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Opinion - Letters to the Editor
Published: Friday, Jun. 03, 2011
Viewpoint: A tool for local energy choice

By Melody DeMeritt, Greg McMillan, Liz Tracy, Steven Marx, Jono Kinkade, Pat Veesart and Cal French

Community Choice Aggregation, established in California in 2002 by Assembly Bill 117, is a major policy innovation that gives local governments the opportunity to take a major role in achieving the state’s clean energy and climate protection mandates. This community choice law gives cities and counties the right to determine the sources of their electric power.

One year ago, Marin County used this law to switch on cleaner, greener, non-polluting energy. Today, Marin Clean Energy customers are reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 70,000 tons, the equivalent of removing nearly 12,000 cars from the road each year. And anyone living in the Marin Clean Energy service area can sign up for “Deep Green” — 100 percent renewable energy — for an extra $10 a month.

In March, with this policy in place for less than one year, Marin exceeded the state requirement to procure 20 percent renewable energy for their customers, racking up 27 percent of all energy deliveries coming from renewable resources.

The comment period for the public review draft of San Luis Obispo County’s Climate Action Plan, the countywide blueprint for reducing local green house gas emissions, ended June 3. The Sierra Club pointed out that the draft Climate Action Plan does not include consideration of community choice, and it should.

County planners are aware of the concept. In February 2008, the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments directed staff to gather information for a feasibility study for a community choice program. In June 2009, several county supervisors, along with planners and city managers, attended the Sierra Club’s Energy Town Hall in Grover Beach, where they met with Dave Erickson, technical director for Sonoma County’s Climate Action Plan.

He outlined Sonoma’s blueprint for initiating a community choice program to exercise local control in choosing their own energy provider and service rates while greatly increasing their portion of nonpolluting renewable energy.

Last July, at the Climate Change Adaptation Workshop held in SLO by the Local Government Commission (LGC), community choice emerged as one of the top five recommended priority measures for the county. The LGC recommended community choice to the county in its final report in November 2010.

Last year, the update of the county’s Conservation and Open Space Element in the General Plan included this policy: “Assert more local control of energy decisions and sources.”

And yet, community choice is absent from San Luis Obispo County’s Climate Action Plan. Why?

The plan features many policies that would enhance the energy efficiency of buildings, build renewable power generation and develop programs for clean energy. But no measure in the public review draft of the Climate Action Plan comes close to the carbon-reduction and clean energy benefits that could be achieved through community choice. No other measure would more fully realize the goal of the General Plan to “assert more local control of energy decisions and sources.”

Community choice could serve as the tool box from which the county could draw all the tools needed for planning our renewable energy future.

The county Board of Supervisors will review and approve the Climate Action Plan this summer. Before they do, every resident of the county should send their supervisor a message: We want to see community choice in San Luis Obispo County’s Climate Action Plan.

It’s coming to Sonoma. It’s working in Marin. Why not here?


The authors serve on the executive committee of the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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Bill Deneen Awards Explore, Enjoy and Protect - Santa Lucia Chapter hike in Machesna Wilderness
Machesna Wilderness hike
April 2002
Photo by Gary Felsman

Come to Sierra Summit 2005, Sep. 8-11 in San Francisco