Beverly Hills Considers Community Choice Energy

Beverly Hills City Council members unanimously expressed interest in joining Los Angeles Community Choice Energy at its study session on Nov. 7, a step toward delivering residents and businesses the option to use renewable energy at potentially lower rates.

“I think we’re late to the party, but I guess better late than never,” Councilman John Mirisch said, alluding to the growing list of cities, including several in Los Angeles County, that have already decided to join a community choice energy program.

A Community Choice Energy program – also known as Community Choice Aggregation – allows local governments to purchase renewable energy. The energy is distributed with existing utilities, such as those provided by Southern California Edison. Customers can opt out of the program and choose to remain with their existing utility.

Cities banding together to form a community choice energy program can often negotiate rates lower than the rates customers pay their existing utility.

Community choice energy programs are allowable under the 2002 passage of AB 117. They can be operated by a joint powers agreement, a single city or a commercially managed service. At least eight Community Choice Energy programs have been launched in California since 2010.

The Sonoma County-based Sonoma Clean Power community choice energy program, using 36 percent renewable energy, has been able to provide rates that are approximately two cents per kilowatt-hour lower than those provided by the existing utility for its base level of electricity.

According to a county report, the only noticeable change customers will notice is a line item on their utility bills where the community choice energy’s electric generation charge replaces Southern California Edison.

The cost-savings may be negligible, but Beverly Hills could join a growing number of cities throughout the state embracing alternative energy sources.

“The worthwhile objective is a more sustainable energy source,” Councilman Robert Wunderlich said.

He compared the city potentially joining the county’s community choice energy program to the progressive legislation the council has enacted to strictly regulate smoking within Beverly Hills.

“We should be among the leaders in moving in this direction,” Wunderlich said, referring to sustainable energy.

The West Hollywood City Council voted last month to join the county’s program. Council members cited the program’s financial backing by the county, and its potential to become the biggest community choice energy program in the state, leading to greater purchasing power, as advantages to joining the county. Rolling Hills Estates, Calabasas and South Pasadena are among the other cities that have joined Los Angeles Community Choice Energy.

Beverly Hills and West Hollywood also considered South Bay Clean Power, a grassroots initiative to gather a group of smaller cities for a community choice energy program.

County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has been a supporter of the program. In June, she was appointed to represent the county on the Los Angeles Community Choice Energy Authority board of directors.

The Beverly Hills Public Works Commission had previously taken a 2-2 vote over whether to recommend that the council consider joining the county’s community choice program. One commissioner was absent. The commission’s chairman, Jeff Wolfe, said members were divided over the value of integrating sustainable energy.

The county program is holding an open enrollment period through the end of the year to allow cities to join. It will start delivering power in January.

Mayor Lili Bosse said an emphasis on renewable energy ties into her Healthy City initiatives.

“Clearly renewable energy is at the forefront of that,” she said.

Bosse echoed Mirisch’s comment that Beverly Hills should have pursued a community choice energy program sooner. More than two years ago, the City Council voted to allow the city to take part in a community choice energy feasibility study.

“We had to do our due diligence, and I feel that we really have,” Bosse said.

Beverly Hills Considers Community Choice Energy, by Luke Harold, Beverly Press, November 9, 2017.

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