Community Choice Energy – A Small Town Turnaround
By Alison Kerr, Mayor of Del Rey Oaks
In the spring of 2017, Del Rey Oaks made a name for itself when our city council voted against the opportunity to join Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP). We held the dubious distinction of being one of only two cities in the Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito tri-county area not to team up with 20 neighboring jurisdictions.
It was a decision that denied DRO residents and businesses the benefits and advantages of being a CCA customer.
It was also a decision that quickly became the catalyst for Del Rey Oaks residents’ determined fight for clean power and a sustainable energy future.
Del Rey Oaks is a small, residential community on the Monterey peninsula. Our 1900 residents love the central location on a sunbelt, and our natural surroundings with regional parks and wetlands. We know our neighbors, who include young families as well as people who have lived here over 50+ years. We have an annual community wide garage sale, ice cream socials and picnics in the park. Voters lean left, and support liberal causes, although city leadership has been conservative for the last 30 years I have called DRO home.
So, DRO residents, myself included, had assumed the council would be in favor of joining our region’s soon to be CCA because of the obvious benefits: access to lower greenhouse gas emitting energy, clean energy professionals with impressive track records to lead operations, return of profits back into our community rather than shareholder pockets, and a choice between PG&E and MBCP’s various offerings. Couple all of this with strong community support and we thought it was a done deal.
However, the majority of the council stated CCAs presented a threat of fiscal liability, and that because our new President was rolling back environmental legislation, alternative energy wouldn’t stand a chance against gas and oil.
It was a decision that was misguided and an embarrassment to our city.
Joining MBCP became a flashpoint for our residents and a rallying cry went up. Meetings were held and strategies were developed to overturn our council’s decision. We researched the issues in depth, spoke deliberately at City Council meetings and developed an information and outreach program to get others involved. We collected over 200 signatures on a petition.
The council did not budge. It was an impasse that prompted my decision to run for Mayor of Del Rey Oaks.
During the spring and summer of 2018 we watched as MBCP got up and running, becoming one of the most successful CCA launches, paying off the loan guarantees in less than 6 months. We also watched as a California Public Utilities Commission Resolution was adopted that imposed a delay of at least one calendar year to the process of joining MBCP.
Joining MBCP, fighting for transparent and open government as well as protecting and expanding our green spaces were my top three priorities. These priorities helped me win the election over a heavily favored incumbent in November 2018 with 59% of the vote.
Fast forward to the spring of 2019. I am proud to report that on May 28, just five months into my term as Mayor, the Del Rey Oaks City Council voted to join Monterey Bay Community Power. We have also established a citizen-led Sustainable Del Rey Oaks group that will be looking at additional ways our city and community can decrease reliance on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources and protect our environment as we meet the new challenges we will all face due to the shifts in climate.
These were decisions made to move our residents, businesses and small town in the right direction. We are excited to finally be joining the Community Choice Energy community!