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Local Energy - Sonoma County Community Choice Energy

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Local Energy - Sonoma County Community Choice Energy

by Tish Levee

While this symposium was held in San Jose, it was really a Sonoma County event. Organized by the Center for Climate Protection’s Barry Vesser, it drew 350 people from all over California—business, government, and community leaders, people who are active in developing (or hoping to develop) Community Choice Energy (CCE) similar to Sonoma Clean Power. “Creating the Clean Energy Economy—Optimizing Community Choice” brought together a total of 48 speakers discussing Community Choice energy (what used to be, and sometime still is, called CCA or Community Choice Aggregate) from different perspectives and areas of expertise. They looked at how to optimize competition and the choices for significant greenhouse gas reduction, energy resiliency, and local economic gain. The program was uniquely designed to inform attendees along the entire spectrum of Community Choice interests and expertise – those in the early investigative stages, elected officials in the process of setting up a program, and energy entrepreneurs developing technology to green the grid – to spark creative discussions and innovative solutions.

Community Choice in now active in Marin (including unincorporated Napa County and the cities of Benicia, El Cerrito, Richmond, and San Pablo), 

Sonoma, and Los Angeles counties, where the City of Lancaster came online last fall. In May, Clean Power San Francisco will start rolling out a CCE. More than 80 localities across California either have CCE or are in some stage of developing it. If all of them come online by 2020, excluding those served by Municipal Utility Districts such as Healdsburg, 60% of Californians will be eligible for Community Choice energy, according to Ann Hancock, the Executive Director of the Center for Climate Protection (CCP).

It’s exciting to see how the Community Choice message is spreading across California, and how Sonoma County’s CCP is leading the way. CCEs are going to go a long way in helping to reduce climate change, because one of the biggest contributors to it is the transportation sector. Electric Vehicles (EVs) have been a start in the right direction, but while our electricity may be more environmental (at least here in California where we don’t burn coal) than gasoline, it is still not usually a renewable resource. Now with the availability of inexpensive, renewable energy at home and in the community, EVs can truly come into their own.

Just a few of the advantages of CCE, in case you needed a reminder.

  • All of the CCEs online so far offer a larger portion of renewable energy than PG&E,and cost a bit less.
  • All offer a 100% green option for just a slightly higher rate.
  • Importantly, the income generated by CCEs stays in the local community, where it can fund additional energy savings, instead of going to stockholders in who-knows-where.
  • Decisions are made at a local level by local folk, who have the interests of the community paramount.
  • PG&E still takes care of billing, downed wires, discount programs, and everything EXCEPT power generation.
  • No one has to accept a CCE, but so far the “opt-out” rate is a low 15% or less.
  • Every 10 MegaWatts of CCE results in 176 new jobs and adds $22 million  to the economy while reducing greenhouse gas emission (GHG) substantially, thus reducing global warming and all the dire climate consequences that result from it. This is truly a “Jobs Program!” And a Green and Clean Jobs Program at that!

Among the speakers were people from California Public Utilities Commission, the Independent System Operators Corporation, the CEOs if the three current CCEs, the CEO of SolarCity, and people from all over the state, especially Sonoma County,  who are involved in CCEs.

Coverage of the symposium with powerpoint slides of the 10 break-out sessions and the plenaries is online at http://climateprotection.org/symposium-2016/. (Ain’t technology great!! You don’t even have to go to San Jose.)

Incidentally, speaking of going to San Jose—I was house sitting at my son’s in San Bruno, so I got to take CalTrain to the Symposium. It was a great commute, and I got a foretaste of what is coming to Sonoma County when we finally have SMART train.

 

©copyright Tish Levee, 2016