Should cities and counties be barred from starting up public power entitities to compete against utility giants such as SDG&E--and offer clean energy options to residents? Voters to decide.
February 17, 2010 (San Diego) – A June ballot initiative seeks to change California’s constitution to make it harder for cities and counties to give residents alternatives to buying power from utility companies. The measure is funded by Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E). It would require a super-majority (two-thirds) vote for local governments to create new forms of public power entities through Community Choice Aggregation (CCA).
“This is a bad initiative. PG&E is spending millions to keep local governments from competing with investor-owned utilities. That’s not a shock,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents most of East County. “All you need to do is look at the lower rates charged by municipal utility districts to see what’s really going on. This is about the protection of investor-owned utility profits. CAA is worth discussing. Our County looked into it five years ago. If PG&E hates it so much, maybe it’s time to take another look. The ratepayers are the real losers.”
Donna Tisdale, chair of the Boulevard Planning Commission and a leading East County voice in the citizens’ movement battling SDG&E's proposed Sunrise Powerlink high voltage line, also expressed concern over the initiative.
“PG&E's initiative is an effort to retain their monopoly and reduce lower cost competition,” Tisdale told East County Magazine.
PG&E contends that a constitutional amendment is needed to protect taxpayers and ratepayers from potential losses caused by inexperienced local governments entering the power wholesale business.
The first CCA in California, Marin Clean Energy, is slated to begin providing power to customers in Marin County in May. Customers will have an option to choose a plan derived from 100 percent renewable energy sources, or a slightly cheaper plan with 25% renewable energy resources. Energy would be transmitted over PG&E lines.
More than 2,000 cities and towns in America already provide energy to their residents, the American Public Power Association reports. Four more states, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Rhode Island, have passed laws allowing towns and cities to create a CCA.