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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on August 28th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 26 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 26

Santa Maria moves to join Monterey Bay Community Power

By ZAC EZZONE

Following in the footsteps of Santa Barbara County, the city of Santa Maria is moving forward with joining Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP), as the public electricity provider continues to expand throughout the Central Coast. 

Community choice energy (CCE) agencies such as MBCP are governed by a board of directors made up of officials from participating cities and counties. The organizations handle generating and purchasing energy, while leaving companies like Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) responsible for transmission and distribution. 

MBCP offers customers the opportunity to save money on their electricity bills through annual rebates. Additionally, the energy provider relies on a higher percentage of renewable sources of electricity—such as wind and solar—and allocates funding to local renewable energy projects.

Councilmember Gloria Soto said joining MBCP provides the city with some local control over its energy generation, that it currently doesn’t have with PG&E, which is the city’s sole electricity generator and provider.

“We are able to fight and give a voice to the residents of Santa Maria,” Soto said. “Whereas right now, with PG&E we don’t have a seat at the table. Right now, PG&E is going to be looking out for the best interest of the stakeholders, not of the residents of Santa Maria like we do here.”

City Council members first discussed joining MBCP during a meeting in May. At the time, the majority of council expressed concerns over the potential move and opted to wait to see whether the county decided to join MBCP or create its own CCE. The county voted to move forward with MBCP last month.

In a 3-2 vote, Santa Maria City Council decided to do the same at its meeting on Aug. 20. Mayor Alice Patino and Councilmember Etta Waterfield voted against the move. Both officials said they feel there are questions that need to be answered before council should make a decision. 

Waterfield said the council had only heard one side of this conversation, as it hasn’t had the opportunity to speak with PG&E representatives about the change. Staff reached out to PG&E with an invitation to the meeting, but representatives declined the offer due to a state code of conduct prohibiting CCEs and private utility companies from advocating against one another.

“I move that we continue this item and let more information and facts further develop,” Waterfield said. “Because we’re going to go off hearsay and speculation, but I want to go off facts.”

The majority of the council heard enough to support moving forward with MBCP and acknowledged that both individual residents and the city itself could later opt out with little difficulty. Councilmember Michael Moats said he was swayed by the potential to save residents money.

“We have a fiduciary duty to the city of Santa Maria to be fiscally responsible, and if we have an opportunity to save money, we have to look at it and vote on it,” Moats said.

There are currently 19 CCEs operating throughout California. MBCP formed about two years ago and currently services Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties. Guadalupe, Goleta, Santa Barbara County, and cities throughout San Luis Obispo County are also moving forward with joining MBCP. 

Cities and counties that elect to move forward with MBCP this year will join the CCE in 2021. 

—Zac Ezzone








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