San Mateo County may be the next to join four other California communities – Marin, San Francisco, Sonoma, and Lancaster – in opting out of relying solely on utilities to buy energy. California is one of six states (the others are Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) which have Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) legislation enabling local governments, communities, or groups of communities to pool their electricity demand in order to purchase power on behalf of their residents, businesses, and municipal accounts. It’s a win-win strategy to lower utility costs while reducing carbon pollution, with the ultimate goal of minimizing the local impacts of climate change.
“It’s been incredible to watch the outcome of the programs in Sonoma and Marin because they’ve been extremely successful and they’ve been able to provide lower rates to all residences and all businesses with a higher renewable energy content,” said Climate Action Campaign executive director Nicole Capretz during an NBC interview in San Diego.
In San Mateo County, the county supervisors started the ball rolling by reaching out to all their cities and towns to calibrate interest in forming a CCA. The City Council unanimously approved a feasibility study, and the county’s office of sustainability worked with each city to create resolutions to authorize the release of city-wide electrical load data and analyze alternative renewable energy sources.
Community outreach and engagement was the next key step. City Council Member John Keener said, “Many Pacificans are in favor of supporting this.” Generating renewable energy in the communities where it will be used “gives power to the people”: providing local jobs and economic development, enhancing grid reliability and energy security, protecting communities from blackouts, avoiding the expense and inefficiency of long-distance power transmission, achieving state renewable energy goals … while reducing harmful carbon pollution.
For insights about how to most effectively communicate and engage with your communities about climate solutions like CCA, check out ecoAmerica‘s research on Americans’ climate values and underlying motivations: American Climate Values 2014: Psychographic and Demographic Insights.
By Jane Northrop | Pacifica Tribune Staff Writer for San Jose Mercury News | February 17, 2015
City Council unanimously approved during its last meeting to participate in a feasibility study for a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) Program for San Mateo County.
As part of that approval, council allowed data about Pacificans’ electric use to be gathered and studied. Assistant Planner Christian Murdock read the staff report he prepared. He explained the idea began with San Mateo County Supervisors Carole Groom and Dave Pine, who contacted all the cities and towns in the county to see if they are interested in forming a CCA.
CCA is a method of building demand for electricity across several jurisdictions, creating an economy of scale allowing the purchase of energy from renewable sources at a competitive rate with existing utility providers. PG&E would continue to bill local customers and distribute electricity from renewable sources to Pacificans. If a CCA is formed, customers would be able to opt out at any time and continue to purchase their power from PG&E.
The goal of a CCA is to obtain electricity from many energy sources that generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions. PG&E’s current proportion of renewable energy is 25 percent. Other counties have been able to offer customers at least 50 percent from renewable sources, up to 100 percent in some cases.