Ventura County Will Explore Joining L.A. Venture to Create Renewable Energy

Ventura County officials will explore teaming up with Los Angeles County in a venture to produce renewable energy and slow down climate change, county supervisors decided Tuesday.

Under state law, local governments can establish their own organizations to generate and distribute power. The intent is to boost the amount of power produced from renewable sources, such as wind and the sun.

The option was one of several the Ventura County Board of Supervisors weighed now that a joint government-run program with Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties does not appear to be feasible.

Senior Deputy Executive Officer Susan Hughes said the Legislature is requiring all energy producers to procure 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. The goal is 50 percent by 2030, she said.

Those producers may either be the large utilities such as Southern California Edison or the local governments that establish alternative programs to produce power.

The Los Angeles County government is asking the officials in Ventura County to make a decision by Jan. 1, Hughes said. But the Ventura County supervisors were not ready to make a commitment until they were convinced that promises made by the larger county would materialize.

“I have to have the evidence in hand,” said Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett. “I have to be convinced it is reliable.”

Voting 4-0, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors asked County Executive Officer Mike Powers to return with a report on the potential for such an alliance and whether the Jan. 1 deadline could be moved to a later date.

Bennett along with Supervisors Linda Parks, Peter Foy and Kelly Long voted to direct Powers to conduct the investigation. Supervisor John Zaragoza was absent for the vote.

Parks was the strongest proponent of exploring the alliance with Los Angeles County.

“It does seem to be the big game in town,” she said.

The board is exploring the idea in the wake of a feasibility study that showed forming an energy program for the tri-counties area would not work under 24 different scenarios. Critics say the financial assumptions in that study were too conservative and have called for additional investigation

 Estimates showed startup costs would total $524 million to get to the mark of 33 percent and $575 million for the 50 percent mark, Hughes said.

She said Southern California Edison hit the 28 percent mark last year and is projected to achieve 41 percent by 2020. The giant utility is the only major provider of electricity in Ventura County.

Foy questioned why it made any sense to form an independent organization to sell energy when Edison is achieving those numbers.

“This sounds a little risky,” he said.

Bennett said he didn’t want to close the door. He saw it as “good government” if the county could come up with an appropriate competitive model to Edison that would provide lower rates and a speedier conversion to renewable energy.

L.A. County has invited southern Santa Barbara County and Ventura County to participate in the energy venture proposed for more than 1 million residents of unincorporated Los Angeles County. It has also invited 84 cities in Los Angeles County to participate.

Officials from Santa Barbara County said they are exploring joining the Los Angeles County venture, but also are investigating the potential for a small model of their own.

Ventura County Will Explore Joining L.A. Venture to Create Renewable Energy, by Kathleen Wilson, Ventura County Star, October 25, 2017.

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