Powering our own future through Community Choice Aggregation
By Bruce McPherson, 5th District Supervisor
Enabled by California legislation (Assembly Bill 117), Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) allows cities and counties to pool their residential, business and municipal electricity loads and to purchase power (or generate it) to meet their needs.
Simply put, the CCA is the creation of a community-based energy buyer. Through formation of a joint powers authority, the County and cities can buy renewable energy and deliver it using Pacific Gas & Electric’s grid.
The CCAs would be responsible for buying and building energy supplies. However, the CCAs would not purchase the energy transmission equipment. Delivering energy, repairing lines and serving customers are functions that would remain with PG&E.
In Santa Cruz County, community choice aggregation is a top priority for addressing greenhouse gas emission. With 40 percent of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from the built environment — homes and businesses — it would allow county residents to buy a larger share of electricity from green sources, such as solar and wind. Eventually, the CCA would set up its own green energy projects.
It’s important to say that, at this point, we don’t know whether a CCA is feasible for our county. An ad hoc committee, headed by Virginia Johnson, is leading the fundraising effort for the feasibility study. Johnson is the former executive director of Ecology Action and is currently a part-time member of my staff.
Estimated to cost up to $150,000, funds for the feasibility study are being raised from the private sector and the state. The study will include a cost-benefit analysis, job and economic development projections and start up costs.
In addition to the environmental benefits, formation of a CCA could redirect millions of dollars in ratepayer revenue currently paid to PG&E to the local economy. Local energy projects could generate local jobs. Consumers would have choice and local control over the sources of energy we buy and over rates we pay.
To consumers, a CCA might be the best thing you don’t see. PG&E would continue to provide billing and service; the CCA electricity charges would appear as a new section on the PG&E bill. The other charges would remain the same. Customers would be able to choose to go with the CCA or remain with PG&E.
The joint energy authority could include cities, water districts, and perhaps other counties. The CCA program in Marin County, through Marin Clean Energy, has been in operation since 2010 and has about 91,000 customers. In eight months, the Marin energy authority has drastically reduced green house emissions. It has the same rates as PG&E currently, has a surplus of almost $5 million, and last year redirected $58 million in ratepayer revenue from PG&E to the Marin energy authority. Their goal is to have more than 50 percent of the energy purchased come from renewable resources within a decade.
I believe that Santa Cruz County has an excellent opportunity to create a similar agency, replacing PG&E as the purchaser of our residents’ energy (while keeping their role as distributor) and perhaps one day setting up our own green energy projects.
To me, the idea of cutting carbon emissions, creating local jobs, adding millions of dollars to the local economy and saving customers money is an idea worth exploring.