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Santa Monica Council Weighs Options on Pursuing Clean Energy Goals  

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

February 21, 2017 -- In the clean energy game, everybody wants Santa Monica on its team. The City Council heard from suitors and their advocates last Tuesday on Valentine’s Day for Santa Monica to be a part of their clean energy effort.

The council made one thing clear at that meeting: it wants to pursue community choice aggregation (CCA), which involves a city government buying and selling its own electricity that is said to be cleaner and cheaper than current options.

The method to do that will be determined later this year.

Among the options would be to join one of two collectives -- one run by the county and another by the nonprofit South Bay Clean Power (SBCP) that features a smaller number of cities.

The heads of both entities were at the council meeting to promote their plans.

“There are multiple suitors, and on Valentine’s Day I hate to play hard to get; but I think that’s really what we need to do at this point,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who was appointed that night as the council’s liaison in these negotiations.

The council passed a measure to study both options as well as a third -- that the City become an independent CCA provider.

That independence option could be done in several ways, including through the guidance of the City of Lancaster, which operates the only CCA in Los Angeles County.

Judy Abdo, former Santa Monica mayor and an activist involved with various groups including Climate Action Santa Monica, advised the council to be careful in making its final selection.

“Santa Monica’s the most desired city, and everybody wants you,” she said. “That’s a great position to be in, but it means you really have to do your homework really well to decide what’s best for the city.”

Competition among the suitors has apparently become intense, with McKeown saying there was some “sniping” between the County and SBCP in some of the communications.

That rivalry was not evident at the meeting, with leaders of both groups using kind words during their comments to the council. Both speakers noted that Santa Monica is frequently a leader on environmental issues.

“We think this is a chance to create a significant regional impact on moving cleaner energy, more local jobs [and] lower cost energy forward on a broad scale,” said Gary Gero, the County’s chief sustainability officer.

He continued, “And we look forward to the kind of leadership Santa Monica has shown.”

SBCP evidently thought it had a good night, posting about what happened on its website in a blog entry titled “A Sweet Valentine Night in Santa Monica.”

The nonprofit noted it had the support of several public speakers, including two representatives from labor organizations.

Jennifer Kropke from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 11 told the council that it had been working with SBCP and liked its business plan.

“I know it’s a crazy thought -- labor and environmental groups working together,” Kropke said. “Yes, we are doing this. We are coming together for a common cause.”

Regarding SBCP’s business plan, she added, “We’re excited about the emphasis on good, local green jobs that pay family sustaining wages.”

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