If an Assembly bill that would effectively kill community choice aggregation passes the state Senate, it would be nearly impossible for Arcata to move forward with a project that would allow the city to choose where its electricity comes from, officials said.
Under community choice aggregation, Arcata could independently purchase or generate renewable electricity for residents, while Pacific Gas and Electric Co. would continue delivering power, and provide meter reading and billing.
Assembly Bill 2145 would defeat CCAs by changing them from “opt-out” to “opt-in” programs, Deputy Environmental Services Director Karen Diemer said. The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Dominguez Hills, chairman of the Utilities and Commerce Committee.
The state Assembly recently passed the bill, according to the California Legislature. It is now before the Senate.
In a statement to the Times-Standard, North Coast Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro wrote he is against AB 2145 because of widespread opposition in his district.
“AB 2145 would make it extremely difficult to start a community choice program due to increased costs caused by a reduction in customer enrollment given the proposed opt-in requirement,” Chesbro wrote. “AB 2145 places an undue ‘opt in’ burden on community choice programs, which is not required for public and private utilities.”
Arcata councilman Michael Winkler, who is also an energy analyst for Redwood Energy, said current CCA law dictates that when a CCA group is set up, everyone within an existing jurisdiction is initially put into the CCA. The group is then required to send multiple notices to people with information on how to opt out if they don’t want to be a member and would rather stick with their existing utility. AB 2145 would reverse that.
“Past experience with community choice aggregation or any types of alternative energy suppliers has shown that typically no more than 10 percent of the people will sign up for the alternative,” Winkler said. “For a community choice aggregation effort to be viable, and for a financial institution to be willing to finance it, they have to know there’s going to be a large block of subscribers in that group. … A 10 percent sign-up group wouldn’t even be viable.”
Arcata staff have drafted a letter of opposition for the city council to consider at the June 18 council meeting.
“What we want is for communities and individuals to be able to choose their own electricity source, and not have it dictated to us by the investor-owned utilities such as PG&E,” Winkler said.
CCAs were created by 2002 legislation. PG&E poured $46 million into a 2010 ballot measure to curtail them, but was roundly defeated.
Arcata staff are continuing to research CCAs, Diemer said. The Energy Committee has recommended to staff that if the bill doesn’t move forward, the issue should be brought before the council with the recommendation that the city actively pursue a CCA membership with Sonoma Clean Power. The committee is also supportive of joining Marin County, which already has its own energy authority.
The Santa Cruz Sentinel contributed to this report.
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