TrueStatement: “It’s been incredible to watch the outcome of the programs in Sonoma and Marin because they’ve been extremely successful and they’ve been able to provide lower rates to all residences and all businesses in Marin and Sonoma with a higher renewable energy content,” Climate Action Campaign executive director Nicole Capretz said during a Jan. 25 appearance on NBC San Diego’s “Politically Speaking.”

Determination: True

Analysis: A handful of California communities have opted to stop relying solely on utilities to buy energy. San Diego environmentalists want that option to exist here.

It’s a plan known as Community Choice Aggregation, and it’s one of the most crucial elements of the city’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to cut carbon emissions in half by 2035.


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Mayor Kevin Faulconer surprised progressives last fall when he announced he’d largely stick with their plan, though he was less committal about starting a CCA in San Diego.

Advocates of CCAs have repeatedly claimed they usher in lower prices and more renewable sources. Customers might fixate on their bill, but that latter point is important too: The state has mandated that 33 percent of the electricity that utilities provide must come from renewable sources by 2020.

One of the advocates pushing for a local CCA option is Nicole Capretz, who helped write a draft of the city’s Climate Action Plan when she worked for Todd Gloria during his stint as interim mayor.

Capretz, who now leads a group dedicated to ensuring the Climate Action Plan’s approval, claimed in a Jan. 25 appearance on NBC San Diego’s “Politically Speaking”  that CCA programs in Marin and Sonoma counties offer lower rates for all customers.

She’s right.

Every year, utility Pacific Gas and Electric and the community choice aggregators – Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power – issue rate-comparison documents that analyze prices in all customer classes.

The most recent reports were based on October 2014 prices and show that the CCAs offered lower rates in every class – from industrial to low-income residential – and relied more on renewable energy sources. (You can check out the documents here and here.)

Here’s a look at how the three most popular customer classes fared with PG&E versus the two CCAs as of October.

 

PG&E has since increased its rates, upping residential customers’ bills by an average of 5.9 percent.

The CCAs are able to keep rates comparatively lower through the collective buying power of their tens of thousands of customers to negotiate lower rates with electricity companies. Residents and businesses are automatically enrolled in the programs and must proactively opt out to return to PG&E.

CCAs also come out ahead when it comes to the mix of energy offered to customers.

Marin’s general program uses a 50 percent renewable portfolio; Sonoma’s program uses 33 percent renewables.

PG&E currently gets 27 percent of its energy from renewable sources.

The numbers are clear: CCAs in Marin and Sonoma are offering lower rates with a higher renewable energy content, making Capretz’s claim true.

That could make CCAs particularly attractive to San Diegans facing hefty power bills. The latest numbers from the California Public Utilities Commission show SDG&E customers paid more on average per kilowatt hour last month than users of the state’s other top utilities.

 

The initial Climate Action Plan released when City Councilman Todd Gloria was interim mayor called for the city to create a CCA by 2020. But Faulconer’s draft plan was less committed to the concept. It says the City Council will consider a CCA “or another program that increases the renewable energy supply.”

Faulconer has said he plans to take up the issue again next year.

If he does, he’ll likely have to deal with SDG&E.

State law bars utilities from speaking out against CCAs but SDG&E lobbied City Council members last year in support of a state bill widely seen as detrimental to CCAs. The legislation ultimately died in the state Senate.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

    This article relates to: Fact Check, Government, Must Reads

    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

    2 comments
    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    Rating should read "juries out"

    These experiments have not been in place long enough to make a judgement call. Nicole Capretz has an agenda and needs to be taken with a grain of salt. San Diego should be cautious about just "Jumping right in" and see how these experiments pa out before listening to the likes of Ms. Capretz.

    Marin Clean Energy (MCE), California’s first Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program, was founded in 2008 and began serving customers in 2010. We now serve over 125,000 customers in Marin County, unincorporated Napa County and the Cities of Richmond and San Pablo.

    A detailed implementation plan was drafted in 2012 by the Sonoma County Water Agencyand updated in 2013,

    Michael Robertson
    Michael Robertson subscribermember

    More competition will always bring about lower prices and higher quality. It appears this program injects competition into the energy market where typically a single company has enjoyed monopoly status. That's great. 


    Now lets expand this concept to other services like: trash, street repair, policing, schools, etc. We'd save billions and get improved service!