CPUC decision on October 11 will not succeed in crushing community power
Early indications are that the decision made by the California Public Utilities Commission of October 11, as bad as it is, is not going to stop emerging or operational Community Choice agencies (CCAs) from carrying on. As most readers probably know by now, the Commission voted unanimously in favor of the Alternate Proposed Decision that will significantly increase PCIA charges to CCAs.
Cases in point:
Pre-enrollment: On October 10th, the day before the CPUC’s ill-considered and patently unfair unanimous vote to please the profit-driven utilities, the Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG) met to evaluate the analysis of what the worst-case scenario – a “yes” vote on the Alternate Proposed Decision – would mean for the fate of Western Community Energy, WRCOG’s Community Choice agency. The analysis found that although the CPUC decision is a serious blow to what WCE can offer to its customers, cleaner power at lower rates and eventually local programs tailored to the needs of the local community, are still feasible.
In the case of San Diego, Community Choice advocates expect an announcement from Mayor Faulconer next week and are hopeful that he gives CCA a green light. “For us in San Diego, it’s a green light to move forward with community choice,” said Nicole Capretz, Executive Director of the Climate Action Campaign. “For us, it’s let’s go, let’s launch and let’s give families a choice. We no longer have to wait.”
Operating & Enrolling: About ten CCAs are at varying stages of enrolling customers as they launch service in phases. To date, none of them have made any announcements about terminating the enrollment process. A tweet from Monterey Bay Community Power stated that “The Alternate Proposed Decision voted in by the CPUC will increase costs for MBCP, NOT for customers. MBCP is dedicated to never cost more than PG&E. MBCP’s customers will receive their 3% savings rebate on electricity generation for 2018, & an expected 3.3% savings for 2019.”
Operational: MCE – As reported in the Napa Valley Register, Chief Executive Officer Dawn Weisz of MCE, the first CCA to launch in the state in 2010, said the decision won’t deter the agency from its core mission of “providing cleaner power at stable rates, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and investing in local programs.” In fact, MCE has seen sharper increases in the exit fee in past years, Weisz said. In January 2016, the PUC approved nearly a doubling of the fee. “We’ve always maintained competitive rates with a lot of stability,” Weisz said, “and we’ll continue to do that.”
CleanPowerSF – Barbara Hale, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s assistant general manager for power operations, said the agency would look at ways to keep CleanPowerSF’s customers from bearing the brunt of the increases, which will begin Jan. 1. The San Francisco PUC’s internal policy is to offer CleanPowerSF at an equivalent price to PG&E. “We’re going to take this information and see what we can do to adjust our program costs and rates to protect customers from an increase like that,” Hale said.
Rancho Mirage – As reported in the Desert Sun Rancho Mirage, which launched a CCA this year, City Manager Isaiah Hagerman stated that the decision is not a deal-breaker for Rancho Mirage. “Even under the worst-case scenario, we’re still saving our customers money.”
Center for Climate Protection staff testify at the hearing
Pointing out that she reads about the successes of CCAs on a daily basis in her work as curator of the Clean Power Exchange e-news, Nina told the Commissioners that “these successes include providing many communities with programs that promote less use of fossil fuels and provide resources that result in cleaner air.” She went on to say that the health of many communities would be placed in jeopardy with a bad decision. “The Alternate Proposed Decision will also hinder the amount of programming that CCAs can offer to their customers. These programs have transformed lives by allowing people to purchase electric vehicles and even to rebuild their homes more affordably burned down by the many recent wildfires.”
Barry Vesser, Deputy Executive Officer for the Center for Climate Protection pointed out that “the new burden of up to 25% additional costs in the PCIA on the generation side will be on top of some of the costs of wildfire damage resulting from from the 2017 fires also being borne by Community Choice customers in our area, due to the passage of SB 901.” Mr. Vesser urged the Commission to adopt the original Proposed Decision “that is balanced for all parties and asks the IOUs to exercise prudent management of existing resources while allowing Community Choice agencies to continue to grow, and develop innovative local energy programs.”
We have been through tough battles before and prevailed – Prop 16 in 2010, AB 2145 in 2014. We will ultimately prevail in the PCIA battle as well to the benefit of all electricity customers, including bundled IOU customers. With nearly 20 CCAs now operating in California with hundreds of local government and state elected office leaders experiencing the clear benefits of Community Choice, community power will not be crushed.
There are several prospective regulatory, legal, and legislative opportunities to appeal or remedy the October 11 vote. According to senior CCA leaders, all options are on the table. In addition, Phase 2 of the proceeding may offer some opportunities to mitigate the damage done in this Phase 1 vote.
For occasional updates on the PCIA and other regulatory matters that affect Community Choice, visit the Clean Power Exchange regulatory page.