MCE receives $158M grant to help fund low-cost all-electric upgrades for power customers

San Rafael-based MCE (Marin Clean Energy) received a $158 million grant from the California Public Utilities Commission this fall that will help fund low- and no-cost all-electric upgrades to more than 3,600 low-and middle-income households.

The utility also received a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy in November to work with 30 local partners in its service area (Contra Costa, Marin, Napa and Solano counties) to develop a transportation strategy. It would include the expansion of EV charging and clean mobility in underserved communities with options such as car sharing, e-bikes and scooters.

“Over the past decade we’ve seen tremendous progress in helping residents and businesses make critical upgrades to save energy and reduce costs in response to a major need in the region,“ MCE’s CEO Dawn Weisz said.

She noted the funding nearly doubles MCE’s efficiency budget while benefiting customers, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and helping support a reliable power grid producing 100% renewable power at stable rates. MCE will do this by delivering a 1,200 MW peak load, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reinvesting millions in local programs.

CPUC grant funds will also be used to support upgrades for those living in affordable single and multi-family properties and small businesses in underserved communities, according to MCE.

This grant increases electrification rebates and investments for home and businesses nearly five times beginning in 2024, MCE said, by paying commercial, industrial, agricultural, municipal and multi-family customers for reducing their energy use.

New solar-battery backup project

MCE officially engaged is first utility-scale, solar-plus-storage project in October by purchasing power from the Clearway’s Daggett 3 energy hybrid facility in San Bernardino County. With its multiple energy partners, it began operating in August as one of the largest hybrid power facilities in the U.S. and the biggest in California.

Weisz said that the more MCE can couple solar with battery storage, the more renewable energy can be harnessed to maintain and ensure the continuity of clean energy during emergencies or natural disasters when power might be unavailable from other providers.

The Daggett 3 complex generates enough power for 181,000 homes. This project will store and deploy solar power when needed to ensure a reliable energy supply.

Based on the agreement between MCE and the Clearway Energy Group, some 75,000 MCE Bay Area customer homes can be served by this facility. Power will be delivered through PG&E’s transmission lines to Northern California.

Other energy customers Clearway is contracting with for the hybrid project include: Clean Power Alliance, Constellation, East Bay Community Energy, Pacific Gas and Electric Company and Southern California Public Power.

Clearway CEO Craig Cornelius said, “the Daggett 3 project embodies the path we’re on to California’s energy future. This project brought a billion-dollar investment to an energy transition community and will provide clean, reliable and low-cost power to California homes and businesses for years to come.”

MCE plans to add a second solar-plus-storage project to its portfolio with Clearways Golden Fields project in Kern County California in 2025.

Greenhouse gas-free milestone

In a separate announcement, MCE reported achieving 95% of its greenhouse gas-free goal in 2022, a year earlier than planned, and 18 years ahead of California’s clean electricity targets, through the company’s standard 60% renewable Light Green energy service.

MCE Board Director David Murphy said, “We are working as fast as we can to build an electricity supply that is free of polluting fossil fuels. Since launching, we’ve committed over $3 billion to the development of new regional renewables, including solar and wind.”

He said with MCE’s greener options and community-choice model, “the company’s investments are paying dividends – not just for shareholders, but for our communities and the planet.”

Green hydrogen storage

The company is exploring other non-fossil fuel options such as green hydrogen — a fuel created through renewable energy technologies. Electrolysis powered by solar makes this process carbon-free by splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, capturing and storing the hydrogen for use as a fuel.

“Long duration energy storage is crucial,” according to Janice Lin, president of the Green Hydrogen Coalition and founder/CEO of Strategen Consulting. “Green hydrogen has the potential to play a key role in grid stabilization due to its unique capacity to store carbon-free energy for extended periods of time.’

MCE expects to reduce an estimated 148,000-megawatt hours of energy consumption – equivalent to taking 23,340 gas-powered cars off the road – while also providing roughly $148 million in benefits through 2031

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