San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay switched to using only renewable and carbon free energy on Jan. 1.

Their new primary energy provider — Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) — is a not-for-profit organization that provides only renewable and carbon free energy to their customers, including Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz Counties.

“It aligns with our climate action goals really clearly with the opportunity for reinvestment in the community,” Council Member Andy Pease said at a celebration for the switch at City Hall on Jan. 9.

MBCP’s rate is 5 percent less than PG&E’s, which means the average residential customer should save $3 to $10 a month on their energy bill, according to MBCP Director of Communications and Energy Programs J.R Killigrew. However, PG&E still manages customer service and power lines, according to the MBCP website

Customers will still pay their energy bill through PG&E and contact PG&E for customer service.

“We are in partnership with PG&E, we are not in opposition,” Morro Bay City Manager Scott Collins said.

City of San Luis Obispo | Courtesy

Customers will receive their first energy bill including charges for MBCP services in February. Customers will still receive their bill from PG&E, but there will be a new line item on the bill stating how much MBCP charged to procure their electricity, according to the MBCP website

MBCP provides two enrollment options. The first is MB Choice, which San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay residents were automatically enrolled in. For this plan, 66 percent of the energy is generated by hydroelectric sources and 34 percent by renewable energy sources, which includes 12 percent geothermal sources, 11 percent solar sources, 11 percent wind sources and 0.3 percent biomass and biowaste sources, according to the MBCP website

Customers can choose to upgrade their plan to MB Prime, which costs one penny per kilowatt hour and is about $3 to $5 more a month than MB Choice.

The monthly bill for MB Choice is about the same price as the monthly bill for PG&E, according to Killigrew. Energy sourced for this plan is 100 percent renewable, as 50 percent of the energy is generated by solar power and 50 percent is generated by wind power, according to the MBCP website

Four percent of MBCP’s profits are channeled into energy programs, such as building electric vehicle charging stations, according to Killigrew.

“The goal of our CEO and our board is to one, reduce greenhouse gas emissions; two, provide stable and competitive rates and three, reinvest in the region through energy programs,” Killigrew said.

MBCP is “locally controlled,” as elected officials from cities and counties sit on the governing boards of the agency, according to the MBCP website

“I think something like a utility should be owned and regulated by the people, in my opinion, and take the investor out of it,” San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon said. “There’s a lot at stake. There’s people’s lives at stake, there’s the climate crisis itself at stake. There’s all of these things at stake, so I am grateful that we are taking that investor out of the thinking.” 

Harmon sits on the MBCP’s Policy Board.

“The other important thing is the choice [MBCP] provides our consumers,” Collins said. 

Though residents were automatically enrolled into MBCP, they can opt out of the agency and back into PG&E energy sources by early April without being charged any fees, according to Killigrew. Residents have the choice whether or not they want to receive energy from MBCP. 

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