A local group pushing to establish "community choice aggregation (CCA)," an energy supply method that proponents say would compete with San Diego Gas & Electric by attempting to distribute both cheaper and greener power to consumers, is among many crying foul over a bill detractors say would eliminate such competition and overrule the will of California voters.
The San Diego Energy District Foundation first explored the idea of implementing community choice in 2005, citing a study at the time that forecast a 40 percent increase in renewable energy use and "better stabilization of energy rates" over 20 years. At the time, CCA would have resulted in a net increase in cost to consumers, though the group notes the cost of solar installations have fallen by roughly half since then and would make implementation of the program more cost-effective today.
It's unclear whether the claimed increases in renewable energy use are in addition to or as a result of Executive Order S-03-05, signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, which calls for dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas production regardless of who is supplying California's energy.
According to an April 29 statement from nonprofit community-choice advocate LEAN Energy US, "Current law allows local governments to form a not-for-profit public agency to buy and generate their own energy while partnering with the incumbent utility for the transmission and delivery of electricity over utility power lines. This allows communities to compete with the IOUs on the environmental value and price of the electricity itself, while continuing to pay for transmission, distribution and customer billing services as utility ratepayers."
Hesitant to embrace competition, Northern California utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric sponsored Proposition 16 in 2010, which would have required a 2/3 supermajority vote from any locality before public funds could be spent on establishing a CCA district. The measure failed by a five-point margin in a relatively low turnout election.
San Diego Energy District and other entities, including the County of San Diego and the California Sierra Club, are now battling Assembly Bill 2145, introduced by assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), which "would authorize the [state public utilities] commission to require that a community-choice aggregator, when registering with the commission, provide additional information to ensure compliance with basic consumer protection and other rules and other procedural matters."
The main gripe is that, rather than allowing a municipality to automatically enroll residents in the new (and potentially more costly) energy option, consumers would have to opt in, rather than being automatically enrolled with an option to opt out of the service, as has been the case in other areas such as Sonoma and Marin Counties, which have already put CCA districts into place.
"If AB 2145 passes, community choice will be replaced with zero choice," says the Sierra Club's Andrew Christie, who is working to put a CCA in place in San Luis Obispo. "There will be no chance of establishing local, public energy programs that would incentivize a local green energy economy."