By now, residents throughout Ventura County may have gotten a notice about a new energy provider heading their way next year. If not, it will be arriving soon.
“Welcome! You will soon enjoy the advantages of clean, renewable power at competitive rates!” the notice reads. “Clean Power Alliance is your new electricity supply provider.”
Starting in February, CPA, a community choice energy program, will begin procuring energy for most of the county, while Southern California Edison will continue transmitting and distributing it. Bills will still come from Edison, but some line items will be added that differentiate the providers.
How the change affects what you pay depends on where you live, but it ranges anywhere from a slight drop to a 9 percent increase, compared to Edison base rates.
Those base rates could climb sharply. Edison is looking to significantly increase rates after falling $983 million short in collections this year, according to California Public Utilities Commission spokesperson Terrie Prosper.
“SCE has asserted in testimony that the reason they need this additional revenue requirement is to cover a shortfall caused by a price spike in the gas market over the summer,” she wrote in an email to The Star.
The commission is scheduled to consider the request Jan. 31. Rates were already scheduled to go up due to grid modernization and other capital projects, some related to fire resiliency, according to the company.
In other words, whether you revert to Edison or remain with Clean Power Alliance, your bill is going up.
Understanding your bill
The mailer doesn’t lay out the cost, but there are three tiers based on what percentage of your energy mix comes from renewable energy. Each elected body in the participating cities and counties chose the default for their area, and the mailer does include that percentage.
Here are what the options look like:
- 36 percent(“lean” power): 1 percent savings compared to Edison base rates.
- 50 percent (“clean” power): Equal to Edison base rates.
- 100 percent (“green” power): 9 percent higher than Edison base rates.
If you live in unincorporated Ventura County or the cities of Ojai, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks and Ventura, your default is 100 percent. If you do nothing, your bill will go up 9 percent compared to what it would be under Edison.
If you live in Moorpark, your default is 50 percent, which is equal to Edison base rates.
If you’re in Simi Valley and Camarillo, your default is 36 percent. If you do nothing, your bill will go slightly down compared to what it would be under Edison.
Want to compare the options? Go to https://bit.ly/2T2WIvQ. Have a copy of a recent bill handy.
How do I enroll in CPA?
Under the state laws that set up community choice energy programs, a customer is automatically enrolled in Clean Power Alliance in cities and counties that voted to join.
You can “opt out” and remain with Edison or select a lower or higher renewable energy mix.
At any time, you can change the percentage of renewable mix and stay with Clean Power Alliance. If you opt out and stay with Edison, you can return to CPA within the first 60 days of service.
If you opt out after that, Edison will charge a one-time processing fee and a customer must wait 12 months before returning to CPA, according to CPA’s website.
Go to https://cleanpoweralliance.org/rate-options or call 888-585-3788 to make any changes.
Customers will get two mailers before the rates go into effect in February, including one scheduled to arrive in December, and two more after service has started. At least the first two won’t have specific rate differentials or percentage increases listed.
Customers enrolled in discount programs will receive the same bill offsets, regardless of where they live. They won’t pay the clean-energy premiums.
What is community choice aggregation?
Community choice aggregation is designed to let municipalities band together to invest in clean energy. CPA, once at capacity, will be the fifth-biggest energy company in the state, according to Executive Director Ted Bardacke.
In all, 29 cities and Los Angeles and Ventura counties are involved, with more expected to join next year.
Community choice aggregation has several goals, Bardacke said: to provide competition to investor-owned utilities while giving local governments more control over energy, to improve the environment through a decreased reliance on fossil fuels and to generate economic activity through investments in renewables.
By joining together, municipalities serve a big enough customer base to have money to invest in renewable energy infrastructure, generation and storage. So far, CPA has awarded a bid to Voyager Wind to produce about 1 percent of its energy needs, Bardacke said.
In November, CPA received bids from 56 companies for 231 projects. The board will award several early next year. Bardacke anticipates 60 percent of its energy initially will come from renewables and 70 percent will be carbon-free.
What’s the difference between the two?
Edison is an investor-owned utility overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission. Shareholders oversee the company and invest in company operations. They’re guaranteed a reasonable return for making the investment.
CPA is a joint powers authority, created by the public agencies involved for the purpose of delivering energy. It is overseen by a board of directors, and one representative per city and county. Unlike private companies, it has access to tax-free bonds and other financing options available only to public entities. It started with a $10 million loan from the Los Angeles County government.
What else should I know?
The arrival of community choice aggregation programs is causing a good amount of upheaval in the energy market. For the first time, customers can choose their energy company and the mix of renewables they want (or default to the mix that was selected for them).
But traditional power companies are still responsible for capital improvements and other energy they bought years ago in anticipation of having a certain number of customers. Every customer must help pay for those, but how much community choice aggregation providers should contribute compared to investor-owned utilities has caused significant disagreement.
Of Edison’s $983 million shortfall, the company has proposed that community choice aggregation customers pay $226 million, Prosper said.
Decisions on that are scheduled for early next year.
Also, wildfire litigation isn’t yet factored into the rate structure. Several homeowners and governments are suing Edison and others for damages related to several recent blazes, including the Thomas and Woolsey fires. Decisions on who will pay those costs and how they’ll be divided are likely years off.
Ventura County energy bills in 2019: How they’re changing (and why they’ll go up) by Arlene Martinez, VC Star, December 26, 2018.