollars to replace.
As a city, we need to wait and see how 3CE works out for those cities that have “joined up.” Let’s be sure this is a sound and prudent thing to do before committing Atascadero’s residents. We can always sign up later if it turns out to be all it promises.