July 28, 2014

Assembly votes to undermine local clean energy

The tracking equipment for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District solar installation, from which Marin Clean Energy purchases power, is designed to last 100 years.

The tracking equipment for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District solar installation, from which Marin Clean Energy purchases power, is designed to last 100 years.

On May 29 the California Assembly passed AB 2145, the “Utility Monopoly Power Grab of 2014″ (see “Stop bill to protect PG&E’s monopoly“). If this bill is passed by the Senate and signed into law, it would dangerously undermine California’s efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and to create thousands of local clean-energy jobs. In the past few weeks, over one hundred local governments, government agencies, businesses and business associations, public officials, and grassroots and consumer organizations have registered strong opposition to AB 2145.

Authored by Steven Bradford, a former corporate-utility executive, AB 2145 would halt the continued launch of California’s not-for-profit community-based energy programs under California’s Community Choice law (AB 117), enacted in 2002. Over a dozen such programs are in the works, poised to compete with the big utilities by offering cleaner and lower-priced electricity to customers. Two counties, Marin and Sonoma, are already doing so.

Current Community Choice law enables customers in a city or county to group together at the launch of their program to gain the joint buying power needed to offer energy prices that can compete with the big utilities. Bradford’s bill would prohibit such grouped customer start-ups, making Community Choice programs impossible to launch.

Ann Hancock of the Climate Protection Campaign, the non-profit organization that spearheaded the formation of the most recent Community Choice program to launch, Sonoma Clean Power, stated, “The monopoly utilities know that Community Choice offers competition that will give customers a more attractive option which provides local economic benefits and greenhouse-gas reductions. AB 2145 is designed to take this choice away from Californians.”

Lane Sharman, who has spent years working to found a Community Choice energy program in San Diego, said “Current state law allows us to rapidly bring real free-market competition into the electricity market, at a scale large enough to bring better prices, cleaner energy, and badly needed green jobs. But AB 2145 will completely gut our ability to do so. There will be no Community Choice program in San Diego if this bill becomes law.”

Nile Malloy of Communities for a Better Environment said. “There are underserved communities all over California waiting for these programs to begin, and directly reduce pollutants in our neighborhoods while providing vital new jobs. Bradford’s bill will pull the rug right out from under those communities, stealing away crucial new hope for a better future.”

Sierra Club California representative Edward Moreno said, “Sierra Club is shocked that this bill passed through the Assembly. At a moment when it is increasingly clear that California, the nation, and the world, have precious little time to get our collective act together to prevent the worst of the Earth’s looming climate crisis impacts, California assemblymembers must remain in tune with that reality.”

A full list of AB 2145 opponents is available at http://www.no2145.org.

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