Success of Community Choice Aggregation Leads to Expansion

New York Becomes 7th State to Enact CCA

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Shawn Marshall is executive director of LEAN Energy US, the vice chair of the Marin Energy Authority, and a member of the Mill Valley, Calif., City Council. She is also a former mayor of Mill Valley.

Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2015 1:15 pm

In the last three years, successful implementation of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) in the San Francisco Bay Area has led to “tremendous growth and interest” throughout the state of California, an advocate of CCA told Sustainable City Network.

“This is the progress we’ve been working on,” said Shawn Marshall, co-founder and executive director of LEAN (Local Energy Aggregation Network) Energy US.

LEAN Energy is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to the accelerated expansion and competitive success of clean energy CCA nationwide, according to its website.

Through Community Choice Aggregation, also known as community choice energy, public agencies are able to purchase electricity in bulk on behalf of customers. It allows residential, commercial and industrial utility customers to have a say in their energy rates. This option is available in seven states (California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island).

While other states, including Utah, have studied and considered community choice energy legislation, New York is the only state to approve it since 2012. The development and exploration to allow CCA in New York was approved in 2014.

Sustainable Westchester is New York's first CCA program. Since being approved in February, CCA has been enacted in 25 municipalities throughout Westchester County, with roughly 150,000 homes and nearly all of the small businesses in these communities participating, according to a Sustainable Westchester press release.

In October the Sullivan Alliance for Sustainable Development submitted a petition to the New York Public Service Commission seeking approval to establish a countywide Community Choice Aggregation program.

“This is exciting news for New York,” Marshall said.

Community Choice Aggregation may or may not lead to lower utility prices, even though one of its goals is to reduce energy costs. LEAN Energy reports that non-profit municipal utilities, or munis, “provide highly reliable electricity supply at rates averaging 15 to 20 percent below the rates of traditional investor-owned utilities.”

Besides lower rates, another goal of CCA is to provide cleaner and greener electricity to customers. Marshall said more cities are looking at the long-term environmental benefits of CCA instead of a short-term focus on utility rates.

Sonoma Clean Power (SCP), the not-for-profit pubic agency and official electricity provider for Sonoma County, Calif., released the following statistics in its 2014 progress report:

• Greenhouse gas emissions were 48% below (Pacific Gas & Electric’s) last published data from 2013. The total estimated savings is 53,579 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which will be confirmed once PG&E publishes its actual 2014 emissions data in early 2016

• $13.6 million in total bill savings for customers

• Energy mix is 36% renewable plus an additional 44% hydropower. The agency is already meeting the 2020 mandates for all California utilities to be at least 33% renewable. By comparison, PG&E’s mix was 27% renewable and 8% hydropower.

“We knew the agency was doing great things from the beginning,” said SCP Board Chair and Cotati City Councilman, Mark Landman in a press release. “But benefiting customers and the environment at the same time is really something to be proud of.”

In the last year, 20 counties in California have adopted Community Choice Aggregation, Marshall said.

“We’ve seen some acceleration in terms of adoption rates,” Marshall said. “We have had tremendous growth and interest in CCA now that we have proof of its success.”

Marin Clean Energy, which began providing electricity to its initial customers in 2010, is serving 174,000 customers, according to a recent article in the Marin Independent Journal. Last year, 56 percent of its electricity came from renewable sources, compared with PG&E’s electricity, which was 27 percent renewable. MCE is a joint California powers authority consisting of all of Marin County, unincorporated Napa County and the cities of Benicia, El Cerrito, San Pablo and Richmond.

Marshall explained that as more and more counties and cities adopt Community Choice Aggregation, more cities are aware of the option. The “stability and success of the CCA” is leading to expansion of CCA throughout the state of California, Marshall said.

Currently CCA is available within all of the Bay Area. In the next five years, Marshall anticipates that its growth will migrate south within California.

For the next five to 10 years, Marshall said, LEAN Energy’s goals remain the same. The nonprofit organization will continue to “advocate and share best practices and information” on Community Choice Aggregation.

“We will continue to expand in California and remain supportive of new states’ efforts to enact state legislation,” Marshall said.

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