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Santa Monica Opposes State Changes to Energy Rights

Ben Allen for State Senate

Richard Bloom For State Assembly 2014
Richard Bloom for State Assemblymember 2014

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Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

May 30, 2014 – The Santa Monica City Council voted Tuesday to oppose a California bill that would make it harder for cities to provide clean and cheap forms of power to their constituents.

The bill, backed by privately owned utilities, would require individual users to opt into Government-backed energy coops through the Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program. Currently users automatically become part of the program if their local government opts in.  

“We have the possibility in the future of buying renewable energy for the entire community through these CCA’s,“ said Councilmember Ted Winterer, who voted to oppose the bill.

“AB 2145 is basically motivated by the privately held utilities and makes it harder for communities to do something like this, which is successful in cities in Northern California,”

Winterer was one of the five council members to back the council item. Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day abstained, citing a possible conflict of interest due to his employment at NRG eVgo, a subsidiary of NRG Energy.  Mayor Pam O’Connor was absent.

The item was put on the Council discussion agenda at the request of O’Connor, Winterer and Council member Kevin McKeown. 

“Santa Monica, back in the late 90’s, made the amazing move of going to 100 percent renewable energy here in all of our city facilities and we get it cheaper than ‘dirty energy’ from the commercial utility,” McKeown said. 

“I would love to be able to get that in my home and I would love to be able to offer that to everyone in Santa Monica,” he added. “Cleaner and cheaper, what a deal. But this bill would make it impossible to do that.”

Under existing California law, the Public Utilities Act authorizes a community choice aggregator, like the City Santa Monica, to provide electrical energy to interested consumers within its boundaries.

The CCA provides each customer an opportunity to opt out of his or her community’s aggregation program, instead of requiring them to sign up. If no negative declaration is made by the customer regarding participation, the customer will be served by the CCA.

The aggregator would partner with an electrical corporation to provide appropriate billing and electrical load data. That corporation would then install, maintain and calibrate metering devices at homes within the aggregator’s political boundaries.

If passed, AB 2145 would reverse the opt-out rules and require consumers to sign up. Aggregators would need to mass market the CCA to consumers, according to City officials.

Opponents of AB 2145 include several local governments around the state, the Sierra Club of California, the California State Association of Counties and the League of California Cities.

The bill, introduced by Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood), passed the California Assembly on Wednesday and is headed to the California Senate.

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