If you think the Federal government has no business managing your healthcare, here’s another takeover you won’t love: Community Choice Aggregation, or greenwashing, as it’s called by its many critics. In either case, it means that local politicians will force you to buy electricity from an unproven new utility company run by… local politicians.
When I say force, I mean that all residents involved automatically stop receiving energy from their current supplier, and begin paying their local government for it. Unless they take the trouble to file an opt-out form.
How does this work? My home county (Sonoma County, CA) is a perfect example of how CCAs are multiplying all across the country like toadstools. First, an ambitious county worker decides he knows more about the electricity business than the local utility, who have supplied power for more than a hundred years. Next, he makes a pitch to the Water Agency Board of Directors, who direct the Water Agency to look into this thing. This is like chumming for wonks, and before you know it, there’s a “steering committee consisting of representatives from the cities of Sonoma County, the County, the Regional Climate Protection Authority, Climate Protection Campaign, the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Santa Rosa Board of Public Utilities, Sierra Club, and private industry.”
You can read the whole sad history here, http://www.sonomacleanpower.org/app_pages/view/21 but the point is that friendly local power monopolies are now being hijacked by a gaggle of largely unelected county workers. All because they think you want greener electrons in your sockets.
Are government electrons actually any greener?
That’s the worst part. To begin with, the local CCA, Sonoma Clean Power, will use the transmission lines, substations, and maintenance crews of the current provider, PG&E. And they will fill those wires with a new cocktail of renewable energy from the open market and “renewable energy credits.”
In Sonoma County, PG&E customers’ power comes from the ultimate green source: Hot water bubbling up from The Geysers geothermal facility. This complex of natural steam-driven power plants in the Mayacamas Mountains north of San Francisco produces the majority of electricity from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.
SCP does everything they can to convince people that PG&E = dirty power. On the SCP website, they claim “SCP produces a net environmental benefit by buying more renewable energy. SCP will start with 33% renewables in 2014 compared with PG&E’s 19%.” How did they get that number? By using a worst-case blend of PG&E’s total portfolio across its entire service area. One more time, let me repeat that 100% of the PG&E electrons in Sonoma County are bright green.
By contrast, customers who stay with Sonoma Clean Power will receive power that comes from 33% renewable sources. They plan to buy their power from energy providers in Chicago, Houston, or Canada. And SCP admits that half of their “renewable power” will come from purchasing “Renewable Energy Credits”, another scheme like the cap and trade scam that has made Al Gore’s portfolio even larger than his head.
Doing the math, PG&E = 100% green in Sonoma County. Sonoma Clean Power = 33% green – 16% renewable energy credits = 17% actual green energy = 83% brown energy. Sounds like a bad tradeoff to me.
Why they think you’ll buy this myth:
First, SCP thinks their local politicians, with zero experience in the power business, can negotiate a fair contract with actual energy professionals like NRG Energy, Direct Energy, and Constellation, and keep the cost about the same.
Second, they based their business plan on the assumption that only 20% of customers will have the brains or the will to opt out of this program. At that rate, they’re hoping to take in $130 million a year. This will give them the funds they need to build local green power facilities one of these days.
The biggest lie of all:
SCP would love you to think you’re making the air cleaner above your own back yard. Chuckle. The following paragraph is taken directly from SCP’s website:
RECs work like a swap. For example, we could buy RECs from a wind farm in Oregon where land is cheaper and it makes sense to have a wind farm. The farm would then have to sell its clean electricity into the local grid as if it were traditional power. We would buy traditional power locally and label it clean power because we’re swapping the wind farm clean power for our traditional power using the RECs. This swap works because it does not matter where the emissions reduction occurs, as long as it is thoroughly verified and provable—it does occur.
Despite these major drawbacks, CCAs can be found in Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island. In Illinois, over 600 cities and counties have bought into this fiction. If one of these Ponzi schemes creeps into your neighborhood, I advise you to read the fine print. In light supplied by an actual power company.