GREENER ENERGY AND LOWER UTILITY BILLS? SHEILA KUEHL
If I offered to reduce your utility bill, help green the environment and even create new jobs, you might be tempted to question my sanity. Or worse. But you’d be wrong because there’s a proven and exciting new way of providing green power to Los Angeles County consumers that can reduce greenhouse gases as well as consumer bills, and help build a whole new green economy. This Earth Day, while Washington is gleefully slashing environmental protections and further jeopardizing the future of the planet, we in L.A. County are moving in a visionary new direction.
The only downside of this great new green power alternative is its wonky name: “community choice aggregation” (CCA). That could be why not very many people know about it, despite the fact that there are eight CCAs already operating in California, as well as in other forward-thinking states like Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Ohio. These established CCAs are consistently demonstrating that such aggregates help increase green power consumption, lower utility bills, and create quality jobs in local renewable power. The county’s new Chief Sustainability Officer Gary Gero calls L.A.’s future CCA “[a]n incredible new initiative from which L.A. will reap benefits for generations to come.”
Here’s how it works: Community Choice Aggregation offers electricity customers a new energy option by allowing local governments to purchase electricity in the wholesale power market and sell it to their residents and businesses as an alternative to the electricity provided by an investor-owned utility like Southern California Edison. Electricity consumers get a choice of power provider and local governments, not utilities, get to say how rates are set and customer programs are created.
For consumers, the benefits of the CCA are a no-brainer. CCAs elsewhere have lowered utility bills for homeowners and businesses as much as 5 percent. In addition, consumers can choose to increase the amount of clean energy they use thereby helping to reduce greenhouse gases and to reach, and even exceed, state and national clean energy goals. CCA customers have also benefited from consumer programs such as rebates on energy-efficiency upgrades and free energy consumption assessments.
Over the next few months, individual cities within the county will be able to join the county’s CCA so that they can take advantage of this win-win-win program. Cities that sign up will sit on the governing body in charge of operating the CCA and help make the decisions on how much renewable energy we get, from where, and how much we reduce consumer rates. Once your city joins, residents and businesses will have access to CCA power, rates and programs. We expect the rollout to begin next year.
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that, in the past, there’s been significant political opposition to establishing CCAs within California. The state Legislature passed a bill back in 2002 allowing communities to establish them, but political opposition by the utilities was fierce, and in 2010 Pacific Gas & Electric threw a lot of money behind a proposition designed to make it harder for local communities to form CCAs. But California’s voters defeated it. A few years later, state Assemblyman Steve Bradford introduced legislation designed to slow the expansion of CCAs. Even today, the pushback continues. Sempra is trying to derail this program in San Diego with a fear campaign, but Californians know a good thing when they see it. We want green power at good prices and jobs within a new local green economy.
If the county’s CCA motion passes this week, L.A. will be home to the state’s largest CCA and it will position the entire Los Angeles region as a national leader in providing clean green power to businesses and residents. This is an important and significant investment in a better future for our region. The county is proud to be at the forefront of making this historic shift from fossil fuel dependence and we invite cities from throughout the region to join us in building a greener future for American energy.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl represents District 3.