Opinion - Letters to the Editor
Published: Friday, Jun. 03, 2011
Viewpoint: A tool for local energy choice
By Melody DeMeritt, Greg McMillan, Liz Tracy, Steven Marx, Jono Kinkade,
Pat Veesart and Cal French
Community Choice Aggregation, established in California in 2002 by Assembly
Bill 117, is a major policy innovation that gives local governments the
opportunity to take a major role in achieving the state’s clean
energy and climate protection mandates. This community choice law gives
cities and counties the right to determine the sources of their electric
One year ago, Marin County used this law to switch on cleaner, greener,
non-polluting energy. Today, Marin Clean Energy customers are reducing
annual greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 70,000 tons, the equivalent
of removing nearly 12,000 cars from the road each year. And anyone living
in the Marin Clean Energy service area can sign up for “Deep Green”
— 100 percent renewable energy — for an extra $10 a month.
In March, with this policy in place for less than one year, Marin exceeded
the state requirement to procure 20 percent renewable energy for their
customers, racking up 27 percent of all energy deliveries coming from
The comment period for the public review draft of San Luis Obispo County’s
Climate Action Plan, the countywide blueprint for reducing local green
house gas emissions, ended June 3. The Sierra Club pointed out that the
draft Climate Action Plan does not include consideration of community
choice, and it should.
County planners are aware of the concept. In February 2008, the San Luis
Obispo Council of Governments directed staff to gather information for
a feasibility study for a community choice program. In June 2009, several
county supervisors, along with planners and city managers, attended the
Sierra Club’s Energy Town Hall in Grover Beach, where they met with
Dave Erickson, technical director for Sonoma County’s Climate Action
He outlined Sonoma’s blueprint for initiating a community choice
program to exercise local control in choosing their own energy provider
and service rates while greatly increasing their portion of nonpolluting
Last July, at the Climate Change Adaptation Workshop held in SLO by the
Local Government Commission (LGC), community choice emerged as one of
the top five recommended priority measures for the county. The LGC recommended
community choice to the county in its final report in November 2010.
Last year, the update of the county’s Conservation and Open Space
Element in the General Plan included this policy: “Assert more local
control of energy decisions and sources.”
And yet, community choice is absent from San Luis Obispo County’s
Climate Action Plan. Why?
The plan features many policies that would enhance the energy efficiency
of buildings, build renewable power generation and develop programs for
clean energy. But no measure in the public review draft of the Climate
Action Plan comes close to the carbon-reduction and clean energy benefits
that could be achieved through community choice. No other measure would
more fully realize the goal of the General Plan to “assert more
local control of energy decisions and sources.”
Community choice could serve as the tool box from which the county could
draw all the tools needed for planning our renewable energy future.
The county Board of Supervisors will review and approve the Climate Action
Plan this summer. Before they do, every resident of the county should
send their supervisor a message: We want to see community choice in San
Luis Obispo County’s Climate Action Plan.
It’s coming to Sonoma. It’s working in Marin. Why not here?
The authors serve on the executive committee of the Santa
Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club.