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With the 2016 elections behind us, our time to take a deep breath and enjoy the ephemeral peace from political campaigns until 2018 appeared to be at hand. Recently though, three individuals have formally announced their candidacy for the opening seats on the Santa Clarita City Council next year. 

Candidate Logan Smith recently appeared on Stephen Daniel’s, “The Talk of Santa Clarita” to introduce himself, his platforms, and his goals if elected to the City Council. Logan stated his first priority would be calling for a vote for Santa Clarita to join the Los Angeles Community Choice Energy (LACCE) agreement, in order to get more people on renewable energies and to reduce monthly energy costs. He makes it sound like a truly win-win situation! 

No matter your political leanings, I believe we would all support a program that reduces our monthly expenses for a modern-day necessity. Having never heard of this program previously, I decided it deserved further investigation to see if both reduced costs and a larger renewable energy footprint could go hand-in-hand by means of an aggregate that is developed and managed by a governmental agency.

“Let’s allow consumers to use roof-top solar and mini-wind turbines to charge and maintain a battery system to provide personal electrical needs, if they desire.”

The County of Los Angeles is forming the LACCE as a way of offering “competition” to investor-owned utilities (IOUs) for the procurement electricity for county residents who currently are provided power by Southern California Edison (SCE). The LACCE will now be able to purchase electricity in the wholesale market (with a possible focus on renewable providers). LACCE would now supply the power, while SCE would continue to handle transmission, distribution, and (for now) billing and customer services. While the intended goals are undoubtedly noble in intent, I see a growing list of concerns that need to be understood and solved before blindly accepting any “win-win” claims of this program:

  • Akin to the on-going healthcare debacle, government is assuming it has the where-with-all to start running a facet of the economy better than private industries, and do so for only the betterment of the community, and in this case, the planet! The government entity is now assuming all the risk for purchasing the appropriate amount of power (both too little or too much could be extremely problematic), the price being paid, and the infrastructure cost to maintain personnel and ancillary items to be as good at purchasing power as the power company. How does the government cover losses when they make mistakes or fail to meet their promises? How can they promise lower prices when there will be a new layer of government employees that need to be funded, and who will be added to the ever-struggling CALPERS system?
  • Customers are AUTOMATICALLY ENROLLED into the LACCE program, but will be provided notices on the procedures to opt-out if they choose. So, just a thought, how about instead of government automatically enrolling customers and relying on human apathy as a means of gauging program support, provide notices on how to opt-in, and see just how popular this is with utility users?
  • What happens when SCE loses a large base to whom they supply power, and they are left stuck with long-term energy purchasing contracts and no one to buy their power? I highly doubt they are simply going to shrug their shoulders and eat the cost.
  • What if LACCE starts to offer incentives (that I assume the tax payer will be paying for one way or another) for rooftop solar? Sure, more people will get on solar power and reduce the amount of energy being purchased and transmitted, but this still inevitably leads to increases in infrastructure retainment costs. 

I applaud Mr. Smith’s desire to save people money and use more renewable energy sources. But, instead of building a huge government agency to run and control power purchases, I offer my own proposal:  

Do not REQUIRE a business or residence to be on the common power grid! Let’s allow consumers to use roof-top solar and mini-wind turbines to charge and maintain a battery system to provide personal electrical needs, if they desire. Then, as a backup plan, customers could pay SCE for an emergency backup service incase their own battery system goes down or does not provide enough energy at peak usage times in their home. You would immediately see renewable energy become a primary power supply. A lower demand from consumers would mean renewable sources could pick up more of the primary load needed on the grid, and people could still use grid power as their backup service. Overall cost for energy would be reduced, renewable energy reliance would increase, and one less intrusive, all-knowing government entity would be avoided.