City of SLO moves toward becoming carbon neutral with plan to swap energy sources

Posted at 4:42 PM, Sep 24, 2018

Following years of consideration, the City of San Luis Obispo is buying into a program that cleans up the city’s energy sources, the same plan SLO County Commissioners tabled earlier this year due to its anticipated financial impact.

SLO City Council members made a unanimous vote this month to approve Community Choice Energy, which moves the city’s energy sources away from carbon power in response to address climate change.

“The goal is carbon free so the renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydro,” SLO Climate Action Task Force Chairman Eric Veium said.

The city council vote puts the city on track to that goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2035.

“It allows our community to pool our electricity buying power to purchase electricity that’s cleaner and costs less,” Veium said. “It allows local control and the power of choice.”

Under the program, which operates in 18 other California cities, electricity will continue to be distributed through PG&E.

“We still provide their electricity through our distribution and transmission system, we still have customer service, billing and meter reading and emergency response services,” PG&E Communications Director Mark Mesesan said.

The difference is where that power comes from. Instead of relying on generators like Diablo Canyon Power Plant, the City will instead invest in wind, solar and hydro-power.

“Same service from PG&E, same reliability, cleaner sources that cost less,” Veium said.

The City is now taking up the same program the County tabled earlier this year, following unfavorable results from a feasibility study.

That study focused on a tri-county area including SLO and Santa Barbara counties, highlighted financial risks and ultimately concluded there would be insufficient revenues to sustain the program.

“That study was deeply flawed,” Veium said, noting that the earlier study focused on the tri-county area, which doesn’t fall entirely within PG&E territory.

But a new study with a more narrowed focus released this month shows a different outcome for the City of SLO with potential to net millions of dollars in revenue by the 3-year mark.

Those savings would be reflected on the customer’s bill.

The City of Morro Bay will vote on whether to join in on Community Choice Energy at a meeting set for Tuesday.