By: Michael Maresh
Imperial Valley Press
September 25, 2019
CALIPATRIA — The Imperial Irrigation District power purchase agreement and project with Citizens Energy Corp. for 30 megawatts of solar energy to further lower electrical bills for low-income customers was celebrated here Wednesday morning.
Standing against a backdrop of solar panels at the IID Midway substation former Congressman and Citizens Energy chairman and founder Joseph Kennedy II and IID Board President Erik Ortega did a symbolic flip of the switch for green electric power to start flowing from the panels.
The IID board in April approved a 23-year power purchase agreement with Citizens Energy Corp. for the 30 megawatts of solar energy. Ten of the 30 megawatts were given to IID at no cost to serve low-income customers. The other 20 megawatts will be purchased by IID at a competitive wholesale rate.
Ortega called the program unique.
Customers already in the Residential Energy Assistance Program Program will save $334 a year in electrical bills, while seniors in the program will save $468 a year. What is unique is that the solar panels are at the Midway substation near Calipatria, not on top of a home.
About 12,000 low-income residents will have lower electrical bills, and Ortega said he thinks thousands more will be entering the program to receive the savings.
He said the solar panels will add to IID’s energy portfolio.
“It could be a benefit to our low-end customer,” he said.
He also said the construction part of the project resulted in 280 good-paying but temporary jobs.
Ortega thanked Citizens Energy for working with the district on renewable energy and said he hopes the two energy providers can work together on other projects in the future.
Kennedy, the oldest son of former attorney general and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of President John F. Kennedy, said the renewal energy program is not designed to earn a profit.
“One hundred percent of the money we make (on this) will go back to the poor,” Kennedy said.
“We have one America, and every American has the same right,” he said. “We should never take a backseat or allow anyone to be taken into the backseat for the color of his skin.” Kennedy also thanked IID for working together with Citizens and said he hopes this is just a “pit stop” where they can work together again.
IID customer Pauline Price said it is not uncommon for customers to look at their income versus their bills and struggle to find a way to make do.
Drew Bohan, executive director of the California Energy Commission, said California is taking the lead of using renewable resources at 34 percent.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law that renewable resources will provide 60 percent of California’s electrical power by 2030 and 100 percent by 2045. “This type of project helps this,” he said.
Sen. Jeff Stone, R-La Quinta, said he is very proud to be part of a legislature that can push bills for renewable energy. He added that he was born in Los Angeles, so he understands the smog that affects this larger city.
“I want to thank the Kennedy family for all of this,” he said, adding that his home is completely solar-powered, and he also owns three electric cars. “We are just setting an example for the rest of the country,” Stone said. “The rest of the country should emulate and follow.”
Imperial County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ryan Kelley said he is glad the board saw this as a need when the permitting process came to them. “I am happy we have this project,” Kelley said. “It will have everlasting impacts.”