Sunday, July 27, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Tom Elias: Will lawmakers kill energy independence?

TomEliasW

By
From page A10 | July 04, 2014 |

Nothing is more important to California’s large privately owned utilities than the virtual monopolies they enjoy in most of the state.

Those monopolies make it practically impossible for almost all businesses and residents outside cities with municipal power companies to buy electricity from anyone but companies like PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric, also guaranteeing significant profits to those utilities in perpetuity.

But the big energy companies feel threatened these days by a movement toward energy independence now afoot from Sonoma and Marin counties and big cities like San Francisco and San Diego. Moves are also active in Alameda County and Lancaster.

Whether the independence efforts succeed or not will depend in part on the fate of a proposed law now working its way through the state Legislature, one that advocates of competition say will surely kill their movement if it passes.

The proposal, Assembly Bill 2145, looks innocuous on its surface: It would mandate an opt-in approach for newly independent electric arrangements known as community choice aggregations (CCAs), rather than the opt-out setup on which every such plan in America has been based.

So far, only two CCAs operate in California, covering much of Marin and Sonoma counties. They buy power from generators and sell it to local residents, transmitting the energy over the power grid owned and operated by the big utilities. Customers still get bills from the big firms, but part of what they pay goes to the CCAs, set up on votes by city and county governments.

Organizers in Marin and Sonoma counties say their customers are saving a minimum of 4 percent on monthly bills, with some invoices reduced by about 6 percent. Net savings reported so far: more than $4 million.

In each area with a CCA, existing utility customers automatically get power from the new agency, unless they opt out and go back to their former utility, which about 20 percent of Marin customers have done. AB 2145 would flip that around, forcing CCAs to recruit each of their customers.

“This would rob community choice programs of the critical mass they need to get off the ground,” said San Diego County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts in a recent essay. The two want a CCA for the San Diego area. “This change would cripple the creation of local initiatives and lock in an energy market that is rigged against consumers,” they said.

AB 2145 sponsor Steven Bradford, a Democratic assemblyman from Gardena and a former Southern California Edison executive, argues that because most Californians have no idea what a CCA is, the new agencies should be forced to market themselves.

“These outfits need to go into the community and convince people to join,” he said. “That is the consumerist way to introduce competition.”

His argument is a “red herring,” says Shawn Marshall, director of a pro-CCA group called LEAN Energy US, who helped organize the Marin and Sonoma agencies. “We have no problem with reporting all we do to the ratepayers. But Bradford and the utilities know opt-in is a poison pill that would kill this entire concept.”

Bradford’s bill passed the Assembly in May and is now before state Senate committees. It is the second utility-backed effort of the last four years to kill CCAs.

The first was the failed 2010 Proposition 16, which sought to require a two-thirds vote for a local ballot measure before any government could set up a CCA. PG&E invested more than $40 million in that failed proposition, far exceeding what CCA backers spent. Neither it nor the other big utilities want to become mere common carriers that mainly supply transportation of power, rather than also providing the electricity.

Bradford insists an opt-in system is needed because most citizens are clueless about CCAs. The danger is that because his fellow lawmakers are for the most part also uninformed, they will pass AB 2145, leaving it up to Gov. Jerry Brown to sign or veto the measure, which is strongly backed by labor unions that are big funders of his campaigns.

But if there is ever to be significant energy competition in California, this bill must die, despite the consumerist rhetoric in which Bradford carefully wraps it.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at tdelias@aol.com

Comments

comments

.

News

Zombies by rail: It’s not just a show, it’s a trip

By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Fatal Covell Boulevard crash recalled in court

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

Humphrey Fellows will host Global Forum

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Community gardens stretch food dollars, study finds

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Wildfire spurs evacuation of 700 homes

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
State can’t say if it’s meeting drought goal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Rairdan joins race for Davis school board

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Ukraine launches offensive to retake Donetsk

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Israel extends Gaza truce through Sunday

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

New ordinance aims to prevent nut thefts from orchards

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

 
Biggest book sale to date opens Friday at Davis library

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Luna family matriarch turns 100

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
 
Discussion of oil by rail EIR planned Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Mace Innovation Center is focus of meeting

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Freeway crash injures two drivers

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

Museum wants your old Davis High School yearbooks

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Affordable housing forum planned in Davis

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Protesters gather at Primate Center

By Tanya Perez | From Page: A8

 
State awards $40,000 for historic property survey

By Lily Holmes | From Page: A8

Free blood pressure screenings offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Vanguard hosts economic development director

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Get a sneak peek at documentary trailer

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

 
Davis Chamber Choir sings short summer program

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A9

Tasting event benefits Yolo Land Trust

By Lily Holmes | From Page: A9

 
At the Pond: From Davis, it’s easy to get back to nature

By Jean Jackman | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Tickets on sale now for DHS Hall of Fame dinner

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
.

Forum

Feels like a million miles away

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A7

 
Here’s what you need for a perfect wedding

By Marion Franck | From Page: A7

 
Check doctors’ vitals before they check yours

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Husband’s let himself go

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A14

 
Questions on water rights

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A16, 1 Comment

Campus turns on the tap

By Our View | From Page: A16

 
So, what’s in a week’s worth of waste?

By Michelle Millet | From Page: A16

Pat Oliphant cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A16

 
Golf tourney was a big success

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A16

We can do more to help

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A17

 
New playground is wonderful

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A17

Just Us in Davis: Little Rock Nine hero to celebrate with Davis youths

By Jann L. Murray-Garcia | From Page: A17 | Gallery

 
.

Sports

Sutherland presents 1st clinic; golf column on its way

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
New Korematsu teacher is an American Ninja Warrior

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Furyk opens 3-shot lead in Canadian Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Gray wins 6th straight, A’s 4 HRs beat Texas 5-1

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Kershaw throws 2-hitter as Dodgers beat Giants 5-0

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Nibali set to cruise to Tour victory

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Area sports briefs: River Cats take Game 1 of doubleheader

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

 
.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Companies will collaborate on crop insect control

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A13

 
Developer’s commitments: affordable and green

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13 | Gallery

Lagerstrom represents Davis at Mary Kay seminar

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A15

 
UC Davis Health System earns ‘Most Wired’ award

By Charles Casey | From Page: A15

Bartholomew hires new associate

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

 
Yolo County real estate sales

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A15

Go back to school with Great Clips

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

 
.

Obituaries

Carlton Hope Meister

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Jonathan Eric Hollander

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, July 27, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A6