community energy

Three Bay Area Community Choice Energy providers have reached agreement with San Francisco-based Sunrun to install up to roughly 20MW of emission-free solar and battery backup power to 6,000 households vulnerable to emergency power shutoffs during wildfire season.  

East Bay Community Energy (EBCE), Peninsula Clean Energy and Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) have agreed with Sunrun to increase renewable power, reduce overall peak demand and improve grid reliability by putting this increased capacity online on a rolling basis from 2020 through 2022.

All three agencies have carve outs in their contracts for low-income customers, disadvantaged communities and vulnerable residents in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, including those hit by last year’s PG&E emergency power shutoffs.

“Last fall’s power shut-offs were not just an inconvenience or financial hit to residents due to losing perishable groceries in the fridge. They were devastating to vulnerable residents among us who depend on electricity for their well-being,” EBCE CEO Nick Chaset said. “With this program, EBCE is paying an incentive to deploy energy storage systems that benefit our regional energy grid, while also providing the direct benefit of backup power for homes.”

“The wildfires that disrupted our power and lives last fall have given us an opportunity to find ways to better protect our most vulnerable customers from losing essential supplies and comfort during emergency outages. By partnering with Sunrun and our local non-profit agencies, we can identify those customers who can benefit the most from this program,” Peninsula Clean Energy CEO Jan Pepper said. “This innovative approach and partnership also establish a new model for a cleaner and more reliable electricity grid for all our residents.”

“In addition to providing needed resiliency to the members of our community most impacted by power shutoffs, this program is instrumental in shifting away from a centralized, fossil fuel-based grid to one that is distributed, decentralized and decarbonized,” SVCE CEO Girish Balachandran said. “Historically, reliability is provided by centralized gas plants. We are at a pivotal moment where it has tipped toward battery storage systems and local resources.”

“Sunrun’s Brightbox rechargeable solar battery system can help families power through blackouts and better manage energy costs when they need it most,” said Lynn Jurich, Sunrun co-founder and CEO. “We’re excited to partner with these innovative energy providers to begin paving the way towards a cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy system.”

In addition to providing reliable backup power, solar-powered home batteries can save all energy consumers money by helping to displace the need for costly transmission infrastructure. This technology will also support the move to a more electrified energy and transportation system, including the increased adoption of electric vehicles and less reliance on fossil fuel-powered home appliances.

The contracts are part of a joint solicitation last November from the three Community Choice Energy providers and Santa Clara municipal utility Silicon Valley Power that was issued shortly after emergency power shutoffs last fall affected hundreds of thousands of customers in the Bay Area.

By reducing peak power demand, these innovative contracts will effectively enable the use of local resources to help fulfill state “Resource Adequacy” requirements, which refer to energy generating capacity that local agencies and utilities must contract to ensure the safe and reliable operation of California’s electrical grid in real time. This requirement has historically been filled through purchasing Resource Adequacy from distant power plants. These contracts will shift the purchase of Resource Adequacy to new local solar power and battery storage systems that provide the benefits of backup power directly to local homes and businesses.