A transition toward 100 percent clean electricity is underway in the United States, led by cities and states across the country. “An enormous amount of authority still rests with the states for determining your energy future. So we can build these policies that will become a postcard from the future for the rest of the country,” said David Hochschild, chair of the California Energy Commission, speaking last week at a UCLA summit on state and local progress toward 100 percent clean energy. According to a new report from the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, 13 states, districts and territories, as well as more than 200 cities and counties, have committed to a 100 percent clean electricity target — and dozens of cities have already hit it.
One way California communities are working to meet the state’s ambitious targets is through community-choice aggregation, via which cities and counties can take control of their energy procurement decisions to suit their preferences. Investor-owned utilities no longer purchase energy for these jurisdictions, but they continue to operate the transmission and distribution grid for all electricity users. A second paper released by the Luskin Center for Innovation in recent days examines how community-choice aggregators are affecting levels of renewable energy deployment in California and contributing to the state’s 100 percent target. The paper finds that 19 CCAs have launched in California since 2010, growing to include more than 160 towns, cities and counties. Of those communities, 64 have a 100 percent renewable or clean energy policy as their default energy program. Because of these policies, the UCLA paper finds that “CCAs have had both direct and indirect effects that have led to increases in the clean energy sold in excess of the state’s RPS.” From 2011 to 2018, CCAs directly procured 24 terawatt-hours of RPS-eligible electricity, 11 TWh of which have been voluntary or in excess of RPS compliance, according to the paper.
The formation of CCAs has also had an indirect effect on investor-owned utilities. As customers have left investor-owned utilities to join CCAs, the utilities have been left holding contracts for more renewable energy than they need to comply with California’s clean energy targets. UCLA researchers estimate that this indirect effect of CCA formation has left IOUs holding 13 terawatt-hours in excess of RPS requirements. The paper concludes that CCAs have helped to accelerate California’s ability to meet state renewable energy targets over the past decade. However, the future contributions of CCAs to the RPS are more uncertain as communities make new power-purchasing decisions and utilities seek to reduce their excess renewable energy contracts. “CCAs offer a way for communities to put their desire for clean energy into action. They’re growing fast in California, one of only eight states where this kind of mechanism is allowed,” said UCLA’s Kelly Trumbull, an author of the report. “State and federal policies could be reformed to better enable communities to meet local demand for renewable energy.”