May 2018

N. Tustin Notes:

by Scott Logue

North Tustin resident Robin Ganahl presented the Community Choice Energy program as a potential energy alternative for our area at a recent Foothill Communities Association (FCA) board meeting. 

In response, the FCA has established a committee to work with Ganahl to assist in communicating and educating residents about the program. Ganahl shares the details of this opportunity to increase competition and lower prices:

Get ready for your SoCal Edison electricity rates to double or triple soon, thanks to a new program set by the utility that punishes people for using energy during the afternoon hours. This is despite the fact that our rates are already 50 percent higher than the national average.

FCA is exploring a new program that could lower or stabilize our rates by bringing electricity sourcing under local control. The program is called Community Choice Energy (CCE). 

It has been successfully established in over 100 cities and 10 counties in California -- including L.A. County. CCE offers families a choice in their electricity provider where none exists now. Customers can be part of the new CCE program, or opt out to stay with the existing utility. CCE customers across California are getting cheaper, greener energy that grows the local economy, creates a new revenue stream for cities, and puts the community in the driver’s seat.

CCEs are typically formed by a group of cities, sometimes the county too, coming together to create a nonprofit electricity provider. 

The CCE would purchase electricity on behalf of residents and businesses in partnership with SoCal Edison, whose role would be to continue to deliver the electricity reliably and maintain the wires and poles.

More choice, more savings

CCE customers typically see rate savings of up to five percent over the existing utility just by introducing competition into the market. For example, the buildout of rooftop solar is reducing the need for expensive transmission lines and power plants. 

In March 2018, the state rejected $2.6 billion in new projects the utilities asked for, largely because rooftop solar has made them unnecessary. That’s $2.6 billion California ratepayers just saved on their bills.

Another benefit of CCE is that it can accelerate the transition to renewable energy. Today about 70 percent of our electricity is still being generated outside Orange County using dirty fuels, mostly in the form of gas-fired power plants. They account for about 40 percent of our total CO2 emissions. That’s why CCE is the biggest tool cities have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. 

Because so little of our electricity is generated locally, a big chunk of our bill is going to companies outside our community. Purchasing or building out local solar and battery storage would keep our electricity dollars in our local economy. 
CCE would also create a new revenue stream for cities that can be reinvested in the community. All the money we pay to SoCal Edison today would instead go to the public-run CCE.  

Another major benefit of CCE is having a voice in the process. Bringing electricity decisions under local control allows the community to take part in public meetings close to home, instead of up in Sacramento. It allows the community to ask for energy sources and programs that align with its values and benefit the local economy.

Irvine and Lake Forest may soon begin feasibility studies, and Laguna Beach has nearly completed its study. Those cities could start up a CCE and invite other cities in or around Orange County to join.