PG&E Takes Aim at Utility Competition Law

June 12, 2014 By Leon Walker

PGENorthern California utility PG&E and its electrical union IBEW are backing a state bill that would gut the ability of cities and counties to resume control of their power supplies and exceed renewable energy targets if they so wish, reports GreentechMedia.

Assembly Bill 2145, sponsored by assembly member Steven Bradford, would weaken so called “community choice aggregation” – sort of a middle ground between full-on privately-owned and full-on publicly-owned electricity where a city or county can choose where its residents get their power but utilities maintain control over power lines and billing, according to the article written by Tam Hunt, the owner of renewable energy consulting and law firm Community Renewable Solutions.

The bill would change enrollment in a community choice aggregator from an opt-out to an opt-in process, according to assembly member Bradford’s web site. Currently, if a municipality has chosen the CCA route, residents have the right to opt-out of that program, but must notify the municipality of their choice. AB 2145 would reverse that, meaning that the municipality could adopt a CCA, but residents would have to opt-in to the program. This provision would sound the “death knell for CCA efforts,” according to Hunt.

The bill would also require that the implementation plan filed by a community choice aggregator include energy rate and greenhouse gas emission information and also authorize the Public Utilities Commission to require that a community choice aggregator provide additional information to ensure compliance with basic consumer protection, according to Bradford’s web site.

Statements have been published on the IBEW and PG&E web sites in support of the bill.

An Energy Collective blog post published in May last year suggested that distributed solar installations could kill off PG&E. The blog quotes Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity: “We’re an energy company. We install solar systems for free, and we sell the electricity at a lower rate than you can buy it from the utility. So given the option of paying more for dirty power or paying less for clean power, what would you take?”

As more customers install solar, PG&E’s pricing model will cause it to raise its rates on remaining customers, which will drive even more customers to solar, according to the post.

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