2016-01-29 / Front Page

Council votes to join alternative power study

Program aims to tap into cheaper, cleaner electricity sources
By Stephanie Sumell


GREEN POWER—The City Council voted Jan. 13 to participate in a tricounty energy study intended to free residents and business owners from depending wholly on Southern California Edison for electricity. GREEN POWER—The City Council voted Jan. 13 to participate in a tricounty energy study intended to free residents and business owners from depending wholly on Southern California Edison for electricity. Camarillo residents are a step closer to joining a growing number of cities nationwide that want to give residents the choice of buying clean energy from alternative sources rather than relying on power generated by traditional electric companies.

The Camarillo City Council voted unanimously Jan. 13 to participate in a tri-county energy study intended to free residents and business owners from depending wholly on Southern California Edison to provide electricity.

The city approved $25,000 to go toward the study, a sum that will also enable a staff member to have a seat on the advisory working group guiding the study. The total cost of the study, which will be shared by participating agencies, is estimated to be $500,000.

To date, Moorpark, Ventura, Ojai, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks have also chosen to participate.

“I support this (for) a number of reasons,” Councilmember Kevin Kildee said before the vote. “There’s potential for greenhouse cutbacks; there’s a potential for lower electrical costs; we can partner regionally with the other cities out there. This is 2016, and I think this is spot on for what’s happening in 2016.”

The study would determine if it would be financially feasible for cities in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties to support renewable energy purchases through community choice aggregation programs.

Santa Barbara County led the way in June 2015 after its Board of Supervisors budgeted $400,000 to conduct a feasibility study.

A few months later, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors accepted Santa Barbara County’s invitation to join the study by agreeing to put $50,000 toward the effort, and shortly thereafter San Luis Obispo County followed suit and agreed to provide another $50,000 in funding.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, proponents of community choice aggregation say, it could also reduce energy bills.

Community choice aggregation began in California following the state’s energy crisis in 2000 and 2001 with the passage of Assembly Bill 117 in 2002. The law made it possible for Californians to choose their electric providers.

In 2008, Marin Clean Energy in Marin County was the first program in the state to create a community choice aggregation, with Sonoma Clean Power following in 2013.

According to the Marin Clean Energy website, the way the program works is Pacific Gas and Electric—the utility company that provides power to many cities in Northern California— handles the delivery, maintenance and billing of electricity for homes and businesses.

Customers serviced by Marin Clean Energy have anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of their power provided by companies that use solar, wind or geothermal energy sources to make electricity.

Proponents say the greener power sources would also help the state meet its objective of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by the year 2020, a goal set in the California Global Warming Solutions Act.

Roger Pichardo, a management analyst for the city, said a community choice aggregation program would make it easier to use solar power and other sustainable sources of energy while “the utility company continues to deliver the power, maintain the grid and infrastructure and provide billing and customer service.”

Customers would be able to opt out of the program.

“It’s a matter of taking local control and giving your constituents a choice,” Pichardo said.

He said it is advantageous for cities and counties to work together to make decisions regarding energy.

“You are basically putting together a governing board comprised of members of each of these jurisdictions and creating a joint powers agreement,” he said. “If a city (acts) on its own, all the liability and all the risk falls on that city’s lap.”

Pichardo said the study is likely to be completed by the end of the year.

Caitlin Trude contributed to this report.

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