CEC Clears Up Misinformation about Community Choice Energy

CEC Clears Up Misinformation about Community Choice Energy title=
CEC Clears Up Misinformation about Community Choice Energy
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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.

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a-1631386865 Sep 11, 2021 12:01 PM
CEC Clears Up Misinformation about Community Choice Energy

The information or lack there of from 3CE was purposely vague and minimal. I am not sure how this practice of auto enrollment is legal. It would be different if SCE was no longer an option. But to automatically enroll customers in a new program then require them to “opt out” to stay with their existing provider is telling. If this truly was better and more affordable they would be able to present the facts , have public forums and allow people to make a choice to “ opt in”. They know people wouldn’t buy into it if they had the facts. In order to further the agenda they have to have a large % of customers join or it will fail. This press release is not entirely truthful. Current SCE customers who have been unknowingly enrolled into 3CE (see how similar that looks) will pay a temporary lower rate at -2% only for 15 months. In January 2023 those rates will increase by 17%. Or more. The policy board stated the reason for the discount was to “maintain a foothold and customer base in the community and to keep people from opting out” After all the hoopla calms down rates will increase to recover costs from the 15 month discount, establish a cost of service rate plan , and increase funding for “ projects”. Currently the energy they are buying isn’t any different than what SCE is. They have contracted to buy power from future renewable projects but even they admitted some sources may not be available and traditional sources may be used. If they get dirty energy from Nevada it still counts toward the goal of California’s zero emissions because it’s polluting somewhere else. None of their community project funding includes rebates for residents to convert to solar and battery storage. Solar customers severely cut into their revenues . Residential customers pay high rates to make up that shortfall. Their agenda has some interesting, unpractical and costly programs , including EVs for low income households, providing incentives for developers to build all electric developments, converting all existing homes to all electric . Providing credits to low income households to purchase new all electric appliances and lobbying to eliminate all natural gas hookups and new building codes forcing all electric developments in the future . Do your research before buying into this plan. This information is not easy to find. I had to watch all their operation and policy board meetings to learn about what was really going on.

a-1631337886 Sep 10, 2021 10:24 PM
CEC Clears Up Misinformation about Community Choice Energy

The 2 I got were individual large post card mailers. I look at that junk before I toss it. I actually read both of the SBCE ones, lol. I would pay more for greener energy, to a point. Already have PPA (free) solar.

mtndriver Sep 10, 2021 07:48 PM
CEC Clears Up Misinformation about Community Choice Energy

Agreed, NotMe--we have known about it for over a year, but the PR was mostly non-existent and not very clear. I've been looking forward to it, but have been really surprised there wasn't more press about it. I also think people tend not to read those inserts that come with their water bills, etc. Mostly notices from the City go straight into the recycling without getting read.

notme Sep 10, 2021 02:30 PM
CEC Clears Up Misinformation about Community Choice Energy

I think it's the opposite. The original information was so unclear, that they probably were getting calls from people asking how to sign up. My husband, who worked as an environmental engineer in the County for over 30 years, knew about the program and contacted them and suggested they make the information more clear. All the mailed flyers we were getting were very confusing.

SantaBarbaraObserver Sep 10, 2021 01:14 PM
CEC Clears Up Misinformation about Community Choice Energy

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.

SantaBarbaraObserver Sep 10, 2021 03:25 PM
CEC Clears Up Misinformation about Community Choice Energy

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...

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