California Community Choice Aggregators Bid For Partial PG&E Takeover

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The escalating war over the potential break-up of PG&E has rallied California’s 19 Community Choice Aggregators, which are seeking to assume a greater role as owners and/or managers of solar and other other renewable energy resources in the state.

The state umbrella organization for the CCAs, the California Community Choice Association, has just launched the “Bright Energy Future CA” campaign for “a stronger, greener, more reliable electric system for California — and preserving and promoting the role of local, not-for-profit community choice programs in California’s rapidly evolving energy system,” CalCCA says.

A major play for the ascendance of CCAs came on February 28, when a group of CCAs filed comments with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) during its investigation of PG&E, ongoing since 2015, as to whether Pacific Gas & Electric’s organizational culture and governance adequately prioritize safety.

CCAs are spreading rapidly across the country. Credit: Lean Energy U.S.

The eight CCAs from Northern California “urged state regulators to take action to restructure PG&E as a ‘wires-only’ company— moving the utility out of the retail energy business so PG&E management can focus on safely managing the company’s transmission and distribution system, which has been the source of billions of dollars in damage to communities across the state,” the filing said.

The CCAs also encouraged the CPUC “to empower CCAs to continue doing their part to meet California’s clean energy goals by serving all members of their communities,” the filing said. Vaughan added that “PG&E’s first bankruptcy in 2001 resulted in the creation of community choice aggregation to serve as a tool to maintain the stability, affordability, and sustainability of California’s electricity system, and with the utility poised to enter yet another bankruptcy, the time has come to expand this approach.”

“The joint CCAs strongly endorse a restructuring that allows PG&E to focus where safety improvements are needed most — delivering electricity across the energy grid — while allowing locally-controlled public agencies to safely, reliably, and cost-effectively purchase the energy Californians rely on,” Vaughn said.

The eight CCAs signing the filing included: East Bay Community Energy, Peninsula Clean Energy Authority, Pioneer Community Energy, the City of San José (for San José Clean Energy), Silicon Valley Clean Energy, Sonoma Clean Power, and Valley Clean Energy Alliance.

The new campaign website will serve as a hub for news and developments involving PG&E’s bankruptcy, its possible break-up by state regulators, and the “potential for long-term solutions.” The website “will also be a platform for harnessing the advocacy of a growing coalition of community choice electricity providers, environmental and social justice organizations, consumer groups, renewable energy producers, and local governments,” CACCA says.

The campaign is being built on a multi-media platform, with CalCCA encouraging interested parties to add “a link to Bright Energy Future CA on your organization’s website,” and to “follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook – and post your organization’s support of the campaign,” CalCCA says.

“With the governor and Legislature thinking broadly about the future of California’s energy system, community choice providers want to be part of the solution,” said Beth Vaughan, executive director of CalCCA, in a statement.

While PG&E is in the cross-hairs of the state CCAs, the campaign is designed to be broader, addressing the future role of investor-owned utilities, versus community-controlled CCAs in California and beyond. “As investor-owned utilities struggle to meet their customers’ needs, many communities are turning to local, not-for-profit public programs as a stronger, greener, more reliable alternative,” CalCCA says.

Since 2010, more than 160 California cities and counties have formed or joined 19 Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs, which now serve 10 million customers and growing, the CalCCA notes.

Currently CCAs are possible under statues in the states of Massachusetts, Ohio, California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island, and serve nearly 5% of Americans in over 1300 municipalities as of 2014, according to Wikipedia.

Community Choice Aggregation, also known as Community Choice Energy (CCE), municipal aggregation, governmental aggregation, electricity aggregation, and community aggregation, is an alternative to the investor owned utility energy supply system in which local entities in the United States aggregate the buying power of individual customers within a defined jurisdiction in order to secure alternative energy supply contracts, Wikipedia instructs.

The CCA chooses the power generation source on behalf of the consumers. By aggregating purchasing power, they are able to create large contracts with generators, something individual buyers may be unable to do. The main goals of CCAs have been to either lower costs for consumers or to allow consumers greater control of their energy mix, mainly by offering “greener” generation portfolios than local utilities, Wikipedia continues.

Launched in 2016, the California Community Choice Association represents California’s community choice electricity providers before the state Legislature and at regulatory agencies, advocating for a level playing field and opposing policies that unfairly discriminate against CCAs and their customers.

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Charles W. Thurston

Charles specializes in renewable energy, from finance to technological processes. Among key areas of focus are bifacial panels and solar tracking. He has been active in the industry for over 25 years, living and working in locations ranging from Brazil to Papua New Guinea.

Charles W. Thurston has 78 posts and counting. See all posts by Charles W. Thurston