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 firstname.lastname@example.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.