Ventura County Star
Published 6:01 a.m. PT Jan. 5, 2019
If you live in Oxnard, Ventura, Thousand Oaks, Ojai or unincorporated Ventura County and don’t pay much attention to local news or your junk mail, chances are you’ll be paying significantly more for electricity beginning next month.
That’s because your city councils and supervisors — egged on by environmentalists — decided to join a public utility alternative to Southern California Edison and chose its highest rates possible as your default plan.
We supported the concept of this Clean Power Alliance a year ago and still do. Its green energy goals are a must in this era of climate change, and anything that dents the monopolies of California’s big private utilities and their regulatory friends in state government is a plus.
But the implementation of the switch has dampened our enthusiasm. With such large rate increases — and the lack of transparency surrounding them — we believe it’s time for taxpayers to ask their elected officials if they are just replacing one arrogant energy bureaucracy with another.
The Clean Power Alliance is a so-called “Community Choice Aggregation” or CCA, a program created by the state in 2002 to allow cities and counties to buy blocks of power and use existing utility lines to transmit and sell it to residents. CCAs have been operating successfully for years in other parts of California. Los Angeles County launched its alliance in 2017, and nearly 30 cities have joined, including most in Ventura County.
The promise was threefold: consumer choice, lower costs and cleaner energy. So far, the practical reality has been something less than that.
Yes, you’ll have the choice to opt out of the alliance and stay with Edison, or pick a cheaper rate plan than the default your city has chosen for you. But whether you’ll know if, how and when to do that is another story.
The alliance is sending out four mailers on the change — two before the rates take effect Feb. 1 and two afterward. But the first, sent last month, looked like junk mail and contained no specifics on how much more residents may be paying. Expect more of the same in at least the next mailer.
The rates are in flux, and the mailer does mention a website, cleanpoweralliance.org, where residents can calculate an estimated increase. But the rough percentages of the increases are known, and we don’t understand why those were not in the mailers.
The alliance is offering three rate options: “lean power,” calling for 36 percent renewable energy and costing 1 to 2 percent less than Edison’s base rates; “clean power,” a 50 percent-renewable plan about equal to Edison rates; and “green power,” a 100 percent-renewable choice costing you 7 to 9 percent more than Edison.
If you do nothing — as most people will — you’ll get stuck with your city’s default plan: the most expensive rate for Oxnard, Ventura, Thousand Oaks, Ojai and unincorporated areas; the mid-range one for Moorpark; and the cheapest for Simi Valley and Camarillo. That means an Oxnard household with a $100 Edison bill could soon be paying an extra $9 a month.
It’s also worth noting that if you choose the 100 percent-renewable plan and your neighbor picks the 36 percent one, you won’t be getting different electricity. It’s all the same grid. Your choice and all the others in your community only provide direction to the alliance on what type of energy to procure.
Asking people to pay more for green energy is essentially a plea for altruism, and if you’re going to ask people to be altruistic, you have to clearly tell them what it’s going to cost. We hope the alliance will do a better job of that in the coming weeks.