Letters to the Editor

Post-Diablo future need not be grim

The SLO County Clean Energy Economy Coalition agrees with The Tribune that the Board of Supervisors did the right thing in deciding to start planning for the day when, sooner or later, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant will no longer be with us.

The Tribune’s Feb. 27 editorial contemplated a future without Diablo — using words like “grim” and “dire” and “economic horror story” — and suggested that perhaps the county could start stockpiling tax revenues and considering alternative uses for the plant site. Both good ideas, but obviously not enough to counter the loss of this “huge contributor to the Central Coast economy.”

We think we can help.

The SLO County Clean Energy Economy Coalition (SLO Clean Energy, for short) came into being late last year dedicated to supporting the formation of a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program in San Luis Obispo County and our incorporated cities.

Written into state law in 2002 to foster competition and innovation in energy, CCA is proving to be an effective path toward resilient communities and local economic development: it can provide longterm electrical rate stability, local reinvestment of electricity revenues, local renewable energy and local jobs. Communities in urban and rural Illinois, Ohio, California and other states are realizing these gains today.

In a nutshell, Community Choice Aggregation is a powerful vehicle for investment in community energy resources, with many benefits of that investment retained by the community. A CCA program is amarket-based approach to energy that allows communities — groups of cities and counties, an individual city, or any combination — to pool their participating electricity customers and purchase energy on their behalf directly from energy providers, build local energy installations and provide savings to local residential, agricultural, business and municipal ratepayers.

We estimate up to $115 million in funds would be available each year to San Luis Obispo County communities for energy investment through a CCA program. How is this possible? The CCA program essentially redirects the “generation” portion of your electric utility bill back into participating communities. These funds currently leave our community’s control and enter a large pool of funds that are managed by PG&E to purchase energy for their territory based on their values and priorities.

With a CCA program, PG&E continues to focus on reliable delivery of power while we make choices based on our local values and priorities to decide what types of energy we invest in and where that energy is built. We feel the more local, the better. We see a significant opportunity to use those funds to invest in clean, locally generated electricity, locally tailored energy and water efficiency upgrade programs (which reduce ratepayer bills and the cost of doing business), and other projects that reduce operating costs and greenhouse gases. To us, CCA means, local investment, local jobs, and local control of our energy and economic destiny.

The next step in this process is for us all to clearly understand the benefits and risks of a local CCA program, along with the strategies to maximize the benefits and manage the risks. SLO County Clean Energy Economy Coalition is excited about an opportunity to participate in a joint Central Coast CCA feasibility study with Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. The idea behind this joint feasibility study is that we can lower the cost to each community by capturing economies of scale whereby the “boilerplate” content of the study is shared so that more resources can be focused on county-specific analyses.

We currently are reaching out to community leaders and elected officials at both the cities and at the county and encouraging all SLO County communities to participate in this opportunity. We also understand how impacted our community’s general funds are, so we are actively raising funds to cover the cost of the feasibility study.

To learn more visit http://slocleanenergy.org: Take our survey, sign up for updates and make a contribution. Like us on Facebook (SLO County Clean Energy Economy Coalition) or follow us on Twitter (@SLOCleanEnergy).

Inform your elected officials, educate your neighbors and friends, and otherwise get in on the ground floor of our local clean energy economy. Our post-Diablo future can be the opposite of a grim economic horror story — we can start now with Community Choice Aggregation. It’s your power to choose!

Eric Veium is a leadership team member of the SLO County Clean Energy Economy Coalition.