Have More Questions?
Here is a list of frequently asked questions that provide additional detail.
Community Choice Energy Programs in General
Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs allow city and county governments to pool (or aggregate) the electricity demands of their communities in order to increase local control over electric rates, purchase power with higher renewable content, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and reinvest in local energy infrastructure. The electricity continues to be distributed and delivered over the existing power lines by the incumbent utility, which is Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) in Humboldt County.
The benefits of CCE fall into three general categories: consumer, environmental, and economic. CCEs benefit consumers by offering a choice of energy providers and stable, often lower, electric rates. By procuring renewable energy and low carbon resources, CCE’s have the potential to dramatically reduce the greenhouse gases attributed to the use of fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. CCEs benefit the local economy by redirecting an existing revenue source (power generation costs) to invest in local energy resources, customer programs, and infrastructure, and to create new jobs.
In addition to our Humboldt County program, California currently has numerous other CCEs operating across the state, and there are dozens of other California communities that are in the process of implementing local CCE programs. All of these programs are offering customers more renewable energy at lower prices than PG&E. Visit the CalCCA website to see a full list of California CCE programs. Other U.S. states like Illinois, New York, and Ohio also have CCE programs and more states are adopting the model every year.
All CCEs, once operational, are completely funded by program service revenues—not taxpayer dollars. In Humboldt County’s case, start-up funding and the credit required for initial energy contracts are being provided by the vendors selected to support program implementation and early operations.
CCEs offer local control, providing customers and municipalities choices regarding their electricity: how much is procured from renewable resources, which local resources are used, and how surplus revenues are spent. Existing CCEs have also succeeded in significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And because CCEs are locally controlled, energy programs can be developed to suit the specific goals of their communities, typically through innovative energy efficiency programs, the integration of clean technology, and local power generation. These types of programs can benefit the communities they serve and may also stimulate job growth.
CCE programs are established only to provide electricity and do not provide natural gas service. Third-party natural gas marketers that work with PG&E are listed here. RCEA has no affiliation with these natural gas providers.
Energy from renewable sources can be bought as power with attached RECs, or the RECs can be unbundled so the power is sold to one customer and the REC is sold to another customer. Unbundled RECs are a component of a national program to jump – start the renewable energy industry. They allow people to support renewable energy producers outside of their region, while still buying energy from local sources that are non-renewable. The California Public Utilities Commission allows RECs to be counted as part of the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Humboldt’s CCE Program
The Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) administers Humboldt County’s CCE program. RCEA is a local government joint powers authority managed by a Board of Directors comprised of elected officials from the unincorporated county, cities, and the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District. Decisions regarding electricity supply, rates, and other matters are decided during publicly noticed Board meetings. A team of experienced service providers with utility expertise is supporting our CCE program: The Energy Authority (TEA) provides support on power markets and procurement, and Calpine Energy Solutions provides customer service and manages transactions between PG&E and RCEA.
All of Humboldt County’s cities and the County of Humboldt have voted to participate in the CCE program, meaning all residents and businesses in the county are eligible to be RCEA customers. Enrollment of customers began in May 2017 and was completed in January 2018. Contact RCEA if you have questions about your enrollment. In keeping with the state law allowing CCE programs to operate, when a community joins a CCE program, multiple program launch notices will be sent to all customers in the months preceding and following the beginning of service.
No. CCEs work in partnership with the local utility. While RCEA assumes responsibility for procuring and developing power (the “generation” component of the PG&E bill) on behalf of participating customers, PG&E continues to deliver your electricity, maintain the power lines and electrical grid, and handle customer billing.
Yes, PG&E continues to perform all power line maintenance and repairs for its utility customers, whether or not they’re also CCE customers. If the power goes out, you should still contact PG&E.
No, your rates will go down. One of the primary goals for the program is to ensure rates are competitive with PG&E’s. To date, the operational CCEs in California have succeeded in saving ratepayers millions of dollars while significantly increasing the levels of renewable and carbon free power that their customers consume. Our program is designed to achieve similar results for Humboldt County.
There is no interruption in service. In fact, you might not even notice the difference when your account is enrolled because you will still receive and pay your bills through PG&E.
There are no hidden costs and no duplicate charges for CCE customers. When you become a CCE customer, the electric generation fee previously charged by PG&E is replaced on your bill as an electric generation charge from RCEA. There is also an exit fee levied on each customer by PG&E called the “Power Charge Indifference Adjustment” or PCIA. This fee pays PG&E for the stranded costs associated with the power it purchased on your behalf that is no longer needed. Although the PCIA is a separate charge on the customer bill, it is factored into RCEA’s rates so that the overall electrical generation charges are below PG&E’s generation charges.
In May 2016, the RCEA Board selected The Energy Authority (TEA), a non-profit organization, to represent its interests in the wholesale power market. TEA, on RCEA’s behalf, negotiates long- and short-term power contracts with energy producers, including local producers, based on the specific power supply goals developed by the RCEA Board. These contracts are negotiated with the goal of procuring energy that meets the requirements of cost, levels of carbon-free and renewable, use of local resources, reliability, and other factors as defined by the RCEA board and based on input from the community.
The regional electric grid has energy generators putting renewable and non-renewable electricity in at various locations. When we procure renewable energy, we’re paying a particular generator to put renewable energy into the grid at their plant, wherever it may be. At this time, about 40% of our energy is coming from such renewable sources, and another 40% from emissions-free sources, mostly large hydro power, that are not considered renewable by state rules. We plan to increase the total from those two sources from 80% now to 100% by 2025.
Which electric energy is actually delivered to our customers is not exactly the same as what we buy under contract, since energy just flows by the path of least resistance, normally to the load that’s physically closest to where the energy is generated. So in fact a unit of electricity used in Humboldt most likely originated at one of the local plants here in the county, which are powered by natural gas or biomass.
What’s important in terms of cleaning up the grid is that we’re gradually ensuring more of the total amount of electricity injected into the grid comes from renewable sources. In this way, Humboldt County ratepayer dollars are directly reducing the total global emissions associated with electricity generation.
It is also our goal to generate as much of Humboldt’s electricity as possible using local renewable resources. As we make that transition, more of the electricity we buy will truly be what’s consumed close to the source by our own customers. This is important for local economic development, but less so for carbon emissions, for which the benefit is essentially the same wherever they can be reduced on the planet.
Yes—RCEA offers Net Energy Metering (NEM) to all solar customers, just as PG&E has. RCEA’s premium Net Energy Metering program increases the amount paid for excess energy generation and allows customers to “roll over” energy credits from one year to the next, rather than allowing them to expire. Existing solar customers don’t have to do anything when they become RCEA customers; they are automatically enrolled in the new NEM program if they were previously enrolled in PG&E’s NEM program. Enrollment of NEM customers was done in four quarterly batches during the first year of CCE operation so that each customer’s enrollment fell as close as possible to their “true-up” month to ensure a seamless transition. Use the following links to find more information about RCEA’s Residential NEM program and Commercial NEM program.
No. Customers can only participate if their homes or businesses are located within the Humboldt CCE service area.
State law requires that as we begin to implement our service, we must contact our customers in writing a minimum of four times to inform them about our program and customer options. We are doing this via a combination of letters, mailers, and postcards. After the program launches, new PG&E customers will receive two notifications by mail letting them know about their options.
No. Community Choice Energy programs are supported entirely by electricity rate-payers—not by tax dollars. The profits that would have gone to PG&E shareholders are now being used to support this local energy program.
Yes. The California Public Utilities Commission authorizes PG&E to collect fees (called public goods charges) from all customers to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy incentive programs. PG&E will still collect these fees and CCE customers will remain eligible for these incentives and services.
No. RCEA does not do any residential door-to-door solicitations and will not visit your home unless you have previously scheduled an appointment with us. RCEA employees visiting your home or business to provide services will wear a badge identifying them as an employee. If you have any doubts about someone claiming to be affiliated with RCEA, please call our office at (707) 269-1700 to confirm the employee’s identity. There are several companies that sell natural gas that have solicited door-to-door in Humboldt County recently. These companies are not affiliated with RCEA in any way. California law (SB 656) allows for Core Gas Aggregation Service (CGAS) which allows consumers to purchase gas from third-party gas suppliers known as Core Transport Agents (CTAs). More information about CGAS and a list of CTAs can be found here.
California Assembly Bill 117, which made community choice energy programs such as RCEA’s possible, stipulates a process of automatic enrollment, as described below. There are no service contracts with our program and you are under no obligation to remain with RCEA. You can return to PG&E at any time without penalty.
Chapter 838 Section 366.2 ( c )(2) of the California Public Utility Codes states :
“Under community choice aggregation, customer participation may not require a positive written declaration, but all customers shall be informed of their right to opt out of the community choice aggregation program. If no negative declaration is made by a customer, that customer shall be served through the community choice aggregation program.”
The full text of AB 117 is available here.
Staying with RCEA’s Community Choice Energy program does not mean giving up the reliable service provided by PG&E. RCEA’s program is a partnership with PG&E. PG&E will continue to provide maintenance and repair to the electric infrastructure – the poles and wires – throughout Humboldt County, read your meter, and handle all payments and billing. RCEA, under oversight from our Board of Directors, will choose which power producers to purchase electricity from.
As a not-for-profit public agency we are not subject to regulation by the California PUC. The PUC oversees privately owned utility companies. Our primary oversight comes from our Board of Directors which is made up of elected officials from each of our member agencies. Board meetings are open to the public and held on the third Monday of each month at the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District Office at 828 7th St, Eureka, CA 95501. Meetings start at 3:15pm. Agendas and meeting packets are made available on our website a few days before each meeting.
Unspecified sources of power cannot be traced back to a specific source. In many cases, this is power imported from outside California and tends to be less expensive than renewable and zero-carbon power. RCEA includes some power from unspecified sources in its portfolio to keep customer rates affordable. As renewable power continues to come down in price, we plan to gradually phase out our use of unspecified sources of power.
Rates & Billing
No, you still get just one bill from PG&E, which includes electricity procurement from RCEA and PG&E’s customary delivery, transmission, maintenance and other utility charges. All fees and line items are clearly stated on the bill and there are never any duplicate charges.
Yes. The various discount programs offered through PG&E still apply when you become a CCE customer: CARE, FERA and Medical Baseline programs are not affected by participating in the program. Current participants automatically continue and new enrollments are still processed through PG&E. Click here for more information.
Yes, however the plan will operate a little differently. Your natural gas charges and your electric delivery charges will still be leveled from month to month. Electric generation charges cannot be leveled in the CCE program and will vary with each bill. For most customers, these charges do not vary greatly from month to month during the year.
One of the primary goals of a CCE is providing rate stability, with higher levels of renewable power. Thus far, existing CCEs have succeeded in increasing the amount of renewable energy delivered to their communities, while saving their customers money. The RCEA Board of Directors sets its rates annually with the goal of offering rates below PG&E’s generation rates. Rate setting occurs at RCEA Board meetings, which are always open to the public; your input is welcome. RCEA and PG&E also jointly produce an annual rate comparison for customers that clearly shows the difference by rate type between the CCE rates (including exit fees) and PG&E base rates.
PG&E charges RCEA customers a Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA) and a Franchise Fee Surcharge. Both are calculated based on the number of kilowatt hours used each month.
The PCIA is intended to ensure that customers who switch to RCEA pay for energy that was acquired by PG&E to serve them prior to their switch. The PCIA currently ranges from less than one cent to just under two cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on when the customer switched to the CCE program and whether they are residential or commercial customers. The franchise fee is a lesser amount that counties and cities charge PG&E for the use of public streets to run its power distribution lines.
These charges are included in RCEA’s rates. Although the PCIA and Franchise Fee Surcharge appear as separate charges on the customer bill, they are factored into RCEA’s rates so that the overall electrical generation charges are below PG&E’s generation charges. You can thus expect a lower electricity bill with CCE than you would with PG&E’s generation service.
If you ever have questions about the RCEA portion of your bill, you can visit our website at www.redwoodenergy.org to see a detailed breakdown of a typical bill, or call us toll free at 1 (800) 931-RCEA or email us at email@example.com. If you have questions about the rest of your PG&E bill, call call PG&E at 1-866-743-0335.
No. In December 2016 new small scale renewable energy generators in PG&E’s service territory began taking service under the NEM successor tariff, known as NEM2 or NEM2.0. If you took service under the original NEM tariff, now often called NEM1.0, you will remain a NEM1.0 customer under RCEA’s program until your service contract expires. Switching between PG&E and RCEA service does not affect your NEM status.
TOU-C is a new option for Time-of-Use rates. Peak pricing is everyday between 4pm and 9pm including weekends and holidays. Here is a list of our rates including TOU-C. A small group of customers were selected to participate in the TOU-C rate pilot program. Other interested customers may choose this rate starting April 1st 2018. All customers can try the new TOU-C rate risk-free with 12 months of bill protection.
If you are a pilot customer opted in to the TOU-C rate or if you voluntarily enroll in this rate you will automatically have bill protection for one year. Bill protection will be calculated in April 2019. If you have a credit, it will be applied to your subsequent bill.
If you move or opt out of the CCE’s electricity services, you are eligible to have bill protection up until that time. If you opt out of the program, please submit a written request for bill protection to be applied to your account. If you move, please submit a written request for bill protection with your new address if you would like bill protection during the time you were on that rate.
Net energy metering customers are not eligible for bill protection under the pilot TOU-C rate.
No, the money that RCEA pays to net generating NEM customers is not considered taxable income.
California legislation stipulates that CCE providers (such as RCEA) shall become the default electricity supplier in their areas and that they shall operate as opt out programs—automatically enrolling all customers within their jurisdictions while affording a choice to leave the program, if desired.
When a CCE is launched or expands its service area, all new customers within its jurisdiction are sent a minimum of four notices over a period of five months to inform them that their electricity default provider is changing. After launch, new electricity customers are sent two such notices. Anyone can opt out of the program at no charge, via phone, website, or letter, at any time.
REpower is the default electricity service offering. All CCE customers automatically start with REpower. It costs less than PG&E’s standard electricity rate, while offering higher rates of renewables. Check out PG&E’s website for the PG&E and RCEA Power Mix Comparison.
REpower+ is RCEA’s electricity upgrade, and is 100% renewable. It costs an additional $0.01 per kWh (about $5 per month extra for an average family or $15 a month extra for a typical small business).
RCEA is procuring renewable and carbon-free power from a variety of sources for both our REpower and REpower+ programs. During the program’s first year, we will provide solar power from the California desert, wind energy from projects in Oregon and Washington, and local biomass power. As the program develops over time, we plan to establish more clean, local renewable energy projects within Humboldt County.
CCE customers are automatically enrolled in our standard REpower program., but can “opt up” to our premium, 100% renewable REpower+ at any time. If you sign up for REpower+ and then decide you no longer want 100% renewable electricity, you can always return to the standard REpower mix. Click here to opt-up your residential account, or get more information about your options. Click here to opt-up a commercial account or see options for businesses and government. You can also call us at 1-800-931-RCEA to make changes to your account.
Customers who opt out before starting the CCE service or within the first 60 days may return to the service at any time. Customers who opt out after the first 60 days of the CCE service will be prohibited by PG&E from returning for one year.
There is no charge for opting out of the CCE Program at any time.
Establishing service is easy. Contact PG&E one week before you will need service at your new address and schedule an appointment by calling PG&E at 1-800-743-5000. New customers who move into the Humboldt CCE service area are automatically enrolled into the CCE program and will be mailed two notices within the first sixty days of service with information about their options.
No. You can be a customer of RCEA and Arcadia power at the same time, but you might decide that you no longer need Arcadia Power’s service.
Arcadia Power purchases Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) from wind farms all across the United States to offset either 50% or 100% of your electricity consumption. As a customer with RCEA, you automatically receive 40% renewable and 80% greenhouse gas free electricity with our standard REpower energy mix. You may also opt-up to REpower+, our 100% renewable option, for a small increase in price. By choosing REpower+, you are directly supporting renewable energy projects on the West Coast and right here in Humboldt County.