CEC Clears Up Misinformation about Community Choice Energy

Source: Community Environmental Council

As most of you know, Community Choice Energy is launching here in Santa Barbara County in October. Now we need YOUR help to make sure it succeeds! There is a lot of misinformation going around, especially on sites like Nextdoor, and we need you to help correct it when you see it to ensure our community is receiving the best possible information.

As a recap: Community Choice Energy programs are designed by the community for the community. They offer a new way to get cleaner electricity to local homes and businesses and provide greater local control on how that electricity is sourced. Community Choice Energy programs procure cleaner power and work in partnership with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE), which are still responsible for billing, transmission, and distribution of energy. This unique partnership allows you easy and affordable access to clean energy!

When a Community Choice Energy program launches, all customers are automatically enrolled in the new program, allowing them to get the benefits of more renewable energy and access to new rebates and programs to make clean energy technologies more affordable. If you want these benefits, no action is needed on your part.

The main benefits include:

  • Cleaner electricity with lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Competitive electricity rates
  • Local control and local accountability of our energy provider
  • New opportunities for local renewable energy projects and high paying, union jobs
  • Opportunities for greater local resilience
  • Faster progress toward local climate goals

Read on to learn more about the two programs launching in Santa Barbara County. You should be receiving notification by mail if one of these programs affects you. We encourage you and your neighbors to stay opted in.

Program 1: The City of Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Clean Energy (SBCE) will begin serving customers in the City of Santa Barbara in October 2021, and will offer 100% carbon-free electricity to all customers for a small premium. Customers can also opt down to a 50% carbon-free electricity supply at a similar rate to the current provider, Southern California Edison. SBCE customers will also have access to new programs that are in development.

Program 2: Other Areas of Santa Barbara County

In January 2021, Central Coast Community Energy (3CE) started serving Northern Santa Barbara County including the Cities of Santa Maria, Guadalupe, and Solvang. (They also serve many cities in San Luis Obispo County and further north).

In October 2021, 3CE will extend service to the South Coast Santa Barbara region, including the Cities of Goleta (read the press release here), Carpinteria, and unincorporated areas.

3CE offers lower rates than PG&E/SCE and has a commitment to reaching 100% renewable electricity through long-term renewable energy and storage contracts by 2030. That’s 15 years before the 2045 100% carbon-free electricity goal set by the State of California.

3CE customers are also able to access programs to save thousands of dollars on clean energy technology, such as:

  • Electrify Your Ride – Electric vehicle rebates of up to $5,000 and up to $2,400 for an EV charger and electric panel upgrade.
  • 3CE is also expanding programs to help customers electrify their homes and businesses, electrify diesel agricultural equipment, add battery storage, and more.


Take action by spreading the correct information.

Refer to the FAQs above when sharing information to your networks. The City of Goleta official press release is another great resource. Also, feel free to send this email to anyone in your contact list who has questions.

Have more questions that aren’t answered below? Send them to us! Email Michael Chiacos, CEC’s Energy and Climate Program Director, at mchiacos@cecmail.org.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is ‘Community Choice Energy’?

Community Choice Energy (CCE) allows local governments to take over the buying of power for their communities. These are local programs that prioritize the environment by buying clean, carbon-free energy on our behalf and then reinvesting it into the community. There are over 26 Community Choice Energy programs around California and over 30% of Californians are served by them.

Why are local governments doing this?

The City of Santa Barbara has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2035, and many other cities have their own sustainability goals. Getting 100% clean energy into our community is an important first step to get there.

How is this different from our current energy system?

Currently, customers only have one choice of a monopoly energy provider, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) in North Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County, and Southern California Edison (SCE) in the South Santa Barbara region. These are investor-owned companies, meaning they are beholden to shareholders and are committed to providing profits to their investors. Community Choice Energy programs give us a choice in who buys our power, while directing profits back into the community (instead of to investors).

Will this increase power outages?

No. SCE will still maintain the poles and wires. As a customer, you probably won’t even notice a change. In fact, your bill will still come from SCE. The Community Choice Energy program is just taking over the power contracting to align with climate goals and generate local revenue and community resilience.

Will this lead to more or less PSPS events?

Since local governments are not in control of SCE’s poles and wires, safety shutoffs and unscheduled utility outages will remain the same. However, a major goal of these Community Choice Energy programs is to invest in local energy resilience (which includes renewable energy and battery banks) and will therefore look to help local area residents and businesses establish this infrastructure at their homes and places of work.

FAQs related to Santa Barbara Clean Energy

Why should I trust the City to buy my power?

The City has contracted with a company called CalChoice to provide expertise and management of the power purchasing process. CalChoice provides a similar service for 9 other local Community Choice Energy programs. These programs are having great success throughout the state in creating local programs and incentives for all kinds of climate work.

Will my bill go up?

The City of Santa Barbara’s Community Choice Energy program defaults its customers into its 100% Green product, which is 100% carbon-free. This greener, climate-friendly electricity does come at a slight premium (about $5 per month for your home) but is much cheaper than fully outfitting your house with solar panels. Should you choose to, you can also opt down to the Green Start product, which is at least 50% carbon-free and costs the same amount that you’ve typically paid Southern California Edison.

What do I need to do to sign up?

Nothing. All customers are automatically enrolled in the new Community Choice Energy Program and will stay that way unless they take steps to opt out. Because most of the community enrolls in the new program together, Community Choice Energy is a very powerful program to increase renewable energy, gain access to new rebates and programs, and help our region meet our climate goals. By staying opted in, you support a local program that aligns with local climate goals and keeps decision-making local.


Written by Jillian Hall

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  1. I simply DO NOT trust the city of SB to manage anything well. Especially electricity. While I understand that this is really just a paper shift – and is mostly greenwashing bull, the City has never once shown competency or efficacy in their other endeavors. So we’re opting out. I simply do not trust the City. At least until there has been enough time to prove this is worthwhile and functionally no different that the current setup.

  2. I opted out as I have an established solar panel array and battery back up but was still being asked to pay a surcharge to get others to do this. Seems more than uncomfortable that my efforts to date are not being recognized while the late comers are getting more subsidy.

  3. I trust that they can provide the service, respond when necessary and are available 24/7 if there is an issue. They have never once failed me in decades of service. So yes, I do trust them more than the city of SB with its myriad of people, entities and agencies that has failed to deliver on its promises and obligations numerous times over the same period…

  4. Electricity is the same no matter how it is generated. The City says that they are going to supply different, i.e “green,” electricity over the same wires as the “non-green” electricity. They are going to do this even when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing to generate that “green” electricity. So, if I sign up for this program and my next door neighbor opts out, we will be getting identical electricity over the same wires but somehow mine will be classified as “green” and his will be “non-green.” Perhaps someone could explain how this is possible since it makes no sense to me (since I only have a graduate degree in aero engineering not electrical engineering).

  5. It’s very easy to safely dispose of nuclear waste. You bury it anywhere it won’t see the light of day for thousands of years. Like Yucca Mountain, or the Canadian Shield. And there are not mountains of nuclear waste. Do your research. You might be shocked at how small the existing volume is. Not to mention newer reactors don’t produce waste in the volumes of older reactors, and fusion will produce none when it comes online in a few decades. I would volunteer to have a canister of nuclear waste in my backyard. Literally. It’s totally safe.

  6. People should realize that is actually a tax on your electricity that funnels funds to a private company hired by the city to manage a feel good program that was forced down our throats by our elected officials. Not based on a vote, or the market, but a mandate… So while you may like giving money to a random company, I dont. Nothing the program claims about the electricity market is actually true. Nor do they cite the costs associated with this change. There is no market pressure from these purchase changes. Only an addition of another layer of middlemen and bureaucrats and of course, costs. There are many more efficient ways to feel good, or even do good, without paying nincompoops to shuffle paper. If the past is any indication of how the future goes, the city will increase the fees, costs, etc, while reducing its services on this program the same way they have with every other service they run or manage. Can anyone name a single program or service run by the city of Santa Barbara that has not increased fees, costs, etc while reducing its services? Name one. I would love to see where our city has increased efficiency and lowered costs of anything.

  7. Does anyone really believe that a small group of government controlled local entities will get cheaper electricity in the open market in direct competition with the large utilities? When our 3CE acquires electricity, it must go to the same sources as Edison uses, except it will have to also confine its sources to mostly “green” generation. How is it possible for our 3CE to give us lower prices when it has to outbid Edison for some of its generation and then also restrict itself to “green” energy for most of its generation? If you join the 3CE, do it because you believe in “green” energy, not because you want a lower price.

  8. Everyone wants a cleaner world and we should be generating electricity from renewable sources. But this 3CE has a serious agenda and no transparency. They want an all electric state in a state that can’t safely keep the power on during fire weather. We need safer infrastructure to deliver all this electricity. We have a major problem with transmission lines and electrical equipment causing major wildfires in this state. PG&E killed 84 people in 2018 because of unmaintained old equipment. Yet PG&E and SCE ,who started the Thomas Fire resulting in a debris flow that became the worst disaster that has ever happened in SB County, will still be transmitting the power through their lines. Right now it is more important to fix the infrastructure than it is to subsidize developers building all electric subdivisions. No one seems to be able to answer how some energy will be green and some will be dirty through the same transmission lines at the same time. No one also is able to answer where 3CE currently procures their power from.

  9. What price controls does this Green Energy operation have over the use of SCE transmission lines? Particularly when they will be imposing mandates to bury SCE transmission lines – who pays for that? Stick with SCE and stop blocking nuclear power, until someone manages a fundamental energy generation and storage breakthrough.

  10. Interesting rebuttal, Ahlia. Sweeping demand – everyone must agree. And then toss in some emotional scolding as a closer. No wonder nothing gets done in this”progressive town”. Decomissioning older nuclear power plants says nothing about the future of nuclear power. See SBTownies report about nuclear waste amount and waste storage. Sounds right to me which has nothing to do with putting nuclear generating plants on earthquake fault lines. Nuclear powered aircraft carriers now ply our seas, and have years of self-sustaining power for themselves at the ready. I do often wonder about the heavy public pension debt and the current proposed $3 trillion dollar debt we are leaving our grandchildren. But no I don’t worry about the world, the planet, our grandchildren will face, because they have the ingenuity to face and solve their own energy need issues. I worry if we knee-cap them by taking cheap energy away from them. I do worry more about knee-capping them with today’s unproven climate agenda hysteria, the consequences of which do get dumped today on their laps. Energy diversity is our strength. Nuclear energy remains on the table.

  11. My favorite part of the literature we received in the mail was the lie they were promoting that seemed to indicate “green electricity” would be piped directly to your specific home! Haha. Can you imagine? As if there is a huge switchboard and they have all of our addresses and they route green energy to my next door neighbor and dirty energy to my house.

  12. I also forgot to mention the new time of use rates. SCE has an optional lower rate for those who choose their TOU plan. Not 3CE, everyone will be on a time of use plan and the times of use are different. There are multiple blocks of time throughout the day that have vastly different rates. Wonder how that will work for those who don’t have smart meters? Again this doesn’t seem legal.

  13. Byzantium : No one should be promoting nuclear power plants ! There is a very good reason why the one north of us and the one to the south have been decommissioned. The very scary reason is that the many TONS of nuclear waste is still being stored at them. The “scientists” everyone looks to, to solve all our man-made problems, have yet to figure out how to safely dispose of it. It is right next to the ocean ! and near earthquake fault zones. Is this the world that you want to leave to your children and their
    children ? 🙁

  14. 1:10 – Totally ignoring the problem of the radioactive waste they produce. There is as yet no technology for recycling the fuel pellets used in the gas-cooled Gen IV reactors. The molten-salt reactors have a containment vessel erosion problem. All fission reactors suffer from huge start-up costs that take decades to recoup. Nuclear power is not a good answer until fusion comes online.

  15. Has anyone checked the URL and title legitimacy for this story “CEC CLEARS UP MISINFORMATION ABOUT COMMUNITY CHOICE ENERGEY”?
    The story lists Michael Chiacos as CECs (California Energy Commission) “Energy and Climate Program Director,” however, review of the CEC staff directory — https://www.energy.ca.gov/contact/commissioners-offices-and-divisions-contacts/staff-directory — does not list Michael Chiacos (nor Danny Ettelson, the alternate contact “for immediate assistance”).
    Also, City of Santa Barbara signed up for community choice energy program that is managed by CalChoice. CalChoice is operated and managed by City of Lancaster, whose technical consultants at Pacific Energy Advisors were largely responsible for enactment of AB 1110 — California’s truth in energy advertising legislation — after the massive greenwashing that occurred during its consultation at Marin Clean Energy (MCE) where dirty power was rebranded and sold to consmners as “clean energy.” Looks like someone at Santa Barbara failed to do any homework. …and we wonder why this state is such a mess?

  16. Most people who are aware of the ability to opt out are doing just that: opting out. I agree with the person who said that the info sent out to “clarify” the program is due to the flood of folks opting out. In turn, the clarifications are making it abundantly clear that the program has not and probably will not be run very well. They say the extra cost will be about $60/year, but that’s only the start for the program. My guess is that by year 3 the costs will go well over $100/year, and it will go up yearly from then on. I don’t understand why it costs more to “go green”, which is similar to organic foods that don’t use hormones/additives/pesticides …. you would think the price would be less if they don’t have the added expense of the hormones/etc. I’m not paying a cent more for “organic” or “green” as it means nothing to me, and to a LOT of others who are opting out of this boondoggle of a program to line the pockets of yet more eco-shills.

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