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Community Choice Energy: A California transformation in one decade

by Ann Hancock, The Climate Center

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.

CCA growth4The 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.