Long Valley Caldera | Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Long Valley Caldera east of Mammoth Mountain will be among the sources of electrical power for Santa Barbara County after the transition to Central Coast Community Energy (CCCE) takes place in October. The new energy provider has been blanketing the unincorporated South County and the cities of Goleta and Carpinteria to announce its arrival. The consortium already serves 395,000 customers in the counties of Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and northern Santa Barbara and is moving rapidly toward buying its power only from clean, renewable sources by 2030.

The Mammoth agreement reached in May with Ormat Technologies, which is building a 30-megawatt geothermal project called Casa Diablo-IV to tap the heat generated by the magma deep beneath the Long Valley region, is one of the ways energy providers like CCCE achieve greenhouse-gas reductions and also encourage industries and jobs in the renewable energy field. CCCE currently buys electricity from solar, geothermal, and storage sources — its first storage project holds 60 megawatts from a solar array in south Monterey County — and the group is contracting for the power to come from wind energy off Morro Bay. The result has been a 60 percent pull from clean energy sources now, well ahead of CCCE’s 2025 goal.

The anticipated shutdown of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant requires all power providers to add 2,200 megawatts of energy, said CCCE spokesperson Shelly Whitworth. The 24 Community Choice Energy agencies in California have nearly 6 gigawatts from renewables in their combined pipelines, she said, the equivalent of three Diablos.

For consumers, they’ll get one energy bill, from either PG&E or SoCal Edison, which will continue to charge a fee for the use of their transmission lines; CCCE will charge for the electricity, a cost that had averaged about 2 percent less across the board, Whitworth noted. Such is the rate of return, however, that the group was able to drop its charges by half in May and June 2020 to ease the economic pain brought on by the pandemic — a savings of $22 million for customers.

Since forming in 2018 under the name Monterey Bay Community Power, CCCE has invested another $27.5 million in rebates and incentives to ratepayers — both commercial and household — for electric vehicles, electric-vehicle charging stations, zero-emission school buses, agricultural equipment powered by electricity, and other projects. It has earmarked $12 million in equivalent projects for the next year, plus $19 million for charging stations.

Several online webinars will explain more about the energy provider and its programs, and the choice to opt out. A Spanish-language seminar takes place on Thursday, September 9, at 6 p.m., and one in English on Tuesday, September 14, at 6 p.m. A seminar for commercial and agricultural customers will be held November 9 at noon. Register at 3cenergy.org/2021-enrollment.

The City of Santa Barbara is among the energy purchasers operating a solo clean-energy program, which also begins in October. It includes several energy-purchase options; for more visit sustainability.santabarbaraca.gov/energy or call (805) 897-1979.


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