On Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously approved the Santa Barbara Clean Energy Rate setting formula and authorized the city administrator to determine rates by application of the formulas.
Three distinct product options will be available to SBCE customers, defined by the amount of carbon-free energy content as established by the council, and price per kilowatt-hour.
The rate formulas are as follows: the default, SBCE 100% green, will use the formula of the SCE base rate plus $0.012/kWh; SBCE Green Start will match the SCE base rate; and the SBCE Resilient Net Surplus Compensation Rate will use the formula of $0.0663/kWh for excess solar generation.
For the default, the premium is largely related to the Power Cost Indifference Adjustment surcharges, which will diminish over time, according to city staff. The premium results in a bill increase of approximately 5 to 8% for residential customers, or $3 to $5 per month.
“It’s just so exciting to have local control, to be able to diversify how we’re procuring energy and where we’re getting that from, to really put high-level requirements on that energy that we’re procuring and to be doing right by our citizens and our residents in having renewable energy through every electrical socket that’s available,” Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon said. “When I tell people about this, they just can’t believe it, that without doing anything, just by turning their power on and plugging into their electrical outlets, that they’re going to be getting 100% renewable energy sources is just incredible.”
Councilman Eric Friedman said that he remembers back in 2006 when the first discussions of community choice energy came up.
“There were a lot of setbacks, but we kept moving the ball forward, and we now have our own program which is going to have all the benefits we’ve been discussing today, but also the ability to do our own local programming and invest in new jobs in a new sector to diversify our economy,” he said. “Here in the city of Santa Barbara, there are a lot of jobs in the green energy industry, so I’m just really glad this is moving forward.”
The revenue requirement accounts for power supply costs, administrative and operational costs, rate stability reserve requirements (25%) and customer programs offered by SBCE supporting energy and climate goals. The rates also support energy efficiency, reliability and resilience, along with the city’s carbon neutrality goal and energy and climate program overhead, according to city staff’s presentation.
The City Council also heard an update from city staff on the Sewer Lateral Inspection Program, detailing its improvements over the last two years that focused on improving customer services, developing effective public communication materials, offering incentive programs and providing individual assistance to property owners navigating the complex sewer lateral inspection and repair process. City staff highlighted the Forward Lateral web-based software that streamlines the SLIP review process between the city, plumbing contractor and property owner.
According to Hillary Hauser, the president and executive director of Heal the Ocean, her organization has been working on this SLIP program for “years and years.”
“I love the elements of this program that guarantee that the homeowner will have an oversight to their inspection and that there can’t be any (confusion) from plumbers saying you’ve got a problem when you don’t,” Ms. Hauser said during public comment.
Councilmembers echoed their support of the SLIP program, including Councilman Mike Jordan, who said the program is “leaps and leaps forward” from where it was.
“I just love that you’re able to — for the same amount or less money than you’re spending on something that’s not being as effective — take that same resource and leverage it with a third party company out there to make it broadly more effective,” he said. He added that he supports the competitive bid set up, saying, “If it’s not deeper than eight or 12 feet, it’s going to be $5,000 no matter what, which is way better than hearing from your neighbors that you paid more or they paid less.”
Ms. Sneddon spoke to the department’s “excellence in communication and outreach,” adding that the Water Resources Division successfully took the public input and responded to it.
She said of the SLIP program, “This has been really responsive in terms of people understanding, but also being able to prepare for the costs and having them be reliable and predictable.”