You’ve probably received a couple of mailers by now about the Community Choice Energy program that Redwood Coast Energy Authority is launching in Humboldt County in May. Likely you’ve also seen the ads describing the program in our local media. I’m part of the Community Advisory Committee providing input on the development of this program, and I’d like to offer answers to some questions I’ve been hearing from friends, neighbors, and business associates.
Why change our electricity service?
It’s simple — lower electricity bills, local control of where we get our electricity, and keeping some of the money that has been going to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. investors in our community instead. Investor-owned utilities like PG&E have enjoyed a corner on the market for electricity in most of California since they were formed. They handle both power procurement and distribution, along with maintaining the power lines, and no doubt about it, the reliability has been great. But decision-making about rates happens in distant boardrooms and Public Utilities Commission hearings, and most of the money we pay on our utility bills leaves the county. In 2002, legislation was enacted that allows local jurisdictions to procure the electricity, while PG&E remains responsible for delivering it, maintaining the power lines and infrastructure, and doing the billing. With Community Choice Energy, our own Redwood Coast Energy Authority will take on the power procurement part. Our power will cost less, where we get it will be controlled locally, and more of the revenues will stay here in the county.
Who will control the Community Choice Energy program?
The Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), located in Eureka, is in charge. RCEA’s board is made up of representatives from each of the member agencies’ governing bodies — our locally elected officials — people you know and can call on the phone. And everyone is invited to the public Board meetings. In other words, there is no “they” somewhere far away… it’s us. The RCEA Board has committed to keeping our electricity rates below PG&E’s, having more renewable energy in our power mix, and supporting local energy production including solar and wind. You’ll actually be paying less while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, because the Community Choice Energy mix has a lower fossil fuel content.
What do I have to do to sign up?
The California legislation enabling Community Choice Energy for local governments specifies that we are automatically enrolled. The legislation also requires that everyone will receive multiple notifications about the program, both before and after it starts. And most important, if you don’t like it for any reason and want to go back to having PG&E buy the power for your home or business, you can opt out at any time.
It sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch?
There isn’t one. There are over 1,000 Community Choice Energy programs in the U.S. In California, programs like ours are already operating in Marin, Sonoma, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties, with many more just starting up like us. Those programs are saving their ratepayers money, creating jobs close to home as they reinvest revenues in local renewable energy generation, and operating other programs benefitting their communities. And there’s no risk for the customer, since you can opt out of the program at any time. All of unincorporated Humboldt County and every city (except Ferndale, which has not yet elected to participate), will be automatically transitioned to Redwood Coast Energy Authority’s Community Choice Energy program in May. If you have any questions or comments about the program, you can contact RCEA at 707-269-1700 or email@example.com, or visit www.RedwoodEnergy.org. RCEA’s Board meetings are open to the public and occur on the third Monday of each month at 3:15 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District office at 828 7th St. in Eureka. You can also contact me or any of the other Community Advisory Committee members listed on the Community Choice Energy information letters you receive.
Kit Mann is a Blue Lake resident, a member of Redwood Coast Energy Authority’s Community Advisory Committee and a co-owner of Kokatat Watersports Wear.
Community Choice Energy Great Idea for Humboldt County, by Kit Mann, Eureka Times-Standard, April 14, 2017.