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Untangling Energy

agriculture-alternative-energy-clouds-414837The world of energy is moving fast due to technology changes and “smart” devices, electrification of transportation, the rise of Community Choice Energy programs, expansion of renewables, battery energy storage and more. What does this mean for Thousand Oaks as a community, and what does it mean for you, as a resident or business?

Let’s break it down a bit.

Traditionally electricity has been supplied by power plants, powered by coal or natural gas, and owned or contracted by the utility companies. There are Investor-Owned Utilities (IOUs) (publicly traded, private companies) such as Southern California Edison (SCE), which serves Thousand Oaks, and Publicly-Owned Utilities (POUs) such as Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP), which serves the City of Los Angeles. These entities are responsible both for generating the electricity and for transmitting and distributing it to customers, and are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). But now, there are new players in the game - Community Choice Energy (CCE) providers, local not-for-profit public agencies such as Marin Clean Energy (MCE), Lancaster Power Authority and Clean Power Alliance (CPA), who can compete with the IOUs on energy generation, striving to provide cleaner power at a lower cost than the IOUs. The City of Thousand Oaks joined CPA at the start of this year, and is now part of an alliance of 31 communities across Southern California working to bring you a choice in your electricity supply. Community Choice Energy providers like CPA, enable local governments to purchase or develop power on behalf of their residents and businesses, and put energy purchasing and pricing options into the hands of local decision-makers. Besides providing cleaner energy options, CCEs reinvest in local energy. If you are interested in getting involved with the administration of CPA, consider applying for its inaugural Community Advisory Committee, which is currently seeking community members in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. Electricity service to our community will begin early in 2019 and all customers will have a choice of staying with SCE or moving over to CPA. Look for more information and individual notices at the end of 2018.

Another significant change in the way electricity is supplied is the rise of renewables both “distributed” such as rooftop solar and “centralized” utility-scale renewables such as wind and solar located, for example, in the Mojave Desert.  Renewables bring about great environmental benefits but come with a new set of challenges because, unlike power plants which can be turned on and off as customer demand rises and falls, we no longer have control over when power is generated and sometimes we need power when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. One solution for this is to store power in large batteries (Battery Energy Storage Systems or BESS), which have the added benefit of being able to stabilize local power supply. We may even have one such installation coming here to Thousand Oaks. The least cost solution is when utilities can shift consumer demand to times when electricity supply is plentiful. This is implemented through a move to Time-Of-Use (TOU) rates (see our blog article) which provides pricing incentives for using power when it is more plentiful. Home battery systems, such as Tesla’s Powerwall, Sonnen’s Eco, and LG Chem’s RESU can store energy from your solar panels during the day and allows you to use it in the evening when you get home after work. This also allows you to take advantage of TOU rates as you can use your battery when rates are high. There is incentive funding from the CPUC if you are interested.

The best way to save energy and its associated cost is to employ energy efficiency. You can get a FREE no-obligation home energy audit that will identify ways you can save energy at home, and you can take advantage of some of the rebates that SCE offers by upgrading to energy efficient equipment such as  pool pumps, installing smart thermostats and purchasing electric vehicles. The City is looking at a number of potential strategies for reducing citywide energy use and carbon emissions, and is working with the County to develop a Community Energy Action Plan. Help us by taking our community energy survey.

Click here to visit the City's Energy page.

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