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Claremont joins other cities to combat climate change

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

During its meeting Tuesday the Claremont City Council voted to join 15 other Southern California cities working to combat climate change by switching to completely carbon-free electrical generation.

By a unanimous vote the council elected to switch from Clean Power Alliance’s Clean Power program, for which 40% of generation is renewable and 10% is hydroelectric, to the 100% Green Power option, meaning that all power generation is renewable. This change affects both the city’s energy costs and those of Claremont residents because rate payers will be automatically enrolled in the new plan unless they opt out.

Beginning in October, all of the city’s electricity will come from renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal. According to the company, Claremont’s switch will avoid 32,130 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, which is equivalent to removing 6,973 cars from the roadways. Because most customers stay with the option the city council selects, up to 90% of Claremont homes and businesses will move to the 100% Green Power rate.

The change comes with an additional cost, which the company estimates will be between 2% and 3%, or about $5 per month for most customers. People who qualify for low income energy bill reduction programs will have no increase in their monthly costs.

Currently the city pays $407,000 annually for municipal accounts under the Clean Power rate plan, so its annual cost will increase by about $9,200. Also, when the city originally went with Clean Power Alliance, it kept the streetlights with Southern California Edison, so there will be $20,000 in additional electricity costs to bring those into the 100% Green Power plan.

Those who wish to remain in the Clean Power plan will have a sixty-day window to alert the CPA of their wishes leading up to the switch to 100% renewable in October. After that, customers can change their Clean Power Alliance rate option at any time, including selecting the Lean Power, 40% renewable plan or returning to Clean Power plan. Residents can even return to energy sourced by Southern California Edison. The only caveat is that anyone who goes back to Edison will have to adhere to that decision for a year as per Edison’s rules.

Anyone who has opted out of the Clean Power Alliance program in the past, including those currently on the Lean Power rate, will not be affected by the switch and no action is required on their part.

“When you begin service with Clean Power Alliance, you will be opted into the default renewable rate chosen by your community. However, you have the power to choose your own level of service. Go lean or clean to support the environment. Go 100% green to become an environmental leader,” the company said in a statement.

Clean Power Alliance is a nonprofit joint powers authority comprised of 32 public agencies across Ventura and Los Angeles counties, which purchases clean energy for its customers, which Edison then delivers. It serves about 1 million residential and business accounts which makes it the fifth largest electrical provider in California.

“We are the largest provider of 100% renewable energy after just four years of being in business,” Clean Power Alliance Executive Director Ted Bardacke said.

For the first three years of its existence, Clean Power Alliance had the lowest available rates in the region. In 2021 its rates became higher for the first time because of rising SCE costs and the “power charge indifference adjustment,” which is an exit fee charged by SCE to customers who choose another provider of electricity generation service.

“Our rate plus the exit fee PCIA, which pays Edison for prior resources, were higher than the Edison generation rates for the first time this past year,” Bardacke said.

However, on March 1, Edison says its generation rates will increase by 22% due to a $700 million under-collection of generation costs from 2021. As a result, the 100% Green Power customers will pay about 5% less than Edison’s base rate plan which includes 35% renewable energy.

“So what that means is a CPA customer would be paying the same as an Edison customer but be getting 100% renewable energy, 100% carbon-free compared to Edison’s 35%,” Bardacke said.

This  discount will not last for more than four or five months because CPA will go through its own pricing exercise in May and June to set its rates for the next fiscal year. In the long run it’s likely that clean and 100% green will end up around parity with SCE’s base rate.

The switch to 100% green energy fits in with Claremont’s overall environmental leadership goals as outlined in the city’s sustainability plan. In addition, the change would help Claremont’s effort to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

“Claremont would like to be a leader in [reducing] greenhouse gas emissions and continue to look at that carbon footprint,” Director of Community Services Jeremy Swan said.

“If Claremont opts up to 100%, will that have a direct effect on adding new renewable energy generation to the grid?” Councilmember Jennifer Stark asked.

“When customers choose the 100%, whether through their own actions or the actions of a city council to change the default, what that does it gives us more security to go out and contract for even more long term renewable energy resources” Bardacke responded.

Public comments were almost entirely in favor of switching to 100% renewable energy, including 46 written communications in favor and just two against.

“It’s really important that we consider the philosophical and practical question of what happens if we don’t address climate change when given the opportunity. And we know what happens. We are already living during these extreme weather events and the devastation that causes extreme weather events affects people with lower income significantly more. So if we are considering cost, we need to consider the cost of not taking action,” Stark said before the vote.

Mayor Jed Leano expressed concerns about increasing people’s energy bills during a time of rising inflation and continued instability due to the pandemic. He coupled his support with a request to city staff that they would go beyond the minimum required notification process to ensure that every rate payer knows they have the option to not have their electricity cost increase. He also acknowledged the importance of the council making the right decision for the near and distant future.

“The greatest challenge to our generation is climate change and in fact our generation will be defined by the way we were told about it and how we chose to respond, if at all,”  Mayor Leano said.

 

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