By Robert Mullin
Electricity customers in Los Angeles County will soon have the option to purchase their power from a new publicly run supplier that will obtain more of its energy from renewable resources.
The county’s Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 on Tuesday to establish a community choice aggregator (CCA) that will directly compete with Southern California Edison for the region’s retail, commercial and industrial customers.
The supervisors authorized initial spending of $10 million to launch the Los Angeles Community Choice Energy (LACCE) Authority, with 80% of those funds slated for procuring power, and the balance used for covering administrative costs.
The new CCA will serve electricity users in the county’s unincorporated areas, as well as incorporated cities without a municipal utility, such as Long Beach, South Pasadena and Torrance. Customers in participating areas will be automatically enrolled in the program but can opt out and maintain service with SoCalEd.
Customers of the municipally owned Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Pasadena Water and Power and Burbank Water and Power will not be eligible to make the switch.
The motion voted upon by the board said the initiative will “bring significant environmental and financial benefits to the region, and reflects the growing state- and nationwide trend toward providing customer choice in the provision of electricity.”
A report presented to the board last year showed that a countywide CCA would be financially viable and could provide customers power that is cheaper and “significantly greener” than that delivered by SoCalEd, an investor-owned utility serving much of the region. The county would aim to purchase 50% its energy from renewable resources, nearly double that of SoCalEd. That would reduce countywide greenhouse gas emissions by 850,000 metric tons — or 9%, the county estimates.
“There are few, if any, single actions that the county could take that would have such a large and immediate impact” on the environment, the county’s Chief Executive Office said in a report issued earlier this month.
SoCalEd said it maintains a “neutral” position on CCAs.
The county expects to roll out the CCA’s operations in three phases starting in January 2018, when the LACCE Authority will begin delivering electricity to county-run facilities in unincorporated areas.
Phase two will kick off in July 2018 with the CCA offering service for commercial, industrial and municipal customers in unincorporated areas and cities that elect to become initial participants in the authority, a move that is expected to bring on about 200,000 new accounts.
A third phase launched in 2019 would begin providing service to approximately 1.5 million residential customers.
County officials began exploring the creation of an electricity provider last year. California currently has eight CCAs, with seven more scheduled to begin operations this year. A 2002 state law enabled the creation of CCAs, which rely on the existing distribution system to deliver electricity to customers.
Growth of CCAs is one factor prompting California energy officials to reconsider the idea of instituting retail choice in the state’s electricity market, an effort that was abandoned in the aftermath of the 2000/01 Western Energy Crisis. (See California to Reconsider Retail Choice.)