Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) is an alternative form of utility system that allows any city, county or combination thereof to form an entity to take over the responsibility of purchasing power for their community, and essentially manage the power grid locally. There are over a dozen of them currently operating in California.
About 75 percent of the electricity supply in California comes from three investor-owned utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric in Northern California, Southern California Edison in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and San Diego Gas & Electric, which covers San Diego County and a small portion of Orange County.
As the name suggests, investor-owned utilities are owned and are accountable to shareholders, and these private electricity and natural gas providers are overseen by the California Public Utilities Commission or CPUC.
In contrast, CCAs tend to be much smaller and more nimble than investor-owned utilities. They're managed at the county level, and decisions made are better tailored to local conditions.
CCA's are also not paying for exorbitant salaries, bonuses, and shares of stocks. This means they inherently put safety first instead of trying to cut corners because they aren't driven by profit.
Under the traditional utility model, energy decisions aren’t made in our backyard.
Decisions are made in San Francisco (home of the CPUC), Sacramento (home of the Legislature), and by profit-driven Pacific Gas & Electric executives.
For example, we know power lines keep sparking wildfires, so why don’t California utility companies bury them as other states do? For decades, Pacific Gas & Electric had been diverting money away from power line undergrounding projects to what it calls "other high priority system improvements."
According to public documents obtained by 2 Investigates from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), over the last 17 years $246 million dollars meant for city and county power line undergrounding was left unspent.
On November 16th, the state’s top electricity safety regulatory official, Elizaveta Malashenko of the CPUC, told the Sacramento Bee that running power lines underground was simply "not worth the cost."
These entities have failed us. Decisions should be made by those who will live with the consequences, and that means making those decisions locally.
Cleaner, Safer, and Cheaper? Yes!
The Butte County Board of Supervisors has already commissioned a feasibility study on the impact of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) for the county of Butte, the city of Chico, and the town of Paradise.
The study concluded that if CCA were implemented:
1. it would allow the county to easily transition to local control over energy management and decision-making to address region-specific safety needs.
2. it would provide customers with an initial 2% in savings, approximately $4 million in regional savings, according to the study.
3. it would create additional programs to benefit local customers and community development
And that's exactly what trends have shown in places where it has been implemented. CCA's have allowed communities to source cleaner, safer energy, with more local control. CCAs have also been shown to deliver lower rates for customers than traditional, profit-driven utilities.
The state's first CCA was formed in Marin County in May 2010 with 8,000 customers, many of whom wanted community choice in order to tap more green sources of power. Called MCE (short for Marin Clean Energy), it has grown dramatically and now serves 470,000 customers in four counties. MCE said its default program costs 2 to 5 percent less than Pacific Gas & Electric, the investor-owned utility in its area.
Additional CCA Resources
Other California CCAs
Valley Clean Energy (Yolo County and Davis)
Pioneer Community Energy (Placer County)
Redwood Coast Energy Authority (Humboldt County)
Apple Valley Clean Energy (San Bernardino County)
East Bay Community Energy (Alameda County)
Marin Clean Energy (Marin and Napa County)
Monterey Bay Community Power (Monterey Bay, San Benito, and Santa Cruz)
Peninsula Clean Energy (San Mateo)
Silicon Valley Clean Energy (Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Saratoga and others)
Sonoma Clean Power (Sonoma and Mendocino County)