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Community Choice Energy: A California transformation in one decade

by Ann Hancock, Executive Director, Center for Climate Protection

In October 2014, at our first Business of Local Energy Symposium, only two operational Community Choice programs existed in California: Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power. A mere sixteen months later, Community Choice is taking off across the state.

We reported this story in our February 24, 2016 blog post called “The accelerating pace and growing number of Californians served by Community Choice.” For the March 4 Symposium we elaborated on this story.

The combined population of areas with existing and about-to-launch programs, as well as large population areas considering Community Choice programs, is about 17.6 million. If all of these had operational Community Choice programs by 2020, and if we subtract out the approximately 25 percent of Californians already served by Municipal Utility Districts (therefore ineligible for Community Choice), then about 60 percent of eligible Californians would be able to select Community Choice. This transformation would happen ten years from the time Marin Clean Energy went live.

From a climate protection perspective, the impact of this transformation is potentially huge. Consider the impact if results are similar to Sonoma Clean Power, for example, which in 2014 realized a 48 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to PG&E’s last reported data from 2013.

CCA growth4

In addition to the communities listed in the table above, many other California cities and counties are in varying stages of exploring Community Choice.

California’s Community Choice movement faces many hurdles, such as exit fees (also known as the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment rate) charged by the Investor-Owned Utilities, access to start up financing for Community Choice Energy programs, and the long time it takes for communities to get programs up and running. Still, the data show that momentum is building for Community Choice.

Last month, I was interviewed about Community Choice by two members of an international team studying emerging local energy solutions worldwide through the Enel Foundation. I asked the researchers how Community Choice compared with the other solutions they were studying. They responded, “Community Choice Energy is one of the most powerful solutions we have found.”

Community Choice is a platform for innovation where public/private partnerships build something that is both dynamic and enduring. It is up to us to bring the energy revolution home to our communities. That requires leadership and hard work.

Given the impacts of climate change, it is also our moral obligation to accelerate this trend, and leave our children and grandchildren a sustainable energy system that supports future prosperity.

Sonoma Clean Power continues to lead the way on clean power and low rates

sonoma-clean-power-logoSonoma Clean Power launched in 2014 with rates below PG&E. SCP’s standard plan is to set rates once per year. When it had its first chance to raise rates in April 2015, it chose to keep them unchanged from the previous year. This year the staff proposal is to actually reduce rates. As things stand, the average SCP customer generation rates are about 1% below PG&E’s comparable rates. The proposed rate reduction would double that savings.

On the greenhouse gas and clean power front, SCP has surpassed the state mandated 33% renewable content by 2020 with a 36% renewable energy content, six years ahead of schedule. SCP’s overall portfolio is about 80% greenhouse gas free, 48% below PG&E’s greenhouse gas content.

Unfortunately, the decades-long trend of the three large utilities to increase their rates, usually more than once per year, has continued. On January 1st a sharp increase in PG&E rates and increased PG&E fees on other service providers like Sonoma Clean Power, caused many energy customers to notice, as pointed out in a recent article in the Press Democrat. PG&E is on track to meet the state renewable energy standard by 2020 with a current portfolio that includes about 27% renewable energy.

The next Ratepayer Advisory Committee meeting will be on April 12th when the staff proposal will be reviewed one last time prior to going to the SCP Governing Board, and of course, Sonoma Clean Power’s meetings are open to the public. See you there!