Frequently Asked Questions
Desert Community Energy, or DCE, offers ratepayers a choice in electricity providers and in the type of electricity they use. DCE was formed by the cities of Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Cathedral City and is a community choice aggregator (CCA) as certified by the California Public Utilities Commission. Its purpose is to provide residents and businesses with cleaner, competitively priced electricity while retaining local control, reinvesting revenues and encouraging local job creation, and helping participating cities meet their climate action goals.
Community Choice Energy (CCE), is a statewide local energy program that allows cities and counties to pool (or aggregate) the electricity demand of participating communities to increase local control over electric power sources and generation rates. Often called Community Choice Aggregation, a CCA buys and/or develops power resources on behalf of the electricity customers in its jurisdiction in order to control costs, offer more renewable energy options and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Southern California Edison, the local Investor Owned Utility, will continue to offer all other electricity-related services to DCE customers such as billing, electricity delivery, and repairs.
Briefly stated, DCE will purchase cleaner electricity on behalf of its customers and feed it into the grid; Southern California Edison (SCE) will deliver it, maintain the grid, service accounts, and provide customer service and billing. Electric generation revenues of the program will remain in DCE’s control for reinvestment back into the community. Unlike SCE, DCE does not have shareholders to pay.
SCE customers who are within DCE’s service territory are automatically enrolled into DCE due to California’s Community Choice law, Assembly Bill 117, which permits Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs such as DCE to become the default provider of electric generation for customers within the community’s service area. According to state law, CCAs operate as an “opt out” program. This means that customers within the jurisdiction are automatically enrolled unless they opt out of the program. If you are interested in additional information regarding AB 117, please click here.
Residential, commercial and municipal electricity customers will be automatically enrolled in DCE when the program launches in their city, bypassing the inconvenience of an application process. Customers always have the choice of opting out and remaining with SCE’s bundled electric service. DCE service launched in Palm Springs in April of 2020.
No, DCE works in partnership with SCE. DCE will purchase your electricity while SCE will continue to deliver that power, maintain the poles and wires, maintain the grid and handle billing and repairs. There will be no duplicated charges and customers will pay their bills through SCE as they always have.
There are a number of CCA programs currently operating throughout the state, and dozens of others in formation. These CCAs focus on benefits such as:
- Introducing competition into the energy market, which helps drive costs down, diversify power choices and stimulate new investments in renewable energy and technology.
- Offering local control, providing customers and municipalities a choice regarding their electricity supply.
- Investing revenues locally, creating jobs and encouraging local energy investments.
- Increasing the amount of electricity from non-polluting renewable and carbon-free sources including wind, solar and geothermal energy. In the Coachella Valley, a CCA offers a way to advance local renewable energy resources and help meet statewide goals for greenhouse gas reduction.
- Offering a “default” option that is cheaper than the incumbent utility, as well as a voluntary, 100% renewable or 100% carbon-free energy option, usually offered at an additional cost.
First, there’s the potential for customer rate savings and revenues that are reinvested into our own communities, rather than paying SCE shareholders. In addition, DCE can accelerate the development of local renewable energy projects and facilitate other energy innovations such as community solar, energy efficiency retrofits, battery storage and electric vehicle charging stations, to name just a few. This translates into the potential for new local services and community benefits as well as significant job creation, both locally and regionally. It should be noted that renewable energy facilities are creating many more jobs today than traditional natural gas and coal plants.
There are many CCA programs currently operating in California and more on the way. CCAs started in Northern California but many Southern California cities and counties are now at various stages of CCA implementation. The State of California estimates that at least 80% of Invester Owned Utility customers will be served by other power providers like CCAs in the next five to ten years. CCA programs throughout the state are also procuring and co-developing in-state and local renewable resources and offering specialized energy programs designed for their local communities.
No. DCE and SCE work together to ensure the program launch is seamless to all ratepayers.
Mobile Home and Manufactured Home parks can participate in DCE, just like any other resident, as long as the residents in that community have an account with SCE. If the community is master metered with no sub meters, it would be up to the master meter’s account holder to determine if they opt down or opt out of DCE.
Desert Community Energy’s premium product, Carbon Free, is 50% renewable and 100% carbon-free. Our standard product, Desert Saver, is 35% renewable, and will be offered at competitive rates with Southern California Edison’s standard service.
Carbon free, or “clean” energy, creates little or no greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast, fossil fuels (such as oil, natural gas, and coal) produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane. Examples of carbon free energy include solar, wind, hydropower and nuclear power. DCE has gone one step further and opted to exclude all nuclear power from its purchasing.
DCE’s default product, Desert Saver, is 35% renewable. DCE’s premium product, Carbon Free, is 50% renewable and 100% carbon-free.
DCE ratepayers can choose to purchase electricity resources that are cleaner and carbon-free, compared to electricity that currently contains high percentages of non-renewable fossil fuels. The production and burning of fossil fuel-based energy sources, such as oil, coal and natural gas, releases large amounts of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gas emissions are a leading cause of climate change and unhealthy air quality. By substantially changing the type of energy fed into the grid on behalf of its customers, DCE will make a significant and rapid impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving environmental quality, as existing CCAs have already been doing in the state.
Desert Community Energy is committed to securing renewable and carbon free energy sources as part of a portfolio of resources to serve our customers. Renewable energy is carbon free energy that comes from resources that are naturally replenished such as solar, wind and geothermal. Energy produced by large hydroelectric generating plants is also carbon free but is not formally designated as renewable energy.
Desert Community Energy has contracted with a non-profit industry specialist to build its generation portfolio and to negotiate short- and long-term contracts with a variety of power suppliers to meet the energy needs of our community. Generation will be sourced from projects located in California, as well as other points in the western grid. In time, DCE also expects to add renewable generation sourced locally to meet the needs of our customers. The exact proportion of each will vary with time, based on demand and availability.
DCE will provide detailed information to its customers about its power supply resources in its annual Power Source Disclosure statement.
Unlike SCE, Desert Community Energy will never contract for nuclear energy.
It turns out all electricity is clean. It’s the generating sources that can pollute.
Whether electricity was made from natural gas or solar, by the time the electricity is in your wires, it is all exactly the same. There is no need (or way) to track which electricity you use. Instead, we track which generators put electricity on to the grid for you, because that is where the impacts are.
With Desert Community Energy, we get to choose how our electricity is created, and some sources, like solar, wind and hydro, are much cleaner than others.
Desert Community Energy began service in Palm Springs in April 2020. Palm Desert is considering launching service in 2021.
There will be NO change in your service and NO service interruption. Your electricity account will remain with Southern California Edison (SCE). Even if you’ve already opted to another DCE plan or opted out, there’s no need to do a thing. If you’ve been participating in any of SCE’s special programs, you will remain enrolled in them without change.
The operational CCA programs across California already have a reserve fund built up that can be utilized to manage market shifts.
Desert Community Energy will mail two notices to all customers prior to launching service as required by law, and two notices after service has launched. We will also continue to keep customers updated through social media and this website, and our new Community Advisory Committee will work with us on additional outreach and education. Customers may also call the toll-free number (855-357-9240) or email us at CustomerService@DesertCommunityEnergy.org.
RATES & BILLING
The DCE Board of Directors will set electric generation rates for its customers after they are carefully developed, discussed, evaluated and approved at public meetings. The DCE Board will adjust rates once per year at an open public meeting—less frequently than most IOUs—offering a greater measure of rate stability compared to IOUs. Because publicly managed CCAs are not-for-profit agencies, they are able to maintain lower costs because they don’t pay shareholder dividends, investor returns, high corporate salaries or income taxes like commercial services or investor-owned utilities. To help customers with an easy rate comparison, DCE plans to follow the rate classes used by Southern California Edison.
DCE’s default electric generation rates in 2020 will be competitive with SCE’s rates. Its 100% carbon-free product will be offered at a premium and will be the best option for the environment. These rates will be re-evaluated each year by the DCE Board of Directors.
Customers who receive a special rate from Southern California Edison will be transferred to DCE service with no changes to their special or optional rates, in most cases. Their accounts automatically remain with these programs (e.g CARE, Family Electric Rate Assistance (FERA)) and they do not have to reapply.
No. You’ll still receive a single bill from Southern California Edison, which will include an electricity generation charge from DCE, along with a credit for the generation SCE is no longer providing. There will be no duplicate charges. SCE will continue charging for delivery, transmission, maintenance and customer service as they always have.
There are no hidden costs or fees, and no duplicate costs for DCE customers. When you are enrolled, the electric generation fee you had previously paid to Southern California Edison will instead by charged by DCE. By law, SCE’s other services to you must remain exactly the same as for all other bundled customers.
It is important to note that customers who switch from Southern California Edison to DCE will have a Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA) fee, sometimes referred to as an “exit fee” on their bill. The PCIA fee is included in our rates and cost comparisons with Southern California Edison so that DCE’s Carbon Free plan is competitive with SCE’s green rate and our Desert Saver plan is less than SCE’s base rate.
The PCIA, sometimes referred to as an “exit fee”, is a cost charged to all Southern California Edison (SCE) customers that switch to a CCA such as Desert Community Energy. It represents the costs SCE bears for the power that has been purchased on your behalf in contracts that into future years. The PCIA fee varies by customer class and is based on the amount of kilowatt hours (kWh) used. When you become a DCE customer, the PCIA fee is listed as a separate line item on your bill. The PCIA and other surcharges are always included in our rates cost comparisons with SCE.
There are other various non-bypassable departing load charges and what are referred to as “public purpose” charges that all customers must pay. These include the Department of Water Resources (DWR) bond charge, Competition Transition Charge (CTC), Cost Allocation Mechanism (CAM) Charge, Nuclear Decommissioning (ND) Charge, and Public Purpose Program (PPP) Charge.
Visit our Understanding Your Bill page to learn more.
The Generation Municipal Surcharge (GMS) is a recurring surcharge applied to all DCE customers and is comprised of franchise fees collected by Southern California Edison. DCE includes the GMS and PCIA fees in its advertised rates and cost comparisons with SCE. Visit our Understanding Your Bill page to learn more.
The Utility User Tax (UUT) is a 5% tax imposed by the City of Palm Springs on the delivery and generation of your electricity bill. SCE and DCE collect the UUT and pay it directly to the City on a monthly basis. The UUT is pre-existent charge that was approved by Palm Springs voters. Visit our Understanding Your Bill page to learn more.
No. By law, SCE must provide the same rates and level of service for all customers in their service area, whether or not they receive electricity generation from DCE.
If you have questions about the DCE portion of your bill, you can always visit our website at DesertCommunityEnergy.org, or call us at (855) 357-9240 (toll free). If your question is about Southern California Edison’s services, please call SCE at (800) 655-4555.
As part of Desert Community Energy’s (DCE) commitment to saving the planet, the City of Palm Springs has chosen the Carbon Free plan as their default option. This will provide 100% carbon-free energy to the City of Palm Springs. In doing so, this will give residents and businesses within the City the opportunity to lead the way to a greener future for generations to come.
Existing CARE, FERA, and Medical Baseline Allowance program customers will automatically be enrolled in the Carbon Free plan as well so they, too, can help save the planet. The good news is CARE customers will be billed at the lower Desert Saver rate, so they will see a savings in their bill. CARE, FERA, and Medical Baseline customers will be able to fight climate change alongside other residents without having to pay more.
DCE customers not currently participating in one of these financial assistance programs, may apply through Southern California Edison (SCE) by visiting our Financial Assistance page by clicking here.
SCE has a special application (DMS application) for customers living in a master metered community where they have have a submeter and pay their bill to the owner of the development/mobile home park. The application contains a section for the manager/landlord information. The landlord is responsible to ensure the discount is passed thru to the customer. This application needs to be submitted/processed manually, our sce.com does not currently support the on-line enrollment.
Below are links where you can find information on sub metered tenants and download the application for sub metered accounts.
https://www.sce.com/tl/residential/assistance/care-fera (look for “sub metered tenants” section around the bottom of the page)
https://www.sce.com/sites/default/files/inline-files/14-783%20Rev%20619_SubMetered%20Tenants_0.pdf (separate DMS application containing landlord information)
Customers living in a master metered community where they don’t have a submeter and pay their bill to the owner of the development/mobile home park, per the tariff, these DM accounts (master no-sub) are not eligible for CARE. One of the main reasons DM accounts are not eligible for CARE is that there is no way to separate a CARE customer’s usage, from non-CARE, without submeters.
Yes. Your subscription to OhmConnect will not be affected once you are enrolled with Desert Community Energy.
ENROLL / OPT OUT
Community Choice Aggregation programs are authorized by California Assembly Bill 117, which requires automatic customer enrollment with an option for customers to opt out. This alleviates a burdensome enrollment process for all customers in the CCA’s service area. Customers have a choice to return to Southern California Edison’s bundled service, if they prefer, with a single phone call or click online. The choice is yours.
There is no fee for opting out of DCE, either before service begins or within the first 60 days of service. Desert Community Energy does not charge a fee to opt out at any time.
Customers always have the power to choose whether to stay with DCE or to opt out and return to bundled service with SCE. Prior to launching in your city, state law requires that DCE send a total of four notices to customers: two initial notices within the Initial 60 days prior to commencement of CCA service, and two notices during the 60-day Follow-Up period after commencement of CCA service. How quickly you as a customer can opt out and return to SCE can vary depending on the timing of your request within the Initial and Follow-Up notification periods.
In Palm Springs, DCE began serving customers in April and May 2020. Palm Springs customers that opt out of DCE service after the Follow-Up Notification Period (in approximately June/July) are required to submit a six-month advance notice to SCE and during that period can continue with DCE service or be placed on SCE’s transitional rate.
If you do opt out, SCE will require you to remain on the Transitional Bundled Service for a minimum of 12 months, and your service will not be eligible to return to Direct Access service or CCA service until that 12-month commitment has been fulfilled.
SCE requires customers who opt out and return to their bundled service to be billed according to their transitional rates, based on energy market prices and other conditions. For more information on SCE’s terms and conditions of service, click here.
Accounts will be transferred on the day the electric meter is read and cannot be transferred during the middle of a billing cycle. Opt out requests received at least 5 days prior to a customer’s meter read date will be processed for that meter read date; all other opt out requests will be processed on the next meter read date. Customers who opt out or otherwise stop receiving service from DCE will be charged for all electricity used before ending DCE electric service.
Customers have 3 businesses days to rescind their opt-out. After 3 business days from opting out of DCE, customers are locked into SCE’s transitional rate.
To opt out, please call (855) 357-9240 or visit DesertCommunityEnergy.org. Have your electric bill handy so that we can help you.
With DCE, you can opt down to Desert Saver, or opt up to 100% Carbon Free as many times as you would like. The choice is yours. There are no limitations, nor will any fees be charged. Your opt action will take place as of your next meter read date. For example, if you opt down to Desert Saver on 6/1/20, your next meter read date is 6/20/20, you will be billed on Carbon Free from 5/20-6/20 and Desert Saver will be active as of 6/20/20.
SOLAR / NEM
DCE customers with solar panels can participate in our Net Energy Metering (NEM) program, which offers the same rates for your excess energy production as SCE for net surplus generation. Intra-month generation is valued at DCE’s applicable rate. If you are already a NEM customer with SCE, you don’t have to do anything. Your account will automatically be enrolled in DCE in May 2020. Credits for surplus electricity earned under SCE’s NEM program prior to May 2020 will be trued up and paid by SCE following enrollment into DCE’s NEM program.
As part of DCE’s NEM program, your system’s energy production will be monitored monthly. If you produce excess energy, you will receive a credit on your bill that can be applied to charges in future months. If you use more energy than your system produces in a given month, you will be charged for the energy you draw from the grid. In Palm Springs, you also have the option of our Carbon Free plan to receive 100% carbon-neutral electricity and further reduce your carbon footprint.
Yes. DCE believes in a greener future and supports customers who already have or wish to have solar installed on their homes or businesses. DCE customers with solar panels can participate in our NEM program. DCE will purchase the excess energy you produce at the same rate as SCE.
If you are already a solar customer with SCE, you do not have to do anything. Your account will be automatically enrolled in DCE’s NEM program in May 2020. As part of DCE’s NEM program, your system’s energy production will be monitored monthly. If you produce excess energy, you will receive a credit on your bill that can be applied to charges in future months. If you use more energy than your system produces in a given month, you will be charged for the energy you draw from the grid. In Palm Springs, you will be automatically enrolled in DCE's Carbon Free plan for energy drawn from the grid. DCE’s Carbon Free plan is competitive with SCE’s green rate. If a reduction in carbon emissions is not your priority, and you would like to prioritize reducing the overall cost of your electricity, you can choose to opt down to our Desert Saver plan that is less than SCE's base rate. Customers who switch to our Desert Saver pay less on their electricity generation when compared to Southern California Edison (SCE).
Credits for surplus electricity earned under SCE’s NEM program prior to May 2020 will be trued up and paid by SCE following enrollment into DCE’s NEM program.
Yes, you are still able to offset your charges with excess generated energy. At the end of your relevant period (May 2021 for most DCE NEM customers), you will either receive a check or a bill, and if you are a net consumer for that year, you will only receive one bill for energy consumption annually. If you are a net generator, DCE will compensate you for your Net Surplus Generation at the same rate as SCE. This allows you a full 12 months to net out any generation charges.
If you need energy beyond what your system produces, DCE will still provide energy. The City of Palm Springs has prioritized reducing greenhouse (GHG) emissions and chosen to have DCE automatically enroll every customer into DCE’s Carbon Free plan. You can stay green and make a bigger impact on the environment by remaining in DCE’s Carbon Free plan that is competitive with SCE's green rate. You also have the choice to purchase energy at a lower cost than what you now pay SCE with our Desert Saver plan. To opt down to Desert Saver, visit DesertCommunityEnergy.org or call toll free (855) 357-9240 Monday through Friday between 8 A.M. and 5 P.M. PST. It only takes a few minutes to opt down and save!
DCE’s Net Surplus Compensation Rate (NSCR) is the same as SCE’s and typically is only adjusted by the DCE board when annual rates are set. Customers will receive advanced notice of rate changes and be able to provide input at DCE board meetings.
A relevant period refers to the twelve month billing period, in which NEM credits and charges are tracked. Desert Community Energy will reconcile any and all credits and charges for each customer on an annual basis each May, rather than on a unique date for each customer.
The most opportune month to launch the NEM program for the majority of NEM customers would be the end of May. We consulted with local solar experts and discovered that this is typically the time that most customers would have saved up the most solar credits through the spring before using them to offset the higher usage in summer months. Therefore, the end of May represents the time period when your balance should be the lowest.
Automatic enrollment into DCE’s NEM program will not affect NEM 1.0 customers’ status. Desert Community Energy will honor SCE’s NEM 1.0 and 2.0 status for those customers already grandfathered in at that status, and the time-of-use periods you have with SCE will remain the same. However, should a NEM customer decide to opt-out of DCE outside of the 60-day post enrollment window to go back to SCE, they will be enrolled in SCE’s most recent NEM status.The 60-day post enrollment period begins on the customer’s meter read date in May. NEM 1.0 and 2.0 customers that opt out of DCE prior to the 60-day post enrollment window will retain their NEM 1.0 or 2.0 status when they return, and their original relevant period will be restored.
Your licensed solar company should be able to help you start the process to convert to solar. Once you’ve completed the SCE NEM enrollment process, you will automatically be enrolled in DCE’s NEM program if you are an eligible DCE customer.
For additional questions about NEM, getting started with solar, and your service, please visit our NEM page at https://desertcommunityenergy.org/your-options/net-energy-metering/ or please feel free to call us at (855) 357-9240 Monday through Friday between 8 A.M. and 5 P.M. PST, or reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are happy to help.
DCE is governed by a Joint Powers Association (JPA) with a Board of Directors comprised of one local elected representative from each of the participating city councils. The Board schedules regular meetings that are open to the public, ensuring transparency and encouraging community involvement. Formation of a CCA through a JPA does not require contributions from participating member agencies. The assets and liabilities of the CCA program remain separate from those of the participating agencies’ general fund. DCE will be administered by a small staff and consultants with relevant energy and utility experience.
A CCA is a revenue-supported, not-for-profit public agency created to ensure that any financial benefits directly serve its community members. Once launched, a CCA is completely funded by program revenues—not taxpayer dollars. Start-up costs may be financed by member agencies, banks or other lenders; these costs are repaid once revenues from the sale of electricity accumulate. Surplus funds generated by the CCA may be reinvested back into the community in the form of lower rates, customer incentives and/or new energy projects and programs that serve the entire customer base.
No. DCE is financed solely by the revenues it receives from customers. The program is self-funded and does not use any tax dollars.
DCE is a public-private partnership that takes advantage of the opportunities offered by both the private and public sectors. Private sector companies with CCA and power market expertise are part of the team, carrying out many of the functions associated with a CCA program.
A CCA is more a matter of public control over critical resources, like roads, that sustain our communities, and a way to maximize unique and cost-effective financial opportunities to benefit local communities. In fact, public utilities have a long track record of providing power supply services at a lower cost than their private sector counterparts.