A group of California community choice aggregators—Central Coast Community Energy, East Bay Community Energy, MCE and Silicon Valley Clean Energy—formed a new joint-powers agency focused on power-purchase financing. The California Community Choice Financing Authority has a goal of reducing power purchase costs by 10 percent or more "through a prepayment structure," the four CCAs said in a July 29 news release. The financing or re-financing of the prepayments is made possible with tax-advantaged bonds, an approach used for roughly three decades in the United States for natural gas transactions. "The prepay structure enables publicly owned utilities, including CCAs, to effectively leverage the difference between tax-exempt and taxable debt rates to fund the reduction in the cost of power purchases," the CCAs said. The approach lowers costs and frees up funding for local energy programs. The CCA can also retain the associated attributes. The founding organizations said membership in the newly formed JPA is open to any CCA wishing to use the organization for prepayment transactions.
Longroad Energy, a U.S.-based renewable-energy developer, owner and operator, on July 20 secured the financing for its Sun Streams 2 project, a 200-MW-DC solar project to be located in Maricopa County, Arizona. The company has a 20-year revenue agreement with Microsoft Corp. for the energy, renewable-energy credits and capacity of the full project, which will be used for operation of the West U.S. 3 data center. The companies collaborating on the financing include CIBC, Silicon Valley Bank, Helaba and PNC Bank. Longroad purchased the Sun Streams 2, 4 and 5 projects, which have a combined capacity of roughly 900 MW DC plus potential for 1 to 2 GWh of battery storage, in February. At that time, there was a contract in place for Sun Streams 2; however, the company did not elaborate or identify the offtaker (see CEM No. 1629). Longroad Energy Holdings owns 1.6 GW of operational and under-construction wind and solar projects in the U.S. These, plus another 2 GW of third-party wind and solar, are operated and managed by its affiliate, Longroad Energy Services.
Microsoft on July 14 said it is now committed to a plan it calls 100/100/0. Lucas Joppa, the company's chief environmental officer, and Noelle Walsh, corporate vice president of cloud operations and innovation, explained in a blog post that although net-zero is a laudable goal, "this only happens if the electrons supplying the electricity are generated from zero carbon energy sources (wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, or point-source carbon capture and sequestration) and then stored and transported to where they are needed. Unfortunately, this is not the way the world's grids are set up." Microsoft aims to work toward a global goal in which 100 percent of electrons, 100 percent of the time, are generated from zero carbon sources, the executives said: "We call this a vision because we alone can't control the outcome." The company has signed more than 35 renewables contracts in the past year, and now has 7.8 GW of operating and contracted renewable-energy projects.
The Santa Barbara City Council on July 20 voted unanimously to introduce an ordinance prohibiting natural gas in all new construction in the city. The ordinance passed as a consent-calendar item at the council's July 27 meeting. It includes several rationales for the decision, including rising sea levels that "threaten the City's shoreline and infrastructure, have caused significant erosion, have increased impacts to infrastructure during extreme tides, and have caused the City to expend funds to modify the sewer system." The ordinance aligns with three of the city's planning documents, including its Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan. Additionally, vulnerability to wildfires and the health and safety of residents were mentioned. The ordinance will apply to all new building construction, but does not apply to portable propane devices used for outdoor cooking and heating.
Central Coast Community Energy on July 27 launched a second vehicle-purchase incentive program for public schools and school districts in its service area. The community choice aggregator allocated $2.2 million in incentives to fund up to $200,000—roughly half the cost of a busfor each electric school bus purchased. It is underwriting at least 11 school buses with this tranche of funding, which will increase the number of buses it has partially funded to 17. CCCE said it intends to prioritize disadvantaged and low-income communities for the program. Additional incentives are available through the San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District, which would mean almost all of an electric school bus for a grant applicant in those counties could be paid for. The CCA also provides rebates for electric-vehicle charging stations and associated electrical work under its Charge Your Ride program. Public agencies and income-qualified sites, such as low-income multi-unit dwellings, can receive the largest rebate, up to $10,000 or up to 100 percent of the project cost. Funding for the Charge Your Ride program is available through Sept. 30. Subsidies under the Electric School Bus Program are available until the funds are depleted.
Hyundai Motor Co. has announced a deployment plan for its newest hydrogen fuel-cell electric heavy-duty truck model in California via two publicly funded projects to improve regional air quality. Thirty of the company's XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks, the first hydrogen-powered, mass-produced heavy-duty truck on the market, will be on the road beginning in the second quarter of 2023 as part of Hyundai's NorCal ZERO project, supported by nearly $30 million in grants from the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission. Additional grants for the program come from the Alameda County Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.