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Scotts Valley Times Featured Columnist
Bruce McPherson
5th District Supervisor


Scotts Valley Times Featured Columnest
"Powering our own future through Community Choice Aggregation"


    I would like to share exciting plans, now in infancy, that could eventually lead to Santa Cruz County’s future energy independence. 


     Enabled by California legislation (AB 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) on their behalf.


      Simply put, a 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.


    How can a CCA compete with Pg&E? First, the non-profit status of the joint powers authority allows for lower overhead and eliminates the need for shareholder profit margins. The CCA would also have a low borrowing costs and tax exempt financing. There could be cost savings through self generation of power through local facilities.


    The joint energy authority could include cities, water districts, and perhaps other counties. Marin, 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 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 supplier of our residents’ electricity, 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.





Participating Local Partners since May 2013

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