Commentary: Give people a voice and choice in electric service

Communities throughout California and the nation are embracing Community Choice Energy programs for the procurement of cleaner energy. For more than 100 years, private electrical utilities have monopolized the market, leaving the consumer, the people, without a voice in how their electricity is procured and delivered, or in the rates they are required to pay.

Now, however, California and five other states have begun allowing local governments to procure their own electricity supplies, to manage their community’s energy resources and to meet consumer objectives. Alameda County and partnering cities are currently hard at work in effort to give the people “the power to choose.”

What is CCE?

Community Choice Energy is a program by which local governments pool their electricity customers to provide electricity and related services on their behalf. As a result, the local community shapes the program, prioritizing benefits to meet community goals such as climate protection, jobs creation, rate stability and lower consumer costs.

Once launched, the CCE program becomes the default electricity provider and all customer accounts are automatically rolled over. Customers continue to receive and pay bills to the incumbent utility company (PG&E in the case of Alameda County) but purchasing options increase and rates decrease in most cases (depending upon level of “green energy” selected).

Customers also have the ability to “opt out” at any time and return to PG&E service at no cost or consequence.

Is CCE successful in California?

Currently, there are four successfully operating CCE programs in California: Marin Clean Energy, Sonoma Clean Power, Lancaster Choice Energy and Peninsula Clean Energy.

With these programs leading the way, numerous communities throughout the state, including Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties, are either in the process of, or considering, building/joining a CCE program. CCE delivers significant benefits, including cleaner power, competitive rates, better rates for customers who generate their own power and sell back surplus energy, direct investments into local energy programs such as energy efficiency upgrades,
electric vehicle charging stations and energy storage, new renewable power development, locally and statewide and local jobs creation.

What’s happening in Alameda County?

The East Bay Community Energy Joint Powers Authority, a result of 18 months of hard work and deliberations by the East Bay Community Choice Energy Steering Committee, convened for its inaugural meeting on Jan. 30. The authority is comprised of elected officials from Alameda County, all its cities except Pleasanton and Newark, which declined to join EBCE, and the city of Alameda, which already operates under its own CCE program. As a first order of business, I was elected chair and Oakland Councilman Dan Kalb, vice chair.

We want you to be informed about EBCE and we invite your participation as the program is developed. East Bay Community Energy Joint Powers Authority meetings are open to the public and are scheduled to be held as often as twice per month as we aggressively work toward a launch by fall and winter 2017.

The next EBCE JPA meeting is 6 p.m. Feb. 15, at the Hayward City Council Chambers, Hayward City Hall, 777 “B” Street, Hayward.

A CCE program offers new tools to meet increasingly urgent carbon emission reduction goals, while maintaining competitive rates and providing significant benefits for the local economy. These benefits are achieved without public subsidy or additional cost to taxpayers because CCE programs are revenue-supported — as all utilities are — requiring no public funds to operate.

I urge the residents and businesses of both Alameda and Contra Costa counties to learn more about EBCCE and support this important initiative.

Scott Haggerty serves on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Learn more at: www.EBCE.org.

Commentary: Give people a voice and choice in electric service, by Scott Haggerty, East Bay Times, February 9, 2017.

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