2015-09-04 / Front Page

City asked to take part in energy study

By Caitlin Trude

HOT STUFF—Solar panels provide a type of renewable energy. The Moorpark City Council was asked to consider participating in Santa Barbara County’s feasibility study on alternative energy resources for consumers. HOT STUFF—Solar panels provide a type of renewable energy. The Moorpark City Council was asked to consider participating in Santa Barbara County’s feasibility study on alternative energy resources for consumers. Residents of Moorpark and neighboring cities urged the Moorpark City Council last month to take part in Santa Barbara County’s feasibility study to determine if alternative energy resources could be more cost-effective for energy consumers than using traditional utility companies like Southern California Edison.

Although the idea is ambitious and faces numerous logistical obstacles, proponents hope that if enough local agencies take part in the study an alternative-energy plan with greener options will become a reality.

The proposal was made Aug. 19, about a month after a group of Moorpark residents voiced their concerns about the environmental impact of SCE’s 66-kilovolt subtransmission line project.

Construction on the nine-mile line, which was to run through Moorpark and Newbury Park, began in 2010 but was halted in 2011.

Peggy Ludington, one of the speakers at the Aug. 19 meeting, has led opposition against Edison’s line project for the last seven years.

“I have learned that expecting Edison to lead us away from our reliance on generated energy in the age of green energy is like expecting big oil to lead us away from fossil fuels; it is not going to happen,” she said.

By turning to renewableenergy resources, Ludington said, cities can help the state meet the goal of the 2006 California Global Warming Solutions Act, which requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by about 15 percent by 2020.

Five speakers, including Ludington, expressed their support for Moorpark to join Santa Barbara and Carpinteria’s Community Choice Aggregation feasibility study.

The study will identify how much money the cities may save by buying energy through community choice aggregation programs rather than utility companies such as SCE or Pacific Gas and Electric.

It will also determine the predicted demand by cities for alternative energy providers as well as potential benefits and risks of implementing a community aggregation program.

If Moorpark decides to join the feasibility study, ratepayer data from cities in both counties will be collected and analyzed. Counties may draft implementation plans for a community aggregation program after the data is collected, giving their preferred energy providers the chance to address future energy needs.

A few government agencies are willing to put money into the study.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved funding for the feasibility study in June and now Community Choice Aggregation proponents, including Ludington, hope to get Ventura County cities on board.

Linda Hillman, a Santa Barbara attorney, said after the meeting the estimated cost of Santa Barbara County’s feasibility study was about $500,000.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted in early June to fund $400,000 toward the first phase shortly after the Santa Barbara City Council decided to put $50,000 toward the study. The Community Environmental Council in Santa Barbara, a nonprofit organization, is expected to raise an additional $50,000.

Including Ventura County’s 10 cities in the study would cost about $50,000, according to a letter sent from the Ventura County Executive Office to the Board of Supervisors.

The initial startup costs for the study would be funded by taxpayer dollars, Hillman said, while the cost of actually implementing alternative energy providers would be met through consumers’ utility bills.

The attorney said the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors may begin accepting proposals in the fall from consulting firms who wish to conduct the feasibility study.

Community Choice Aggregation would give energy consumers the option to pay lower rates for renewable energy, Hillman said.

While the idea of affordable energy from geothermal, wind, solar and other renewable sources may sound too good to be true, Hillman said Community Choice Aggregation’s partnership with not-for-profit energy providers makes it possible.

Community aggregation programs aren’t the only ones turning to alternative energy resources: in 2014 SCE delivered about 24 percent of its electricity in renewable energy to customers.

Individuals would have a choice between turning to alternative energy providers through Community Choice Aggregation and choosing to stay with their current energy providers by opting out of Community Choice Aggregation.

SCE customers pay for energy generation, transmission and distribution, all provided as part of the utility company’s bundled service.

Customers in cities or counties participating in Community Choice Aggregation would choose their energy providers, but SCE would still be responsible for the delivery of energy to customers. Community Choice Aggregation customers would continue to receive monthly utility bills from SCE, but the company would transfer the generation portion of the bill to the customer’s Community Choice Aggregation provider.

When asked to provide comment about the potential benefits and risks of purchasing energy through Community Choice Aggregation, SCE spokesperson Robert Laffoon-Villegas said the company’s position is “entirely neutral.”

Councilmember David Pollock said he’d be happy to sponsor efforts toward partnering with Community Choice Aggregation and hoped Moorpark would agree to join the feasibility study within the next couple of months.

Since switching residents over to alternative renewable energy providers may be a costly goal, Pollock said, the council would need to do more research on renewable energy rates and the realities of implementing a Community Choice Aggregation program.

“I should think that if (the Council sees) that it’s something that will save the city and our ratepayers money on their electrical bill, I think they would be interested,” Pollock said. “The devil’s always in the details, so that’s what we’re exploring right now.”

The next course of action is for the City Council to pass a nonbinding resolution indicating Moorpark’s interest in the study.

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