Viewpoint

Let’s not kill off local power

April 23, 2014 

Since 2010, Marin County has been making use of a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program to procure its energy from clean, renewable sources. The program allowed Marin to reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 70,000 tons — the equivalent of taking 12,000 cars off the road every year. While still in its first year of operation, Marin’s CCA program met and exceeded the state requirement to procure 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. It provides more than twice as much renewable energy to its customers as PG&E.

This feat was achieved because the utilities that have enjoyed a century-plus monopoly on the generation and sale of energy have — so far — failed in their efforts to kill off community choice. In 2010, PG&E spent $47 million on the effort to pass Proposition 16. Under the terms of that initiative, any community that wanted to implement California’s community choice law and produce its own energy or obtain power by any other method that did not involve buying it from the utility would have been required to hold an election to do so, and that vote would have to pass by an impossible two-thirds majority.

All the money spent on the effort to pass Proposition 16 couldn’t fool the voters, and it went down in flames. At a state Assembly committee hearing on April 28, all the utility’s best friends in Sacramento will be lining up behind the latest attempt to kill off community choice: Assembly Bill 2145.

AB 2145 would require that every resident of any city or county trying to set up a community choice program must actively declare his or her intention to “opt in” to the program. When the law creating Community Choice in California was passed twelve years ago, it established a level playing field by structuring CCA’s as opt-out programs, the only way a CCA program could possibly enter and compete in a market dominated by big utilities. Every state in the country with CCA has structured it as an opt-out program. Reversing this would kill off Community Choice and undo the gains that have been made in the state for renewable energy and energy efficiency as surely as Proposition 16’s impossible two-thirds majority requirement.

And that’s the idea. AB 2145, as with Proposition 16, has only one goal: kill community choice.

Both the city and county of San Luis Obispo have included provisions in their Climate Action Plans to study the potential of community choice. If AB 2145 passes, community choice will be replaced with zero choice. There will be nothing to study and no chance of establishing a local, public, not-forprofit energy program that would incentivize a local green energy economy.

The city and the county should immediately convey to our Legislature that they do not wish to see that option foreclosed.

Andrew Christie is the director of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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