National Law Review
Community choice aggregators (CCAs) are growing in popularity as an alternative electricity provider for communities that want more local control over their energy mix. And so, financiers, CCAs and other business leaders must assess what this growth means for the electric grid, utility business models and project finance. While there’s a primary focus on California, increasing energy loads being served by CCAs and other non-utility suppliers have been trending across the country. The recent American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) Forum united dealmakers, policymakers and systems experts to confront the business opportunities, policy and regulatory issues, and technology challenges associated with integrating high-penetration renewable electricity on the grid.
The goal of ACORE’s 2019 forum was to advance efforts for a modernized grid that values flexibility, reliability and resilience. One important session was Community Choice Aggregation: Impacts on Project Finance and Grid Management, which was moderated by Ed Zaelke of McDermott Will & Emery and included panelists Nick Chaset of East Bay Community Energy, Daniela Shapiro of ENGIE, N.A. and Britta von Oesen of CohnReznick Capital. By and large, the CCA platform in California is considered a success and has positive momentum.
Other states are actively investigating a similar-to-California choice for customers and untangling potentially complicated matters of regulation and assessing price and controls. Though structured to provide modest discounts to customers, CCAs strive to offer a more durable value proposition in their delivery of innovative, locally focused customer programs. In fact, they’re banking on it. Rates may fluctuate over regulated utilities at some point, but with tailored programs to meet the specific needs of a customer base and their priorities, CCAs are confident in their resilience and in maintaining the vast majority of their customer base.
There’s a continued evolution on the path to 100% clean energy goals and CCAs are an integral component. As the industry develops and CCAs grow in prominence, so too will the number of parties willing to provide financing for projects with CCA offtake agreements and financing.