Community Choice Aggregation, also known as Community Choice Energy (abbreviated CCA and CCE by various parties), is a local, not-for-profit governmental program that buys and may generate electrical power on behalf of its residents, businesses, and governmental entities. The agency administering the Community Choice program may also elect to administer energy efficiency programs and other greenhouse gas emission reducing activities.

There are many reasons why a community might want to pursue Community Choice energy.

Potential benefits include:

  • Enhanced consumer choice
  • Local control
  • Designing programs that respond to community needs
  • Expansion of renewable energy portfolios
  • Local economic development
  • Faster progress toward achieving a community’s environmental goals.

Community Choice programs are opt-out programs, meaning that once a local government votes to form a Community Choice agency, the constituents of that local government are automatically enrolled, and may opt out if they wish.

Community Choice is only involved in the electrical generation decision-making and has no involvement with transmission and distribution. The electrical utility also continues the metering and the billing for customers. The Community Choice agency replaces the line item on the electric bill for “generation.”

When a community, or group of communities, decides it wants to pursue a Community Choice program, a typical first step is to identify funding in order to produce a technical study. The technical study analyzes the electrical load of the community and offers projections about the kinds of power mix and rates that might be possible.

Once the early investigation is complete, the jurisdiction or group of jurisdictions must pass an ordinance stating the intention to form a Community Choice agency. Read more about getting started with a program.

More information can be found at the California Public Utilities Community Choice page.

En español: Que es una CCA?

Other useful sources of information about Community Choice are the FAQs of the websites of existing Community Choice programs.

Community Choice Videos & Webinars:

Getting Started on a Community Choice Program


A Community Choice agency begins with a vision and a conversation that then spreads. The conversation can be initiated by anyone – a community leader, an elected leader, or a community-based organization.

Education

The formation of a Community Choice agency begins with education about what Community Choice is and what the potential benefits and risks are. Another early step is to carry out an assessment of your community and determine whether your community is eligible and ready to begin an evaluation of Community Choice.

Eligibility

All cities and counties in the California Investor Owned Utility (IOU) service territories are eligible to establish Community Choice agencies. Cities and counties that operate their own utility or who are within the service territory of a Publicly Owned Utility (POU) – about one-quarter of California – are not eligible. A few cities and unincorporated portions of counties are served by special districts and are also not eligible. For example, electricity service for the City of Modesto is provided by the Modesto Irrigation District. Therefore, residents of Modesto and many surrounding communities are not eligible.

Timelines

The timelines of the first two Community Choice programs, MCE Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power, are not necessarily indicative of future Community Choice program formation timelines. Since they were the pioneers, Marin and Sonoma both faced obstacles and uncertainties that future efforts will probably not face. The timeline for the City of Lancaster’s Community Choice program was much shorter than the first two. Lancaster took not much more than two years from the first steps to the launch of service.

Goverance Models


Sonoma Clean Power goes live May, 2014

Sonoma Clean Power goes live May, 2014

In California, there are two governance models for Community Choice. The Single Jurisdiction model, and the Joint Powers Authority model. Within each of these models many options exist for the leadership regarding staffing, contracting with single or multiple consultants, power contracting, etc. The variations that are possible within these two primary models should not be interpreted as constituting a further model, just variations within the two main models.

Within these two models it is also possible to create standing committees that do not exist at other Community Choice agencies, or appoint non-elected individuals to serve on the governing board or standing committees. If a Community Choice agency emerges that is fundamentally different from the two existing models, we will at that time consider listing a third model.

1. Joint Powers Authority

This is the model adopted by both Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power, the first and second Community Choice agencies in the State. Multiple jurisdictions join together in a joint powers agreement (JPA) and a free-standing entity is formed with representation from each member jurisdiction on a governing board. Some degree of contracting with commercial services providers such as energy service providers, call centers, data management firms, etc., is involved.

2. Single Jurisdiction

This is the model, sometimes known as the “enterprise” model, adopted by CleanPowerSF  and Lancaster Choice Energy. These single jurisdictions, the City of San Francisco and the City of Lancaster, each take on the role and liabilities of the new enterprise. It is the City Councils (and Boards of Supervisors in the case of a county), that assume the responsibility for rate-setting and setting other policy. Some degree of contracting with commercial services providers such as energy service providers, call centers, data management firms, etc., is involved.

Key Formation Documents


When a community decides it wants to pursue Community Choice, one of the first official acts is to file a “declaration to pursue” Community Choice. The declaration is sent to the incumbent utility and to the CPUC.

Sample “Declarations to Pursue”

Once a local government has studied the pros and cons of Community Choice and has evaluated it in a public discussion, in order to proceed to the implementation phase, an ordinance must be adopted, making it official.

In cases where two or more jurisdictions decide to join together to form a Community Choice agency, a Joint Powers Agreement is drafted and signed in order to form a Joint Powers Authority or JPA. Examples of Community Choice Joint Powers Authorities include MCE Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power.

Although not required under Community Choice law, most communities opt to work with experts in the field to produce a technical or feasibility study. Technical studies analyze the electrical load and offer some projections about possible power mixes and rates. Listed are the first three operational CCAs, and a table including all known technical studies follows.

Table of all known technical studies, peer reviewed (when applicable) updated January 2019

Also not required under Community Choice law, buildout plans evaluate local resources and assess opportunities for development. Buildout plans help to optimize community benefits of Community Choice by opening up avenues for economic development, job creation, etc.

In order to launch Community Choice energy service, the agency must file an Implementation Plan with the California Public Utilities Commission. The Implementation Plan serves several a basic function of informing the CPUC about the jurisdiction or jurisdictions that will be served, the electrical load, governance structure, and several other essential pieces of information about the operations of the agency. It is not the plan that includes all of the complementary products, projects, and programs that a Community Choice agency might choose to offer.

Helping your customers understand their bills is a crucial function.