Flipping the switch: Nevada County hosts discussion on Community Choice energy

Nevada County just took its first baby step toward being in control of its power supply, with lower customer bills and 100 percent clean energy as some of the potential benefits.

On Thursday, local government officials and community members got the chance to explore just what it would take to create a community choice aggregation program, at a roundtable hosted by Nevada Irrigation District. These programs are administered by local governments to purchase electricity as an alternative to investor-owned utility sources such as PG&E.

Community choice aggregation is the wave of the future, organizers said. Statewide, there are 18 such programs in existence, including in Placer, Humboldt and Alameda counties.

“This is an opportunity to define our power future,” said Nevada Irrigation District General Manager Rem Scherzinger.

A community choice aggregation program purchases power for its customers and has authority to design its own rate structure and procurement protocols. PG&E would still provide services such as transmission, distribution, metering, billing, collection and customer service. Customers would receive one combined electric bill.

The roundtable featured short presentations from Woody Hastings from the Center for Climate Protection, Gary Saleba, the CEO of EES Consulting, and Tom Habashi, the executive o

Hastings noted that when a community choice aggregation launches, customers are automatically enrolled and would have to opt out if they want to remain customers of PG&E.

“There’s no need for a multimillion-dollar marketing program to get participation,” he said.

According to Hastings, community choice aggregation programs are generating some impressive numbers in California, with thousands of new jobs and millions in savings for customers. In 2016, he said, program customers in California saved more than $33 million and that estimate is expected to climb to $90 million by the end of this year.

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