Every Friday night in August, Pico Rivera residents turn out for the city’s annual Street Fest
concert. This year, thanks to Pico Rivera Innovative Municipal Energy (PRIME), the celebrations focused on going green. PRIME, the city’s community choice aggregation program, drummed up public enthusiasm for the agency by announcing on-stage the winners of their summer sweepstakes, who received a prize basket full of LED string lights and other energy-efficient summer products.

PRIME’s sweepstakes is just one example of the benefits that Pico Rivera and the California Choice Energy Authority’s (CalChoice)’s four other active associate member cities offer. During fiscal year 2019, residents across 126,000 accounts saved a combined $7 million on energy bills and took advantage of community programs funded by their municipal energy provider.

CalChoice, a hybrid joint powers authority that helps member cities purchase and generate their own electricity, currently serves customers in Apple Valley, Lancaster, Pico Rivera, Rancho Mirage, and San Jacinto. In each city, residents are automatically enrolled in a standard rate selected by the city council that provides electricity at a discount between 2 and 5 percent off the rates of Southern California Edison (SCE), the local investor-owned utility.

Energy supplied by these community choice aggregations (CCAs) is also cleaner than SCE
power. CalChoice cities supply, on average, 38 percent renewable energy by default. Two
cities, Pico Rivera and Lancaster, supply energy that is majority carbon-free. For less than
approximately 50 cents a day, residential customers can opt for 100 percent renewable energy.

Additionally, households with solar panels can choose to feed their extra power back into their local CCA’s grid and receive higher energy credits and rebates than SCE offers. In the fiscal year that ended in June, residents in Antelope Valley, Rancho Mirage, and San Jacinto received a total of $144,000 in solar rebates.

“Our residents recognize the high quality of CCA services from CalChoice associate members,” said City of San Jacinto City Manager Robert Johnson. “That’s why almost 95 percent of people in CalChoice member cities – a much higher participation rate than in many other cities across the state – receive power from their local community choice aggregator.”

In addition to these tangible savings, CalChoice cities have benefitted from expanded
community programs funded by the significant revenues from the CCAs. Since these power providers are 100 percent self-funded and do not rely on tax dollars for operation, municipalities can use revenues on programs that further the mission of the CCA.

For example, Lancaster Choice Energy (LCE) increased the city’s net position by over $1 million in the fiscal year ending in June 2018. The city used this revenue to finance public utility projects. LCE has also invested revenues into the Energy Advisors Program, which provides free consultations for homeowners on how to reduce their carbon footprints, and the small commercial direct install program, which provides energy efficient upgrades such as LED lighting and occupancy sensors to small businesses at no charge. Additionally, LCE is collaborating with other agencies in the Antelope Valley region to support bus electrification and expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure.

Rancho Mirage residents have also benefited from various community programs, including a Residential Solar Rebate Program that provides a $500 rebate to encourage the installation of new residential solar power systems or the expansion of an existing system. The city also offered a free energy efficiency workshop in May 2019 that provided over 50 residents with expert advice on sustainable homes, lighting efficiency, and solar installation.

“The level of turnout at this workshop reflected our community’s strong engagement with the Rancho Mirage Energy Authority’s mission of supplying cleaner, cheaper power,” said the city’s Senior Management Analyst Tiana Mackamul. “We’re pleased that our residents are recognizing the benefits and opportunities that community choice aggregation offers.”

Four new CalChoice member cities — Baldwin Park, Hanford, Palmdale, and Pomona — will launch CCAs in October 2020, adding approximately 131,000 new accounts to CalChoice’s service area.

“We’re going to build on the successes of 2019 by more than doubling in size in the coming year,” said CalChoice Executive Director Jason Caudle. “I’m pleased to be able to expand access to these financial benefits and community programs in our four new member cities, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year brings.”

About CalChoice CalChoice offers support for local governments in every phase of the CCA program implementation process, providing feasibility services to determine whether a CCA program is appropriate, developing implementation plans for members to submit to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and managing the implementation process to launch the CCA program, as well as continuing to support members once their CCA program becomes operational. To learn more about partnering opportunities with CalChoice, please visit www.CaliforniaChoiceEnergyAuthority.com.

By Sara Appel. Originally posted on Civic Business Journal.