Community Choice and Strategic Energy Planning

The City of Carpinteria has opted to move forward with both Community Choice Energy and Strategic Energy Planning, which is in line with Carpinteria’s policies regarding sustainable communities and making our area more resilient. Now, did you understand anything in that last sentence? Because about four years ago I wouldn’t have either.

The world of energy and resiliency can seem confusing to most of us because of the acronyms and special terms that are used. Let’s start with Community Choice Energy: also called Community Choice Aggregation, CCE refers to a process that allows local governments to form a partnership to combine electrical loads—the amount of electricity used by their communities—in order to both purchase energy and develop renewable energy projects.

Most CCE customers do not notice a difference other than a line item on their energy bill. The intent of CCE programs is to deliver more renewable energy at competitive pricing to customers while maintaining local control over where that energy comes from.

Historically, customers in Southern California have received energy from Southern California Edison, an investor-owned utility. In the traditional energy model, the utility company purchases energy and delivers it to the customer through their system. Energy is not geographically located—the energy that is delivered to customers can come from other states.

In the CCE model, the control of purchasing energy is put in the hands of the local program, allowing for more varied sources. It also allows energy programs to be developed locally. For instance, a CCE program could develop an incentive for renewable energy projects that homeowners install to benefit the community and increase local resiliency (I will get to that). The investor-owned utility, in this case Southern California Edison, will still be responsible for the delivery of that energy by maintaining transmission lines and the overall energy grid.

Back to energy resilience: Southern Santa Barbara County is near the end of the line for the electrical grid. The Thomas Fire/Flood events last winter exposed how vulnerable the area is to power outages, including those that last multiple days. Because of this, the cities of Carpinteria, Goleta, Santa Barbara and the County of Santa Barbara are all moving forward with developing a CCE program.

Read more here: Community Choice and Strategic Energy Planning