Community Choice energy is under attack—again. Pending legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 2145, was introduced earlier this year with the aim of destroying Community Choice in California. If it had succeeded, it would have been a significant loss to our clean energy future.
Sierra Club California, including many Bay Chapter members, helped remove the most egregious element of the bill as part of a new coalition, Californians for Energy Choice. AB 2145 would have made the monopoly utility the default service provider, forcing Community Choice programs to sign up customers one-by-one. The Senate Energy Committee in June removed this poison provision. However, two other elements in the bill, and a newly added geographical limitation that only applies to Community Choice programs, are still cause for concern.
One untenable remaining element of AB 2145 requires Community Choice programs to set rates five years into the future, while the corporate monopolies are merely required to provide rate projections. This provision is nonsensical on its face, and tantamount to requiring Community Choice programs to possess a working crystal ball.
Another problematic element requires not-for-profit Community Choice programs to be subjected to the same complaint process that exists for the for-profit monopoly utilities. One of the many benefits of Community Choice is that it establishes local control and accountability by virtue of its being run by local elected officials and members of the community. This proposed element imposes an unnecessary bureaucratic layer and expense to the state, and sets up Community Choice programs to be burdened by frivolous complaints that must be addressed at the distant and arcane California Public Utilities Commission.
Shawn Marshall of the Local Energy Aggregation Network (LEAN), a national Community Choice advocacy organization, stated, “While we would’ve preferred the bill to die in Committee, AB 2145 has yielded some upsides for Community Choice in California. The bill has galvanized statewide attention and support for Community Choice that we’ve not seen before. Just a few years ago, Community Choice was a little-known, fringe program that the legislature largely ignored or openly dismissed. Our success against the huge monopoly utility establishment in removing the ‘poison-pill’ provision absolutely changed that.”
What is Community Choice?
Community Choice, enabled by 2002 legislation, empowers local governments to buy and generate electricity for businesses and residents. Marin and Sonoma Counties, the only two California communities that currently offer Community Choice programs, provide their customers cleaner power at lower rates. Community Choice is the most powerful tool under local control to rapidly and cost-effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a variety of analyses.
The fight for Community Choice continues: AB 2145 will be considered in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, August 4. Please attend the hearing and speak up for Community Choice!
For up-to-date information and other ways you can take action, visit www.no2145.org. If you are interested in doing more to help advance Community Choice in the Bay Area, consider joining the Club’s Community Choice Team. To get involved email Chapter conservation organizer Jess Dervin-Ackerman at jess.dervin-ackerman at sierraclub.org
—Woody Hastings, Renewable Energy Implementation Manager, Climate Protection Campaign; volunteer coordinator, statewide Community Choice Team