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March 28, 2023

San Juan’s Freeman joins Monterey Bay Community Power board

San Juan Bautista City Councilman John Freeman was recently appointed to the Policy Board for Monterey Bay Community Power.

John Freeman

The community choice aggregator offers an alternative to Pacific Gas & Electric for “locally controlled, carbon-free electricity.” The cities of Hollister and San Juan Bautista share a seat on the board for the energy provider serving San Benito, Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Freeman succeeded former Hollister Councilman Ray Friend, whose term was set to end soon, and caught up with San Benito Live about the role.

Since Freeman had been set to join the board in January, Monterey Bay Community Power came up with the idea of appointing him now instead of adding someone in the short term from Hollister.

“So everybody agreed it’s just easier for me to step in a couple months earlier,” Freeman said.

Freeman noted how there are 17 community choice aggregators in Northern California that offer clean-source energy at a comparable rate to PG&E. Monterey Bay Community Power started serving local customers this year.

“It’s no longer unusual or weird,” Freeman said. “It’s almost the norm now. You have to go to the Central Valley to avoid one.”

He said the nonprofit public agency buys the power on an open market.

“We just limit our power purchases to people that don’t burn fossil fuels,” he said.

Each local community voted whether to join the group, while jurisdictions had the option to opt out. Two communities in the region did so — Del Rey Oaks and King City.

Freeman said there are “quite a few” advantages to the power provider, such as a 3 percent discount consumers sees twice a year and knowing that the electricity isn’t harming the environment as much as power from fossil-fuel sources.

He said it’s a misnomer that the provider costs more than PG&E. He said it can be confusing, but that Monterey Bay Community Power offers a three-page paper explaining it all in detail. A disadvantage right now, he said, is that PG&E doesn’t let Monterey Bay Community Power put any of the public agency’s information into its bills.

Since it is a nonprofit, Monterey Bay Community Power puts all additional revenues after costs into rebates or toward local power projects, as stated in its charter.

“In that way, it’s really good,” he said. “PG&E is kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place right now on electrical stuff,” he said, noting how the company doesn’t have many electrical customers left other than those in the Central Valley.

He added how there’s “better money” for PG&E in the gas business and noted how the “dirty, little secret” is that alternative energy is “way cheaper” than natural gas or coal.

He finds it “really interesting” that the concept hasn’t caught on in Southern California, where large power companies still dominate those markets. That’s not the case in Northern California, though.

“It’s going really well,” he said. “They’re already bringing in lots of money, and we’re planning the future projects.”

For more on Monterey Bay Community Power: https://www.mbcommunitypower.org/

-Kollin Kosmicki