We are witnessing in our lifetime a remarkable transformation in our economy as our energy sources shift toward renewables. What seemed expensive and untested just a few years ago has become mainstream.

Consider this:

  • PG&E has already reached the state-imposed 2020 goal of producing 33 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources.
  • Royal Dutch Shell, the world’s second-biggest oil company, has announced plans to spend as much as $2 billion a year in renewables.
  • Solar was the fastest growing job-creator among all electricity generation technologies.

It is in this context that the Ventura City Council voted Monday night to enter a joint powers agreement with the Clean Power Alliance of Southern California to give all residents a choice to power their homes with renewable energy. The entity was formerly known as Los Angeles Community Choice Energy (LACCE).

Already in this agreement are 29 cities in Los Angeles County, plus our neighbors in Camarillo, Thousand Oaks, Ojai, Oxnard, Moorpark, Simi Valley and unincorporated areas of Ventura County. The collective bargaining power of this large group is expected to bring prices for electricity to consumers which match or beat fossil fuel power sources provided through Southern California Edison. Each city will have a vote in the JPA.

According to the staff report,

“LACCE customers are likely to see rates that on average are 5.3 percent lower than Edison in the portfolio meeting RPS (the State’s mandated Renewable Portfolio Standards), 4.1 percent to 4.2 percent lower than Edison with 50 percent renewable power supply and 6.3 percent higher than Edison with 100 percent renewable power supply.”

SCE would still bill customers and provide transmission to homes. The program is expected to begin in about a year. Residents are automatically enrolled, but can choose to opt out. They also can select their own level of renewables.

It is worth noting that of the 150 cities in California who have joined Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs statewide, not one has left.

As you would expect, investor-owned utilities Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric have been reticent to let consumers go. In 2010, PG&E sponsored Prop. 16 to make it more difficult for local entities to form either municipal utilities or CCAs. It was defeated. The large utilities have also been allowed to charge exit fees, thwarting the economic benefits of CCAs.

In Ventura, the unique franchise fee arrangement the city has with Edison brings in $1.6 million a year to the general fund. When queried, the utility was predictably opaque in its response on how joining a CCA would affect this financial arrangement.

On Monday night, two leading experts on CCAs came to address Council and clarify the franchise agreement. Energy consultant Don Dame explained that existing statute would allow the fee arrangement to continue. Gary Gero, Chief Sustainability Officer for the County of Los Angeles, said he believed the JPA would vote to make arrangements to keep our fee structure intact.

The council felt comfortable enough to proceed and voted 4-2 to join.

This is an amazing opportunity for Ventura to join a growing movement in California. It’s also a win for consumers who will have local choice in how their energy is delivered and lower electrical bills.