As a mother of two young children, I’m deeply concerned about the kind of world I’ve brought them into. Tragically, we are facing an existential threat of unprecedented magnitude — climate change.
Around the globe, it is causing untold human suffering, food and water shortages, extreme weather events, mass migrations, political instability, sea level rise, ocean acidification, species extinction, rampant infectious disease and the list goes on. Here in Ventura County, we’ve experienced the effects of persistent drought and raging wildfires made worse by climate change.
Thankfully, solutions to our climate crisis exist, and we no longer need to continue sending destructive fossil fuel emissions into our atmosphere. Clean, renewable energy is now readily available and economical, getting better and cheaper by the day. All we need to do is start choosing it.
Enter the Clean Power Alliance, a new community-choice energy provider serving Los Angeles and Ventura counties. The alliance provides more renewable energy at lower costs than Southern California Edison.
We now have the power to choose where we get our electricity. Community-choice energy is one of the most effective means to increase renewable energy adoption. As such, I was compelled to ensure that my elected representatives in Ojai and other cities understood this opportunity. So I emailed, called and showed up at city council meetings.
Since then, Ojai, unincorporated Ventura County, Camarillo, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Simi Valley and Ventura have joined the Clean Power Alliance. Service for our area is scheduled to begin in February for residential accounts and May for others.
The decision to join was the first important decision our cities had to make. Now, we are faced with an even more consequential decision — what amount of renewable energy do we want to set as our default?
The alliance currently offers three rate plans — 36 percent, 50 percent and 100 percent renewable energy. Current projected cost savings (relative to Edison’s base rate) are 1 to 2 percent for the lowest tier and 0 to 1 percent for the middle tier. There’s a cost premium of 7 to 9 percent for the top tier (but a cost savings of at least 5 percent relative to Edison’s comparable 100 percent renewable plan).
Each participating jurisdiction gets to choose one of these plans to set as its default. Customers will still be able to make their individual plan selections — no one is locked into anything. The default is simply the plan customers are enrolled in if they make no selection. Default decisions must be made in the coming weeks, before the end of October.
Ojai set its default at 100 percent, and the county chose 100 percent for commercial accounts. These decisions reflect forward-thinking, responsible leadership. Worth noting for those communities with a 100 percent default: CARE and other low-income customers will have the plan benefit at no additional cost.
Defaults are a big deal. Behavioral studies demonstrate that the vast majority of people stick with the default setting. Since we want more renewable energy, then our defaults should support that. By setting the default at 100 percent, we will get much more participation at that level than if we set it at a lower tier.
Gov. Jerry Brown just signed landmark legislation committing our state to 100 percent clean energy by 2045. While that has us moving in the right direction, we really need to achieve the goal sooner to avert further catastrophic climate change. Setting the default at 100 percent renewable is one of the most significant ways for communities to make immediate progress on their climate action goals and cut polluting emissions. It’s a small price to pay for the long-term benefits.
Industry studies reveal overwhelming public support for renewable energy, and most consumers are willing to pay more for it. We want clean energy and we want it now. Elected officials are responsible for representing our interests, so let your city councils know that you support the 100 percent renewable energy default.
Let’s protect what we love and create a more sustainable future together.
Michelle Ellison is an Ojai Valley Green Coalition board member and an alternate on the Clean Power Alliance board.
Cities should choose 100 percent renewable energy, by Michelle Ellison, Ventura County Star, October 6, 2018