There’s a New Electron in Town

By: TANJA SREBOTNJAK, Hixon Center director

Have you heard of the Clean Power Alliance?

You might have heard about it or received notifications in the mail: starting this month, approximately 3 million customers in 31 cities and communities in southern California are receiving electricity from the Clean Power Alliance (CPA), a new government entity founded in 2017 that is also known as a Community Choice Aggregator (CCA). Launched as a partnership between public agencies in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, the CPA provides customers with more choice regarding their electricity sources and thus supplements the traditional investor-owned utility model such as Southern California Edison (SCE) and Pacific Gas & Electric. Moreover, a main goal of the CPA is to decarbonize California’s electricity generation by offering customers options to buy renewable power.

What does this mean for southern California customers, especially in Claremont?

The CPA buys renewable power from different generators such as utility-scale solar PV or wind power farms, bundles it, and feeds it into the grid operated by SCE. Thus, SCE remains your local electricity supplier and your point of contact for billing, repairs and other questions.

Each of the 31 towns and cities partnering with the CPA decides which renewable power option it designates as the default option, thus automatically enrolling all of its customers in this plan. There are currently three options available: Lean Power (36% renewables share), Clean Power (50% renewables), and 100% Green Power.

In Claremont, the default is the middle option, i.e., Clean Power with 50% renewables share. In total eight cities chose the Lean Power option, 13 cities default to the Clean Power option, and 10 cities selected the 100% Green Power option. Customers can “opt out” or “opt up” at any time by visiting Clean Power Alliance or calling 888.585.3788.

In addition, as a locally managed power supplier, each of the 31 participating towns and cities has a representative on the CPA’s Board of Directors, which also holds regular meetings that are open to the public (check calendar). Claremont’s CPA representative is Mayor Corey Calaycay. This set-up offers a more direct line of communication for residents’ questions and concerns regarding our electric power supply.

Does green power cost more?

The CPA was founded to offer greener power at competitive rates. As the share of renewables in the electric power mix has grown and research continues to make them more cost efficient, the price differences between clean power and conventional fossil fuel power continues to dwindle. Nonetheless, as a customer we want to understand how the CPA will affect our monthly bills. For this purpose, the CPA provides a bill comparison tool and an overview of the three rate options. The comparison tool does not include any applicable taxes or SCE minimum charges, special charges or credits, which are the same regardless of energy provider. For the current 2019 rates, you can expect the following differentials:

  • Lean Power will cost 1-2% less than SCE’s default rate,
  • Clean Power will offer comparable pricing to SCE’s default rate (0-1% savings),
  • 100% Green Power will have, at most, a 7-9% premium to SCE’s default rate.

Can I count on the CPA as a reliable supplier of green power?

With the passage of SB100 in 2018, California is the second state in the nation after Hawaii to commit itself to 100% renewable electricity by 2045. While the goal is technologically achievable, it does come with ambitious requirements for both green energy generation and storage. The CPA and other community choice aggregators are important contributors to leveling the playing field for renewables and empowering residential and commercial customers to choose green power.

Furthermore, as the share of customers who enroll in the higher renewables options grows, so does the CPA’s negotiating power with green power generators, thus securing more competitive rates. In addition, continued demand growth for renewables will add to planning security for generators and incentivize capacity expansion. In short, green power is here to stay and—absent drastic policy or political changes—will only become more economically competitive.