5 Budget-friendly Ideas to Keep Cool in Late Summer While Reducing Energy Consumption at Home

It’s no secret that even late summer can be hot in California. Known for its heat waves, Californians are no strangers to Flex Alerts this time of year and the need to stay cool. We have five budget-friendly ideas to help you stay cool this month and use less energy at home, double win! The most important part of getting out of the house to conserve energy is to be sure you set your thermostats above 78 degrees while you’re away from home. Statistics show that every degree above 78 can potentially lead to a cost savings of up to 2%. 

Visit a Community Pool

When the temperatures soar, a community pool can be an oasis of relief. Many towns and neighborhoods offer public pools with affordable entry fees, and some even have free entry days or discounts for residents. Taking a dip in a refreshing pool not only helps you stay cool, but it’s also a great way to exercise and unwind with friends and family. Plus, by heading out to a community pool, you can give your air conditioner at home a much-needed break, thus reducing your energy usage. 

We found a few local community pools that offer recreational swim hours:

Catch a Summer Movie Special at Your Local Theater

Beat the heat and indulge in some cinematic magic by catching a summer movie special at your local theater. Many theaters offer discounted tickets during the summer months, making it an economical way to stay cool and entertained. The cool air-conditioned environment will be a welcome escape from the sweltering heat outside. Regal Theaters in Davis offers a few promotional specials including Mystery Movie Monday ($5), Summer Movie Express series ($2), and Regals Crown Club Value Days.

Visit a Local Museum

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly way to keep cool while enriching your mind, consider visiting a local museum. Museums are often well air-conditioned, and many offer free or reduced admission on certain days. Explore the fascinating exhibits, learn about art, history, or science, and let your imagination wander while enjoying a cool and comfortable atmosphere. Not only will you stay refreshed, but you’ll also gain new insights and knowledge in the process. 

Try some of these local favorites:

Spend the Day at Lake Solano

Nature has a way of providing natural coolness, and spending the day at a nearby lake can be incredibly rejuvenating. Pack a picnic, bring your favorite summer read, and enjoy the serene surroundings while dipping your toes into the water to cool off. Lakes and natural bodies of water offer a refreshing escape from the heat, and the best part is that they don’t rely on electricity, making it an eco-friendly option for beating the heat without increasing your energy consumption.

Lake Solano is a great option for a day well spent outdoors during the summer. Day use is available year round and the campgrounds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Canoes and kayaks are allowed on the lake and available for rental if you don’t own one. Fishing is also permitted! We recommend checking the website prior to visiting to ensure you’re familiar with the rules and regulations for using the lake. 

Cook Outside

During the scorching August days, cooking inside can raise the temperature of your home significantly. Instead, take advantage of the warm weather and cook outside on a grill or have a picnic. Grilling not only keeps your home cooler, but it also adds a fun and enjoyable outdoor dining experience. Prepare some delicious summer recipes and invite friends and family over for a potluck-style gathering. Not only will you avoid using your oven or stovetop, but you’ll also create wonderful memories. You could stay entertained throughout the day with outdoor lawn games, card or board games, or an evening neighborhood bike ride.  

Pro Tip: A take and bake pizza will fit perfectly on a traditional briquette-style BBQ grill. An easy summer dinner for the whole family!

Staying cool without skyrocketing your energy consumption is possible with these budget-friendly ideas. So, beat the heat while having a great time visiting a community pool, catching a summer movie, exploring local museums, enjoying the serene beauty of Lake Solano, and cooking outside. Embrace these creative ways to keep cool and save energy, and you’ll have a fantastic and eco-conscious month!

A Look Back on 5 Years of Service

Valley Clean Energy is proud to be the clean electricity provider for Yolo County. Over the past five years we’ve grown to serve over 60,000 customers and fulfilled our mission to provide clean electricity, product choice, and greenhouse gas emission reductions — all with local control at competitive prices. Since inception we’ve hit the ground running and made sizable impacts on the communities we serve.

The Beginning

In 2018, Valley Clean Energy was born out of a need for an alternative energy solution to investor-owned utilities for the residents and businesses within Yolo County. These communities hold a true passion for the option to take control of the type of energy they use and reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions they deploy. It made sense for a CCA to answer this need and take the lead.

The path to getting started wasn’t always smooth. VCE overcame challenges to secure funding in our early years that would continue to serve our customers as time passed. We’ve invested in public EV chargers, provided EV rebates, and offered clean energy at competitive rates. Our diligent and committed leadership, staff, board members, and CAC members are the true heroes of the VCE story. Without the hard work of these individuals, our organization would not have been able to make as big of an impact as it has so far. We are truly proud to be part of a community that cares so deeply about clean energy.

We’re Making a Difference

It’s hard to believe that we’re already in our fifth year of service and it is incredible that we’ve been able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time. We’ve expanded our service territory, secured contracts to ensure clean energy for our customers, launched our AgFIT pilot program (and won an award for it!), and serviced over 60,000 customers. Not to mention, we’ve contracted for many new energy generation projects including 243 MW of renewable energy, 128 MW of battery storage, and 7 MW of demand response. Our local projects serving Yolo County have created jobs for local residents and kept money in our local economy. The best part? We are just getting started! It is our goal by 2025 to bring an additional 13 MW of solar energy generation and 13 MW of battery storage to Yolo County. These installations will keep money in our local economy all while providing more clean energy throughout the county.

Providing clean electricity to our customers is our mission, however we also believe it is our responsibility to support our customers along the path to a clean energy future. Over the past five years, VCE has secured $1 million for irrigation automation, launched a successful Ultragreen program with nearly 500 opted-up customers using 100% clean energy, and saved CARE and FERA members throughout our service territory over $1.5 million on electricity bills.

In Fall of 2022 we launched our EV Rebate Program. Since then, we’ve been able to grant nearly $120,000 in rebates to new EV owners throughout Yolo County. We are proud to have been able to help our customers save even more money on their investment in an electric vehicle. This is just one more way we’re committed to reducing greenhouse emissions. VCE will remain committed to this cause and we plan to release phase two of our EV rebate program this year.

Celebrating in Central Park

June marked Valley Clean Energy’s fifth anniversary and in commemoration of this milestone, we took the opportunity to connect with the communities throughout our service area. We hosted two customer appreciation events, one in Woodland and the other in Davis. These events gave members of the community an opportunity to meet our team, converse with other VCE customers and EV drivers, hear from leaders within our state government, connect with local businesses, receive a free meal from a local food truck, and enjoy an afternoon outdoors.

At the Davis event, we offered an EV ride and drive and facilitated 60 new EV experiences! Participants were given the option between a Kia EV6 or a Ford Mach-E. We also partnered with Friends of Yolo County Animal Services to host a pet adoption during the event. Because, who can resist cute puppies?

We were honored to have been presented with a Special Recognition Congressional Certificate by special guest Rep. Mike Thompson, California, 4th District Congressman. We were also thrilled to have special guest speakers Siva Gunda, Vice Chair of the California Energy Commission, Darcie L. Houck, California Public Utilities Commissioner, and VCE’s Chair, Tom Stallard. We are grateful for their recognition, congratulatory words, and continued support. If you missed the Davis event, you can catch snippets of their speeches in this video. We’ll continue our celebration with another customer appreciation event in Winters this coming July. Check our events page or follow us on social media for event updates.

It’s safe to say that although we’re excited about our accomplishments, we’re even more excited about our future as Yolo County’s clean electricity provider. VCE will continue to expand our customer base and keep providing cost-saving programs for our customers. As we move forward in our goal towards less fossil fuels and more abundant clean energy, Valley Clean Energy remains steadfast in our commitment to our community. Cheers to five years, and many more to come

10 Budget-Friendly Ways to Make Your Home Energy Efficient for Summer

Have you ever noticed that your home seems to hold in heat during the summer? Is your air conditioner constantly running to keep your home cool? Not only can energy bills rise with the temperatures, the demand on the power grid is much greater. Improving your home’s energy efficiency is a sound investment that can save you money and even increase the value of your home. 

Here are 10 actionable ideas to make your home more energy-efficient this summer. From budget-friendly and DIY updates, these considerations can make a big impact.

  1. Feel the Breeze Use natural ventilation to let the outside air flow! If you live in a place where temperatures outside are cool in the evening and early morning hours, open your doors and windows to naturally cool your home. Create a cross ventilation by opening windows at opposite sides of the home so the fresh air can circulate.

  2. Ceiling Fans are Cooler than You Think Ceiling fans have the ability to provide effective cooling while consuming minimal electricity. By running a ceiling fan, you can feel cooler without necessarily lowering the room temperature. This allows you to set your thermostat at a higher temperature, reducing the workload on your air conditioner and ultimately lowering your energy consumption, and your electricity bill!

  3. Power Strips – The Cure for Energy Vampires Making use of power strips throughout your home can >help reduce power when electronics are not in use. If they remain plugged in, many electronics continue to draw power even when they’re turned off. Plug them into power strips and switch off the power strip when not in use to eliminate standby power consumption (aka Energy Vampires!)

  4. Keep Your Energy and Money from Slipping out the Door The simplest and easiest, yet very effective solution is replacing weatherstripping on drafty doors. Door seals are available at local hardware stores and are easily installed.

  5. So long Thomas Edison, hello Nick Holonyak, Jr. It is estimated that 15% of your home’s total energy usage is attributed to lighting. LED light bulbs, which were invented by Nick Holonyak, Jr. in 1962, are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs because they use 90% less energy and can last up to 25 times longer than incandescent. On average, households can save over $200 per year by switching all of their lights to LEDs.

  6. Hot or Knot: Keep it Cool with Thermal Curtains Thermal drapes or curtains are made using thick materials that block the heat from coming in. As a result, the temperature in the home stays cooler and there is less of a need to use the air conditioner. Keep the curtains closed during the hottest parts of the day for best results. Looking for something other than curtains? There are several types of window coverings that are proven to be energy efficient. Some include exterior window attachments. Depending on your budget, you can find the option that suits you.

  7. Sealing Round Two There are several effective ways to seal your windows and improve energy efficiency in your home. One option is to use weatherstripping, which involves applying adhesive strips of foam, rubber, or vinyl to the edges of the window frames to create a tight seal when closed. Another method is to use caulk to seal any gaps or cracks around the window frames. Silicone caulk is a popular choice because it is durable and provides a waterproof seal. Additionally, applying window film can help insulate your windows by reducing heat transfer and preventing drafts. Window film can be easily installed and is available in different thicknesses and styles. Window insulation kits are also available which typically consist of plastic shrink film and double-sided tape which create one more layer of protection from outdoor weather. These kits are affordable and easy to install, helping to minimize drafts and save on heating costs during the winter. By employing these methods, you can effectively seal your windows and create a more comfortable and energy-efficient living environment.

  8. Schedule a Professional Home Energy Audit A home energy audit is an assessment that measures the energy efficiency of your home. The auditor is a trained professional that can provide a report that should be used as a roadmap for improving your home’s efficiency. Home energy audits do a thorough evaluation of your home from top to bottom, including a determination on how air-tight your home is. This tells you how much air is escaping or entering your home through unsealed windows or doors.

  9. Regulate the Temperature Smarter, Not Harder It is estimated that a smart thermostat can save you 10% each year. Using a smart thermostat allows you to have complete control over temperatures 24/7, even if you aren’t home. By setting smart thermostats to recognize when you are away from your home, you can automatically regulate to a higher temperature so your air conditioner doesn’t run unnecessarily. Additionally, some smart thermostats include options to lower usage during peak times. This reduces energy consumption and helps save money.

  10. Keep Your Attic Cool Not all homes have attic insulation. If you’re unsure if your attic is insulated, or how much insulation it has, you can have this addressed during a home energy audit. By adding more insulation to your attic, you are essentially adding a seal or lid over your home to keep temperatures more regulated. Proper home insulation is an investment that will benefit your home’s efficiency year-round.
We hope these simple tips inspire you to make your home more energy efficient.

Stacking Electric Vehicle Rebates Can Make EVs Accessible

Electric vehicles (EVs) are fun to drive, simple to charge, and cost less to fuel and maintain – not to mention being better for the environment, especially when powered by the clean energyValley Clean Energy (VCE) provides. That’s why VCE is supporting customers in the transition by providing rebates for EVs.The initial cost of switching to an EV makes the transition more challenging for some-fortunately, there are various incentives and rebates available that can help make EVs more accessible and affordable.We recently had the chance to speak with a VCE customer, Christina Chang, one of the first recipients of the VCE EV rebate. Christina had been considering an EV for over a year as part of her commitment to the environment. Previously she was driving a minivan that wasn’t getting great gas mileage and it was time for a change. After a bit of research on vehicles and incentives, Christina decided the Chevrolet Bolt EV was the best fit for her.

A major factor in Christina’s decision to finally make the switch to electric was the availability of several incentives for which she qualified. Christina was able to stack state incentives on top of receiving the full $4,000 rebate from VCE. Additionally, at the time of purchase, Christina took advantage of a $5,000 price reduction and in-home charger installation offered by the manufacturer. In all, Christina drove off in her new Bolt with thousands of dollars in savings!Christina shared she had great interactions with the VCE team throughout the rebate process(thanks, Christina!)and is happy to have received the rebate to help offset the cost of the vehicle. All in all, Christina loves everything about the Bolt, including the fact that she never has to visit gas stations.

If you’re a VCE customer and considering an EV purchase, check out the VCE EV rebate program to see if you’re eligible.

Income-qualified Valley Clean Energy Customers May Benefit from California Electric Bicycle Incentive Program Coming Soon

Our region is a demonstrated leader in fostering bicycling as an alternative method of transportation. As the first city in the nation to legislate and standardize bike lanes, Davis is known as the “Bicycle Capital of America.” Electric bikes, or e-bikes, are becoming an increasingly popular mode of transportation in California. With the ability to help riders travel farther and faster with less effort, e-bikes are a great option for commuting, running errands, or just exploring the great outdoors. To help those living under 300% of the Federal Poverty Limit (FPL) enjoy the benefits of e-bikes, the state of California will introduce a new incentive program that offers rebates to those who qualify and purchase an eligible e-bike. 

What is the California e-bike incentive program?

The California Electric Bicycle Incentives program aims to make sustainable transportation more accessible to low-income residents and promote equity, while reducing carbon emissions and transportation costs. The program is expected to launch in late Q2 2023 and offer $1,000 for eligible electric bicycles, an additional $750 for electric cargo bicycles or adaptive/recumbent e-bikes. A smaller incentive of $250 will be available for people below 225% FPL. 

Electric bicycle prices range from $600 – $8,000 with an average cost being between $1,000 – $2,000. Higher end e-bikes typically provide more powerful motors or may include room for more than a single rider. When considering an e-bike as an alternative to cars, the cost is minimal. You will not only save on the cost of the vehicle, but the cost of gasoline compared to charging an e-bike can make a big difference for your wallet. The e-bike incentives will only further your savings.

What e-bikes are eligible for the rebate?

All e-bike classes will be eligible for the rebate: 

  • Class 1: Limited speed up to 20 mph, pedal assist only 
  • Class 2: Limited speed up to 20 mph, pedal assist and throttle 
  • Class 3: Maximum speed up to 28 mph, pedal assist only

How do I apply for the rebate?

The rebate is expected to launch in Q2 of 2023 and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Funds will be reserved for those who meet the priority requirements. 

Where can I learn more about e-bikes?

If you are new to e-bikes and want to learn more about them, there are a number of resources available. Cycling News has a great primer for beginners. The League of American Bicyclists also has a wealth of information on e-bikes, including a guide to e-bike laws and policies in all 50 states.

The California e-bike incentives program is a great opportunity for qualifying California residents. By taking advantage of this program, you can not only save money on your e-bike purchase, but also reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health by choosing a more sustainable mode of transportation. 
Follow updates from the California Bicycle Coalition as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) rolls out this program.


VALLEY CLEAN ENERGY PUTS THE POWER BACK INTO THE HANDS OF WINTERS COMMUNITY MEMBERS

By Jesse Loren, Winters City Council member and VCE Board member

Starting in January, Winters residents and businesses will take a giant step toward a more sustainable energy future as the community becomes a full-fledged member of the Valley Clean Energy Alliance. The City of Winters and Mayor Cowan and I have been representing Winters on the VCE Board for over a year and we are excited that our start date is getting closer! 

How does it work? VCE pools the electricity demands of our communities and purchases power with higher renewable and lower greenhouse gas content than is offered by PG&E. VCE customers pay exactly the same amount for this clean, low-carbon power as they would for traditional electricity provided by PG&E.  

Meanwhile, PG&E continues to deliver electricity to our homes and businesses, maintains the power lines, handles customer billing and responds to new service requests and emergencies. 

Founded in June 2018 by the cities of Davis and Woodland and the county of Yolo, the locally run electricity utility has been offering clean, green, renewable energy at competitive prices to its nearly 58,000 customers since then. As a not-for-profit agency, VCE re-invests its revenues right back into local communities, including ours. 

Come January, you’ll be automatically enrolled in VCE unless you choose to opt out and stay with PG&E for your electricity. However, if you do opt out, here’s what you’ll miss: 

  • Cleaner, less polluting electricity: In the past two years, VCE exceeded its targets for renewable energy and carbon-free power. 
  • Choice for everyone: A standard energy portfolio includes power that is 75% carbon-free and 45% renewable, while customers may opt up to an “ultra-green” portfolio that is 100% carbon-free and 100% renewable. Choosing the enhanced option costs just 1.5 cents more per kWh than the standard service. 
  • Fiscal responsibility: $1.5 million in start-up loans from the participating government agencies were paid back well ahead of schedule. Additionally, VCE has repaid more than $1.5 million in deferred payments to SMUD, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, for operating services provided to the nascent agency. 
  • Better solar benefits: VCE’s solar customers are paid 1 cent per kWh more than PG&E pays for any excess power they generate. 
  • Emission-free driving: A $2.9 million grant from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments is bringing an extensive electric vehicle charging network to Yolo County, including new charging stations at the Community Center and new stations at the new lot at First and Abbey.  
  • Local control: VCE is governed locally by elected officials from the four participating agencies who understand the community and work to provide benefits that align with community values. VCE’s directors are accountable to voters, not shareholders. I am one of two Winters City Council members who serve on the board. 
  • Re-investment and involvement in our communities: VCE has committed to renewable energy contracts close to home and is working to secure more. Furthermore, VCE is a good neighbor: The agency contributed $1,500 to the Greater Winters Fire Relief Fund; purchased and donated 500 reusable face masks to RISE Inc., a nonprofit organization that serves the Latinx community and Western Yolo County; and contributed $2,500 to the Yolo Food Bank at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Not-for-profit and for the people: VCE does not have shareholders, keeping the benefits focused on its customers. 

Have these wonderful new benefits come at a price for the city of Winters? Yes, a small one: We submitted a $25,000 membership fee to offset costs associated with joining the joint powers agency. However, according to VCE’s membership policy, that fee is due to be refunded upon enrollment of Winters customers in VCE in 2021. 

And make no mistake: This is not an experiment. With more than 20 operational programs already serving more than 10 million California customers, community choice energy agencies such as VCE are providing a clear path to a well-managed, economically beneficial, clean energy future. Dozens more of these agencies are in the planning stages throughout the state and the nation. 

It’s a terrific time for Winters to join the fold. Valley Clean Energy’s leaders have accomplished some remarkable achievements in just 2½ years of operation, and their plans for the future are even more ambitious. I can’t wait for Winters to have a voice in what’s to come!  

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About VCE: Valley Clean Energy is a not-for-profit public agency formed to provide electrical generation service to customers in Woodland, Davis, Winters and the unincorporated areas of Yolo County. Its mission is to source cost-competitive clean electricity while providing product choice, price stability, energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emission reductions and reinvestment in the communities it serves. For more information about VCE, visit valleycleanenergy.org or call 855-699-8232.  

In Celebration of VCE’s 2-year Anniversary

As Valley Clean Energy reaches its two-year anniversary, memories of my role in its formation keep popping into my head.

Way back in 2002, it was my job as a lobbyist representing a statewide association of cities to advocate on behalf of cities before the California Legislature. This included the legislation that became law and authorizes cities and counties to buy electricity on behalf of their residents and businesses. These are known as Community Choice Aggregation (or CCA) programs.

Little did I know that, 18 years later, this new law would blossom and flourish into 21 operating CCAs throughout California, successfully serving 10 million customers in more than 170 cities and counties.

More amazing to me is that the new law ultimately enabled my own city of Davis and my county, Yolo (along with Woodland), to form their own CCA — Valley Clean Energy. Frankly, this is a very humbling experience.

VCE reflects the best of local government — local control, transparency, community engagement and expert administration — to provide services to residents and businesses it serves. I’ve had a front-row seat in VCE’s formation and evolution, from my involvement in the legislation that authorized CCAs, to membership on the Davis Advisory Committee charged with evaluating whether Davis should form a CCA, and concluding with chairing the VCE Community Advisory Committee.

It’s been an honor to serve with so many talented and dedicated individuals on the Community Advisory Committee. Not only are they knowledgeable about energy and utility issues, they have their respective fingers on the pulses of their communities and offer thoughtful input to the VCE board and staff.

It is exciting to observe how VCE has changed the energy landscape in Yolo County. Yes, our rates are competitive with PG&E’s, and the amount of renewable energy VCE buys is higher than PG&E’s.

What truly sets VCE apart from PG&E, though, is what was originally envisioned 18 years ago in the authorizing legislation — local energy decision-making that’s accessible to all, combined with expert staff and community members dedicated to designing programs that reflect the needs of the communities they serve.

For example, an emphasis on local community economic development and local energy development is at the core of VCE. In May, the VCE board of directors approved renewal of a small contract to purchase electricity produced at the Indian Valley Hydro Power Facility, owned and operated by the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District.

And VCE recently approved a long-term power purchase agreement to buy 50 megawatts of renewable energy from a new solar project in the Central Valley. VCE is also negotiating to buy electricity from another new solar project; our involvement will help get both of these projects built.

Finally, in April, VCE issued a request for offers to purchase renewable energy from qualifying local projects, either here in Yolo County or from the six adjacent counties.

While all of these accomplishments are important, what truly delights me is how VCE engages with the communities it serves. Do you have a question about your bill or about how VCE’s rooftop solar program works? Would you care to comment about a proposed new program or policy or pose a question about VCE’s budget?

It is easy to connect with VCE — either drop by the VCE office (when that becomes feasible again), attend a live or virtual VCE board of directors or Community Advisory Committee meeting, or simply call or email your question at 855-699-8232 or info@valleycleanenergy.org.

You can also stay informed about what’s going on by signing up for an email list at https://valleycleanenergy.org/get-in-touch/.

VCE believes in meeting community members where they live — literally. Over the last two-plus years, I’ve enjoyed helping at the VCE booth at the Winters Carnitas Festival, the Woodland Honey Festival, and Capay Almond Festival (yes, lots of festivals here in Yolo County) and the Davis Farmers Market.

This entails more than just hanging up the VCE banner. These events offer opportunities to listen to and talk with residents to answer questions, hear their concerns and suggestions and trouble-shoot possible problems for VCE’s customers and family.

My friends know that I like to collect T-shirts, and the turquoise-green VCE T-shirt is one of my favorites. I’ve worn it while meeting camels in Mongolia, piranha fishing on the Amazon River and hiking at Machu Picchu. It is my way of staying connected even when I’m miles away in a different reality. But VCE is always close to my heart.

So, happy anniversary, Valley Clean Energy. Here’s to many more years of successfully serving our community.

— Yvonne Hunter is a longtime Davis resident and chair of the Valley Clean Energy Community Advisory Committee.

Yvonne Hunter is a Davis resident and Chair of the VCE Community Advisory Committee.

WHAT A YEAR IT’S BEEN!

The end of each calendar year offers an opportunity to sit back and reflect on the goals reached over the past 12 months and to look forward to a new year of possibilities and challenges.

At Valley Clean Energy — your local not-for-profit electricity provider— we’re working hard to fulfill our mission to deliver clean electricity, energy product choice and greenhouse gas emission reductions, all with local control at competitive prices.

Since June 2018, we’ve been serving 55,000 customers in the cities of Woodland and Davis plus the unincorporated area of Yolo County. That number grew when the city of Winters became an official member of VCE this month.

Thanks to the creativity and dedication of our professional staff, and the visionary leadership of my colleagues on the board, the past year has been jam-packed with accomplishments. Here’s a brief review:

*Higher renewables: An audit of our first year of electricity purchases reveals that we have fulfilled our promise to buy the cleanest, greenest power we could afford for our customers. In fact, we exceeded our own expectations!

While we pledged a minimum of 42 percent renewable energy, we found that our portfolio actually contained 48 percent renewable energy, compared to 39 percent for PG&E. Furthermore, a growing number of VCE customers are “opting up” for our UltraGreen 100 percent renewable portfolio, for an additional cost of only 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

*Early loan payback: Gaining approval for a $500,000 start-up loan from each of our jurisdictions — Yolo County and the cities of Davis and Woodland — was quite a victory for VCE, allowing us to launch in June 2018. The only thing better than landing those critical loans has been our ability to pay them back early; that’s exactly what we accomplished this past October.

It is with tremendous pride that our board has repaid this $1.5 million investment far ahead of schedule, particularly since VCE has not experienced smooth sailing every step of the way with state regulatory actions having financial impacts that CCA’s like VCE have had to absorb. However, our board continues to make wise decisions that represent the best interests of our customers while helping us to meet our environmental sustainability goals even sooner.

*Welcome, solar customers: We’re thrilled to begin enrolling our legacy solar customers — those who installed their solar systems prior to VCE’s launch — beginning in January. Solar customers (both residential and commercial) have already demonstrated a financial commitment to renewable energy, and it will be terrific to have them in the VCE fold. We appreciate their patience as we have delayed their enrollment while we worked through some unforeseen program and budgetary constraints.

If you own solar panels, you’ll be automatically enrolled in VCE’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) program during your true-up month in 2020. And here’s one exciting difference between our solar program and PG&E’s: VCE will pay you one cent more per kWh for the excess power you generate.

*Customer dividend program: This program, which launches in 2020, is designed to reward our customers for their loyalty and support and to share VCE’s positive financial performance with customers.

A dividend will be credited to residential customers once per year (on their October bill) and to commercial customers twice per year (on their April and October bills), after specific financial targets are met.

These dividends are among the many ways in which VCE gives back to its local communities.

*Bid for PG&E assets: On Oct. 18, VCE offered PG&E $300 million to purchase its physical assets — poles, lines and, other infrastructure — in Yolo County. The board sees PG&E’s bankruptcy filing as a unique opportunity to take over these assets and rebuild a safer more stable, reliable, and cost-effective electric utility in our service area.

We are among numerous communities throughout the utility’s Northern California territory to consider taking control of our electric systems after PG&E shut off power to millions of customers this fall — including many in Yolo County — to avoid the risk that high winds would damage its equipment and spark wildfires.

While our offer was initially rejected, a final decision could be made by the court overseeing PG&E’s bankruptcy rather than by the management of the San Francisco-based utility.

*Winters joins VCE: Our neighbor to the west is the fourth local jurisdiction to join VCE, with the decision made official this month by the VCE board. Adding Winters to our service territory further strengthens our locally controlled power agency.

The West Sacramento City Council also has voted to join VCE as an associate member, giving that city a seat at the table as discussions continue concerning PG&E’s future.

On behalf of the board and staff of Valley Clean Energy, I wish you all happy holidays as we look ahead to an exciting new year. As always, if you have any questions about your local electricity provider, please visit our website at valleycleanenergy.org, email us at info@valleycleanenergy.org, stop by our administrative office at 604 Second St. in downtown Davis or call us at 530-446-2750.

—Tom Stallard serves on the Valley Clean Energy board of directors (chair in 2019) and is a member of the Woodland City Council.

A Reflection on High Summer Utility Bills

It’s been a long hot summer, but those cool autumn days aren’t too far off…
And thanks to Valley Clean Energy, local electricity customers are not paying any more to run their air-conditioners than they would have paid under PG&E. At the same time, they are reaping the environmental benefits of a greener energy portfolio.

Community choice programs like VCE can keep their rates competitive by buying electricity through a process that encourages private energy companies to compete to provide clean, renewable power.

Partnering with SMUD, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, also keeps VCE’s rates in line with PG&E’s. SMUD has been doing the kind of work VCE requires for more than 70 years. It has the operational and technical expertise to offer VCE flexible, efficient solutions that will help it be successful over the long term.

Recent frustration over soaring summer energy bills has provided VCE an opportunity to remind its customers that the local utility may cost the same as PG&E but it delivers so much more:

  • Local control: VCE is governed by a six-member board made up of elected officials from the jurisdictions it serves — the cities of Woodland and Davis and the unincorporated area of Yolo County. The board and VCE’s all-volunteer Community Advisory Committee hold their monthly meetings in public, alternating between Davis and Woodland. Members of the public are always welcome.
  • Customer dividends: With no shareholder investors expecting dividends, VCE can “invest” in its customers by rewarding them for their loyalty and support. If VCE does well and meets its financial targets, our customers do well. Dividends will be credited to residential customers on their October bill and to non-residential customers on their October and April bills. The program is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2020.
  • Community investments: VCE and its local partners won a $2.9 million grant last fall from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to install up to 60 electric vehicle charging stations throughout the region. The grant also provides for up to 10 mobile EV chargers and an electric bus serving the community.
  • Going green: VCE’s standard electricity service option is 42 percent renewable and 75 percent carbon-free. It is cost-competitive with PG&E’s standard product, which is 33 percent renewable. Our goal is to eventually increase the percentage of renewable energy in our standard service option.
  • Going greener: VCE customers also have the ability to opt up to the UltraGreen premium service, which is both 100 percent renewable and 100 percent carbon-free. Generated from completely renewable sources including solar and wind energy, UltraGreen costs 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour more than the standard service, so the additional cost typically ranges from $7 to $10 per month, depending on how much electricity is used.

Through Valley Clean Energy, we’re able to take giant steps toward a carbon-free future by purchasing our electric power from clean, renewable sources such as solar, wind, biomass, bio-waste, geothermal and small hydro projects.

Thanks to Valley Clean Energy, our region’s electricity customers are moving in the right direction.

Tom Stallard, a member of the Woodland City Council, chairs the Valley Clean Energy board of directors. For more information about VCE, visit valleycleanenergy.org.

Community Choice Energy: One Part of the Solution to Climate Change

Climate change is here. The impacts are becoming ever more serious. Fossil fuel combustion is the main cause. We need to lower Greenhouse Gas Emissions rapidly. Community Choice Energy programs such as VCEA can be part of the solution.

Sea level rise, increased drought and floods, higher temperatures and more devastating wildfires are among a number of indicators that have been telling us for quite a number of years that climate change is impacting our lives, our health and our ecosystems. The recent fires in our state including the devastating Camp Fire of this past year, are just harbingers of what is to come.

Burning fossil fuels leads to CO2. This is bad for at least two reasons. First, physics tells us that the CO2 produced from burning fossil fuels traps heat in our atmosphere. The more CO2 that is produced, the more heat is trapped. This trapped heat warms the air, the ocean and the land. This warming is termed the greenhouse gas effect, thus CO2 is termed a Greenhouse Gas (GHG). The ultimate result of burning fossil fuels is climate change.

Second, increased CO2, when it dissolves in water, leads to increased acidification in our oceans. This is a double whammy for ocean life as warm and higher acid conditions are not optimal for ocean ecosystem survival.

The science is clear, we need to lower GHG emissions and rapidly. To do this we need to pivot from fossil fuels to renewable, clean energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal. Recent studies including the IPCC report of September 2018, the 4th National Climate Assessment and the 4th
California Climate Change Assessment highlight the need for rapid decline in GHG emissions. The IPPC study warns that we have just 12 years to rapidly lower GHG emissions if we are going to avoid the truly catastrophic effects of climate change. We are in a “climate emergency”.

The need to rapidly reduce GHG emissions is a daunting task and one that will require leadership from the federal and state level as well as at the local level. CCAs offer the opportunity to be transformative in the energy they deliver their local customers. VCEA’s mission statement includes the phrase that they will deliver “cost-competitive clean energy”. At the moment the renewable content of the base electricity provided by VCEA is 42%, compared to 33% for base electricity supplied by PG&E. VCEA also offers an opt-up to electricity that is 100% renewable— a good option.

Climate change and the role that CCAs in general and VCEA in specific can play in helping to address it is the subject for much more than this introductory blog. Other blogs in the future, from me and other Community Advisory Committee (CAC) members, will delve into a variety of related topics. Be sure to see the initial blog from CAC Chair Gerry Braun and the short and long term vision statements posted here.

Christine K. Shewmaker, Ph.D. is a retired plant molecular biologist. She has been active in the climate and environmental arena for over a decade. Presently she is on the Board of Directors of Fossil Free California where she leads the legislative effort.