What Ventura’s 100 percent renewable energy rate may cost you

By next year, it’s possible a majority of Ventura’s energy consumers will be getting 100 percent of their power from renewable sources, and they will be paying up to 9 percent more.

Their bill will continue to come from Southern California Edison but they, some without knowing it, will have become customers of an alternative energy provider.

SCE will still transmit the energy, but it will be Clean Power Alliance that procured it.

On Monday night, the Ventura City Council voted 7-0 to set the default rate for customers at 100 percent renewable. That means for customers who don’t do anything, the energy they use will be virtually free of greenhouse gas emissions. It also means their rates will go up, unless they request a lower mix to come from renewable energy or to remain exclusively SCE customers.

The change is the result of 31 communities joining to form the community choice energy program. Community Choice Aggregation was designed to allow government entities to band together to buy and invest in renewable energy. The goal is local control over energy production, ideally creating jobs in the process, and moving to a fully renewable power stream.

More on how it works:

When the state legislature in 2002 gave CCAs the authority to form, it made participation automatic in the communities where they formed. Do nothing, and a customer is part of CCA. In Clean Power Alliance’s jurisdiction, policymakers can set the default rate at 36 percent, 50 percent or 100 percent.

It’s a savings of up to 2 percent in the lowest tier and a wash at 50 percent, according to the proposed rates, which are based on comparisons of SCE. The actual costs of Monday’s decision will be better known next month, when CPA’s board officially setsthose energy costs.

Locally, Ojai is the only other municipality to set it at 100 percent for all its customers. Thousand Oaks chose 50 percent, while Camarillo, Moorpark and Simi Valley went with 36 percent, the cheapest option. Ventura County Supervisors set the rate at 100 percent for businesses and will decide on residential rates on Tuesday. In a tweet, Supervisor Linda Parks said she would be advocating for 100 percent.

What elected officials chose in any given jurisdiction isn’t binding for either a city or customers, though there are restrictions. If customers stay with SCE or return to SCE, they will be charged a one-time fee to return to CPA and will need to wait 12 months, for example.

A customer can opt for a lower or higher renewable rate than the default, or it can choose to not participate at all and continue receiving transmission and power from SEC.

Several speakers on Monday asked the council to choose 100 percent – the staff had recommended 50 percent.

Council member Christy Weir, who represents the city on Clean Power Alliance’s board, said the group was helping create a market for renewables, and the bigger the market, the more options for developing clean energy and associated infrastructure.

That could translate into jobs, she said. Weir was also assured switching or opting out would be simple and straightforward.

A customer can change renewable options online, by email or phone, said Jennifer Ward, Clean Power Alliance’s head of local government affairs. Switching to SCE or from SCE to the aggregator might entail another step.

“We’re not forcing anything,” Weir said.

Council member Mike Tracy said going to 100 percent made sense provided people understood the change and process.

Clean Power Alliance is required under state law to send out at least four mailings alerting them to the change, and city officials said they would do extensive outreach as well.

Council member Cheryl Heitmann said she was “very much supporting it…This earth is really in danger and I feel strongly that we have to do whatever we can to protect our grandchildren.”

 

What Ventura’s 100 percent renewable energy rate may cost you, by Ventura County Star Staff, Ventura County Star, October 16, 2018.

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