California’s monopoly utilities failed in what many perceive as their latest attempt to squash community choice aggregates. Assemblyman Steven Bradford could not find a senator willing to sponsor his controversial bill, so it expired when the legislature’s current session ended, at 3 am on Saturday morning. California’s “Monopoly Protection Act,” AB 2145, is dead.
“The fact that the bill found not a single senator to sponsor it is indicative of how impulsive and how self-serving it was to the investor owned monopolies of the state of California,” said Lane Sharman, Executive Director of San Diego Energy District Foundation. “The failure of this bill is a call to action for every community in California to start the CCA (Community Choice Aggregate) formation process and to get it done before the next awful bill like this comes before the state of California.”
In 2010, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) spent close to $46 million of its ratepayer’s dollars promoting Proposition 16. Had that proposition been passed, communities would not have been able to form their own utilities unless 2/3 of the residents agreed.
That did not end the attempt to hinder CCAs.
Steven Bradford, the author of AB 2145, is a former executive from Southern California Edison.
AB 2145 was passed by the state Assembly, then moved on to the Senate.
The most objectionable clause of his bill called for local residents to “opt in” to new CCAs. This would have limited the number of potential customers, because most people do not go out of their way to opt into programs. As Sharman explained, that would have made new CCAs “dead on arrival.”
Both Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power agreed to withdraw their objection to AB 2145 if the “opt in” clause was dropped.
Only, Sharman explained, that left “a whole bunch of other provisions and new provisions that were just as bad.”
One of them would have prohibited CCAs from consisting of more than three counties.
“We don’t want the utilities imposing geographic restrictions,” said Woody Hastings, of the Climate Protection Campaign.
Another provision was that investor owned utilities (IOU) could complain about CCAs to the California Public Utilities Commission.
“Can you imagine how many times the CCAs would be yanked into Sacramento or San Francisco to hear a complaint by an IOU,” Sharman said.
“It was a wake-up call about how these guys fight,” he added. “They’ll put up a law that has three or four or five really bad conditions and then take one out in order to persuade the opposition to go away.”
The Sierra Club withdrew its objection around 30 days before the session ended, saying they could see no environmental issues.
A statewide coalition called “California For Energy Choice” refused to budge. They came from governments, businesses and clean energy advocates in places ranging from San Diego to Del Norte County.
AB 2145 fell apart when Bradford attempted to recruit a senator to bring the bill forward for a vote in the senate.
“There was enough opposition to the bill and enough consternation, that no one wanted to make sure that the bill got up for a vote,” Hastings said. “They were unable to identify a senator willing to do that. That’s a really embarrassing and devastating thing. It means you just don’t have any friends in the senate willing to take your stinker of a bill on.”
The following comments were gleaned from two coalition member press releases:
“You know you are on to something good when the corporate utilities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to stop it, said Ann Hancock, Executive Director of the Climate Protection Campaign. “We recognized immediately the serious threat AB 2145 posed, so we acted, and it paid off.”
“The monopoly utilities made a huge mistake when they forced us to create a coordinated statewide coalition to fight AB 2145. We have now educated thousands of people and legislators to the fact that Community Choice is the state’s most powerful tool to give communities local control over electricity supply, and rapidly build clean energy programs that will put Californians back to work, and combat the climate crisis. We can now use this new coalition to change the game on energy in California,” said Margaret Okuzumi, a key member of Californians for Energy Choice from Sunnyvale.
“The People of California have once again seen through Big Utility’s excessive antics and defeated AB 2145 to free ourselves from the grip of the monopolies and their accomplices,” said Bruce Wolfe of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council and SF Clean Energy Advocates. “It is now time for all of their corporate resistance to stop, to allow emerging Community Choice programs like San Francisco’s CleanPowerSF to be implemented immediately.”
Erica Etelson, a San Francisco East Bay activist stated, “I hope PG&E and the other utilities finally get the message that Californians want clean, affordable, 21st century electricity and won’t stand for monopoly bullying in Sacramento.”
“This is ultimately about energy democracy,” said Al Weinrub, coordinator for the Oakland-based Local Clean Energy Alliance. “The question is, will the power to decide what kinds of energy we use and who benefits from the system, be in the hands of a small group of powerful players, as it has been for the past hundred years, or will the power be in the hands of the people?”
Sharman pointed to another piece of legislation that should be removed. Every bill that Marin or Sonoma send out has a fee that customers have to pay to PG&E for having decided to get their power from another company. Under the present legislation, California’s utilities will be able to charge this parting charge indifference adjustment (PCIA), or exit fee, to every customer who uses a CCA as their utility.
Does Sharman think the utilities will try to suppress CCA’s again?