Comstock's magazine 1118 - November 2018 - Page 43

In 2010, PG&E spent about $45 million on a ballot mea- sure that would have made it tough for CCAs to launch by re- quiring two-thirds voter approval. That backfired. Not only did the measure fail, but the next year, legislators passed a law directing the California Public Utilities Commission to establish a code of conduct forbidding utilities from us- ing ratepayer revenues to “market against” CCAs — which it did. So today PG&E cooperates with CCAs. PG&E spokes- woman Ari Vanrenen said the company wouldn’t make any- one available for an interview. But she released a statement by email that read in part, “We respect the energy choices that are available to our customers and will continue to co- operate with local governments as they consider pursuing and/or developing a CCA program.” VCE’s Parks says he has weekly calls with his PG&E counterpart, and they collaborate to publish rate mailers. “We’ve had coffee together. It’s a pretty friendly relation- ship,” he says. Still, changes in state law and regulation or the market could in theory jeopardize CCAs’ success. There is the issue of a potential increase to the exit fee paid by customers who depart for a CCA. Remember those bargain rates for clean energy that CCAs enjoy that IOUs didn’t? The mechanism for dealing with that market prob- lem is the exit fee. Set by the CPUC, it is supposed to com- pensate customers who stay with the utilities for the differ- ence between the utility’s higher, legacy cost of electricity and the current market price. Now, the CPUC is in the middle of deciding on a new methodology for calculating it, and its choice could threat- en the CCAs’ ability to beat utilities’ prices. One option on the table would make it “uneconomic for new CCAs to launch,” according to the California Community Choice As- sociation, which represents CCAs and others. There is another rising competitor in the power market: electric service providers, or ESPs — private companies that procure and sell electricity direct to business customers. By law, ESPs have been allowed to deliver about 13 percent of the state’s total utility load, a cap set after the 2000-2001 disaster. But a new bill signed in September raises that cap. That means more CCA business customers can leave for ESPs if they get better prices. Indeed, so high is the demand for cheap, tailored electricity plans that ESPs have a waiting list 1,700 commer- cial customers deep, says Scott Olson of Direct Energy, a Pitts- burgh-based ESP that serves parts of California. (For more on the various players in California’s energy market, see “A Prim- er on the Changing Electricity Market” on page 42.) GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER! Act! Software Licenses and Upgrades User Training, Basic to Advanced Personalized Support, Plain English Contact me for a 30 minute complimentary needs assessment. No charge to you, no obligation. I can quickly take the pulse, answer your questions, and make recommendations on improving your use of Act! 406.493.7047 Chris Pumphrey, ACC 30 years hands-on experience November 2018 | 43