A good night for Laguna and Clean Power
On July 13, our city council voted unanimously to move forward and eventually join the 200 other towns, cities and counties in California that have chosen to run on clean electricity. So far, four cities in Orange County have made this decision: Irvine, Huntington Beach, Fullerton and Buena Park. The Board decided to explore the next steps in adopting Community Choice Energy (CCE) and to revisit the issue in November.
Need a quick refresher on CCE? CCE (officially Community Choice Aggregation) was launched in Marin County in 2010 to break Pacific Gas & Electric’s monopoly on providing electricity to taxpayers and to ensure a better mix of renewable energies affordable to the public. At that time, opinion leaders and local officials argued for breaking the strangling monopoly that the fossil fuel industry had on government at all levels. So, they invented a quasi-government Joint Power Authority to buy a cleaner blend of fuels to provide electricity to residents, businesses, and government offices in a group of cities. From the start, CCEs were and remain nonprofit operations that are not beholden to shareholders of investor-owned utilities (IOUs), such as PG&E, Edison, and SDG&E. For both practical and economic reasons, CCEs use IOU transmission power lines and subscribers are billed by utility companies.
How did our Board decide to further explore this option? Under the energetic leadership of board members George Weiss and Sue Kempf, an advisory committee of children in their twenties and twenties fresh out of college and / or graduate school and several older political experts regaled the audience with PowerPoint presentation and testimonial created by staff. on Community Choice Energy which was a tour de force. These presenters not only knew their stuff, but seemed determined to see their ideas distilled into public policy before the worst consequences of global warming became inevitable.
Board members discussed marginal savings on electricity bills of up to 2%, environmental benefits to be gained and their need to learn more about risk management, IOU withdrawal fees , sufficient energy supply, micro-grids in Laguna, staffing and technological concerns, and financial resilience. The Council agreed to explore these issues further by November. That said, Mayor Bob Whelan saw the big picture – the need to move quickly to clean energy given the build-up of carbon in the atmosphere. To his credit, he focused on the environmental benefits by declaring: “The financial part is marginal, it is the renewable part which is the most beneficial.
As I applaud the entire Council for its decision to move forward with the CEC, for which my wife, Ginger, and I have been advocating for at least two years, although every city in America adopts this energy alternative, the most effective action to fight against the climate crisis will have to occur at the national level and in this decade, warn the scientists. More specifically, the main economists of our country are calling for a carbon price, that is, forcing the fossil fuel industry to pay the costs of their products dangerous to health and the environment. The increase in the price at the pump and the return of the proceeds to taxpayers in the form of dividend checks are supported by a number of economists.
Until the public demands national action, local governments will need to embrace CECs and a myriad of other policies aimed at building a liveable future. The Board meeting mentioned above was an important step in the right direction; it was good for Laguna and clean power.
Tom Osborne is an environmental historian who, with his wife, co-directs the Laguna chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. E-mail: [email protected]