April 12, 2017
Major utility companies and their allies in government are working to undermine local efforts to assert community control over their electricity. A new State Senate bill in California sponsored by a longtime utility company executive seeks to roll back progress and jam up the works.
Community Choice Energy (CCE) is a successful governmental framework that has enabled a handful of communities in California to transition rapidly to renewable electricity. But opponents of this emerging paradigm are still hard at work, attempting to slow it down after their previous attempts to kill it failed.
State Senator Steven Bradford (D – Gardena), a former executive at one of the largest utility companies in the country, Southern California Edison, has introduced SB 618: a bill that seeks to reassert control over these communities by forcing CCEs to seek approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), a State regulatory body historically hostile to the whole CCE concept.
The CPUC, established to regulate for-profit utility monopolies, is theoretically a “check” against the power of arguably the most influential companies in the State—giant corporations that literally determine whether the lights stay on in almost every home and business. In practice, results have been mixed, with the CPUC recently coming under fire for neglecting extremely dangerous systemic threats until disaster struck: in some cases killing people, and in others, releasing nuclear radiation, or over 90,000 tons of methane directly into the atmosphere. Alternatively, the CPUC has been criticized for having a cozy relationship with the companies it is supposed to regulate; justifiable criticisms that have resulted in the removal of top commissioners and even prompted threats from the State Legislature to overhaul the whole agency.
So it is understandable that a former utility company executive would want to add to the CPUC’s workload by mandating that it also oversee the Community Choice Energy organizations: Senator Bradford has been a utility company attack dog in the legislature for years. In 2014, Bradford authored a much more direct assault on CCEs. That bill ultimately died but his legacy of standing against community choice continues to this day.
The World Business Academy has co-signed a letter from the California Alliance for Community Energy, opposing Senator Bradford’s legislation and establishing a strong case against allowing the CPUC to dominate local energy agencies:
As public programs, Community Choice agencies were not intended to be regulated by the CPUC, just as the state’s public municipal utility programs are exempt from CPUC regulation. Rather, the CPUC was set up to regulate the monopoly utilities, the for-profit investor-owned utilities (IOUs), which strive to maximize profits for their shareholders—a goal often at odds with the public interest.
The full letter and an attachment discussing the CPUC’s bias against Community Choice Energy are available here.
California is on the forefront of this transformation, with highly successful CCE programs in three counties and at least ten more community energy agencies currently in formation. These programs have enabled local communities to meet and exceed their greenhouse gas reduction goals ahead of schedule while also creating economic opportunity and development in clean energy technologies.
If you are a California resident and believe in the future of renewable energy, local community choice, and a world free of fossil fuels, it is essential that the members of the Senate Energy Committee and Committee staff hear from you. Their email addresses are:
Energy Committee Members (email for staff contact):
Senator Ben Hueso – email@example.com
Senator Steven Bradford – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Andy Vidak – email@example.com
Senator Mike McGuire – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Henry Stern – Alicia.Isaacs@sen.ca.gov
Senator Nancy Skinner – Katerina.email@example.com
Senator Bob Hertzberg – Julissa.Delgado@sen.ca.gov
Senator Jerry Hill – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Scott Wiener – email@example.com
List of Senate Energy Committee staffers:
Please be respectful and clear. This bill could be voted on as early as April 18th, so time is short. Email today and let our elected officials know how you feel about SB 618.