Council cautiously approves energy alternative for the city

The city council approved membership into a brand-new countywide energy alternative, but not without reservations.

The Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program is a legal structure that allows cities and counties to procure energy independent of Southern California Edison and allow for a higher percentage of renewable energy. The CCA’s other goals include creating clean energy jobs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, reducing electricity bills and providing more local control, according to the city.

The CCA works like this: the local government or a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) gets the power, while investor-owned utilities like Edison continue to maintain the power lines and bill the customers, according to the city.

Customers living in communities who enter into a CCA program are automatically enrolled, but can opt out at any time. At the May 23 council meeting, Director of Community Services Roger Bradley said that, based on previous CCA models, 95 percent of customers who join the program stay on board.

The council heard pitches from two programs—the Los Angeles County Community Choice Energy (LACCE), which is a countywide authority gathering cities to create a program, and the California Choice Energy Authority (CCEA), another independent program.

In a feasibility study, which included Claremont, it was found that under the LACCE program, rates are expected to be 5.4 percent lower than the basic Edison rate at 28 percent renewable energy.

At 50 percent renewable energy, the LACCE will be cheaper than Edison by about 4.1 percent, but at 100 percent renewable energy, the LACCE will be more expensive than Edison by 6.3 percent, according to the city.

LACCE will be governed by a board of directors, including one representative from each city in the program. Claremont has a deadline of December 27 to be part of the decision-making process for forming the LACCE. Services should start between January and June 2018. The first official meeting of the board was in August and included the cities of West Hollywood, Rolling Hills, South Pasadena and Calabasas.

The council was concerned with the unknown aspects of joining LACCE and spent hours asking LACCE representative Bill Carnahan and CCEA representative and Lancaster Deputy City Manager Jason Caudle questions about the programs.

Public comment was mostly positive, with six residents offering support.

Resident Jim Belna was against it, likening the discussion right after losing the water trial as “someone who stuck his hand into a running garbage disposal and trying to figure out whether to stick his second hand in.” He emphasized it would be irresponsible for a board of councilmembers with no energy experience to have buying power over electricity.

Mayor Larry Schroeder was specifically concerned with topics such as when the state will eventually mandate 100 percent renewable energy, thereby rendering the CCA useless. Other concerns included whether the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) will be involved, what the penalties would be for cities who opt out and who will be responsible for a long-term contract with Edison, if the city decides to join LACCE.

Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali understood the benefits of the program, but shared those concerns, amending a saying from his youth—“Nothing is so good that nothing bad can come out if it.”

Councilmember Joe Lyons, who supports joining the program, called the other councilmembers to task, claiming in part that entering into a CCA fulfills the city’s sustainability agenda.

“This is one of those line-in-the-sand moments for me, this really is a defining moment for the city in our efforts to achieve the kind of goals we set as a city eight years ago,” Mr. Lyons said.

At the May 23 meeting, the council asked that the Community and Human Services Commission play an active role throughout the process to determine if the city should join the program. With the deadline now just eight weeks away, the council put Councilmember Sam Pedroza in charge of gathering more information.

In the end, the council reached a compromise: it would approve the first reading of the ordinance, and between now and the second reading, Mr. Pedroza will reach out to cities who are already part of LACCE to gather input.

He will report back to the council, and the ordinance will be pulled for discussion during its second reading. The amended motion was approved, 3-2, with Mr. Nasiali and Mr. Schroeder voting no.

November 8 election date finalized

The council adopted the ordinance moving up the next election date to November 8, 2018. The move is in response to Senate Bill 415, which mandated local elections run in tandem with larger elections to curb low voter turnout.

The deal means the current council’s terms will be shortened by four months. The council discussed the issue during the previous meeting, and narrowly voted to bring the ordinance forth for further consideration. The council approved the ordinance 3-2, with Mr. Nasiali and Corey Calaycay voting no.

The next council meeting is November 14.

—Matthew Bramlett


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