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Community Choice Energy: A California transformation in one decade

by Ann Hancock, The Climate Center  |  March 10, 2016

In October 2014, at our first Business
of Local Energy Symposium, only two operational Community Choice programs
existed in California: Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power. A mere
sixteen months later, Community Choice is taking off across the state.

We reported this story in our February 24, 2016 blog post called “The accelerating pace and
growing number of Californians served by Community Choice.” For the March 4 Symposium
we elaborated on this story.

The combined population of areas with
existing and about-to-launch programs, as well as large population areas
considering Community Choice programs, is about 17.6 million. If all of these
had operational Community Choice programs by 2020, and if we subtract out the
approximately 25 percent of Californians already served by Municipal Utility
Districts (therefore ineligible for Community Choice), then about 60 percent
of eligible Californians would be able to select Community Choice. This transformation
would happen ten years from the time Marin Clean Energy went live.

From a climate protection perspective,
the impact of this transformation is potentially huge. Consider the impact if
results are similar to Sonoma Clean Power, for example, which in 2014 realized
a 48 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions relative to PG&E’s last
reported data from 2013.


In addition to the communities
listed in the table above, many other California cities and counties are in
varying stages of exploring Community Choice.

California’s Community Choice movement
faces many hurdles, such as exit fees (also known as the Power Charge
Indifference Adjustment rate) charged by the Investor-Owned Utilities, access
to start up financing for Community Choice Energy programs, and the long time
it takes for communities to get programs up and running. Still, the data show
that momentum is building for Community Choice.

Last month, I was interviewed
about Community Choice by two members of an international team studying
emerging local energy solutions worldwide through the Enel Foundation. I asked
the researchers how Community Choice compared with the other solutions they
were studying. They responded, “Community Choice Energy is one of the most
powerful solutions we have found.”

Community Choice is a platform for
innovation where public/private partnerships build something that is both
dynamic and enduring. It is up to us to bring the energy revolution home to our
communities. That requires leadership and hard work.

Given the impacts of climate change, it
is also our moral obligation to accelerate this trend, and leave our children
and grandchildren a sustainable energy system that supports future prosperity.