Community Choice Energy: Local Answers to a Global Problem

Posted November 15, 2016

Mitigating the effects of climate change can feel like a true mission impossible. But in fact, your community has the ability to quickly transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, saving money, creating jobs, and impacting climate change on a global level.

Community Choice Energy (CCE) gives cities and counties the power to buy renewable energy at competitive prices, lower consumers’ energy bills, and return the savings back to your community. By emphasizing locally-produced energy, and investing in new solar and wind capacity, CCE programs can also create new green jobs and partially or completely eliminate your community’s greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation, which account for 20% of all California’s carbon emissions.

What is Community Choice Energy?

Community Choice Energy (CCE)  empowers cities and counties to choose what type of energy they purchase and who they buy it from. This innovative approach to addressing climate change has the ability to bring affordable, renewable energy to residents and businesses across the U.S.


"CCE empowers communities to choose their own energy sources—bringing affordable, renewable energy to residents and businesses across the U.S."

What Is A CCA – Community Choice Energy Aggregation? from California Clean Power on Vimeo.

Once established, CCE programs are run by a local government agency that allows your community to buy their power directly from energy producers, offering customers an alternative to utility companies like PG&E, SoCal Edison, and SDG&E. Your existing utility company is still responsible for providing maintenance and customer service, making the transition easy for both residents and businesses. 

In our current system, private, investor-owned utilities have a monopoly on energy production and delivery. In other words, your only choice is to buy your electricity from them. These utilities buy power from energy producers and sell it back to the consumer at a high mark-up, keeping the profits for themselves and their shareholders. With CCE, your community has the buying power—lowering costs and keeping the energy savings in your community to help fund renewable energy projects, create green jobs, and stimulate the economy.

"CCE is making clean energy a viable alternative to fossil fuels and other nonrenewable sources for cities across California and the United States."

Even if our federal government abandons the fight against climate change and ends rebates on solar and other green energy incentives, we still have the power in our local communities to make a collective choice to prioritize and support green energy. Since shifting to CCE, the County of Marin, California, for example, has more than doubled the amount of clean electricity that powers their cities at no increase in cost to residents and business owners. CCE is making clean energy a viable alternative to fossil fuels and other nonrenewable sources for cities across California and the United States.

CCE Progress in California

Three CCE programs are already serving 430,000 customers in the state of California. Two more programs are in the process of rolling out service to at least twice that number of customers, and an additional three CCE programs are set to launch in 2017. Here are some of the California communities that are currently (or soon to be) creating jobs, saving money, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions with CCE projects:

  • Marin Clean Energy, operating since 2010, has created 2,400 jobs and offers 50% or 100% renewable energy options to its 175,000 customers at rates comparable to PG&E.

  • Sonoma Clean Power, operating since 2014, offers a range of renewable, hydro, and carbon-free energy at less than PG&E rates to 200,000 customers, saving them $13 million in its first year alone.

  • Lancaster Choice Energy in Southern California, operating since 2015, offers 35 percent renewable energy at rates that are 3 percent lower than Southern California Edison.

  • Community Choice Energy programs recently began operating in San Francisco and  San Mateo County.

  • San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties are currently preparing a technical study in preparation for launching Central Coast Power.

CCE On Its Way to the Monterey Bay Region

In October, 14 city councils and county boards of supervisors across Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Benito counties signaled their intent to form Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP). The project is a region-wide collaborative partnership, and once established in January 2017, it will be the largest CCE program in California.

A Technical Feasibility Study for MBCP that was completed in April 2016, found that Community Choice Energy provides economical and environmental benefits for local communities including:

  • local control over electricity rates

  • a significant increase in the percentage of power generated from renewable energy

  • energy savings that would benefit the local economy

  • the creation of green jobs

Renewable energy in the Monterey Bay Region is estimated to generate $1.4 billion in local revenue during the construction phase, with an additional $30 million dollars annually in operation and maintenance jobs. MBCP anticipates offering 59% renewable energy to its customers in its first year of operation compared to the 27% currently offered by PG&E, and will continue to expand its renewables portfolio to more than 90% over the next ten years. 

Visit MBCommunityPower.org for further updates on this exciting project, and learn more about Greenpower’s role on our MBCP campaign page. 

Community Choice Energy 2.0

Communities can take CCE a step further, and go beyond purchasing renewables on the open market, by creating their own locally-produced green energy, keeping all energy profits local and allowing cities and counties to set their own energy prices.

Rather than buy energy from wholesalers, CCE 2.0 advocates for a virtual power plant system. This system uses software and data systems to virtually aggregate numerous smaller-scale distributed energy generation facilities, such as rooftop solar panels, wind turbine fields, battery units, and energy efficient buildings, in order to operate them as a unified energy resource for a community.

These power sources have the potential to be 100% renewable and the system also has the ability to fluctuate the amount and type of power that is generated and distributed based on shifting supply and demand. Marin, Sonoma, and San Francisco are all on the path to becoming energy independent through CCE 2.0.  

The Future of Energy

Ohio and Illinois already receive the majority of their energy from CCE, and Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York are all following suit. By 2018, CCE is expected to serve 60% of Californians. Taking back control over the price and source of our community’s energy is part of what we see as a global movement to transform the model of energy production and distribution into a local, green energy based system.

CCE gives us the choice to take back our energy, improve our local economy, create jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If we are to reverse the effects of climate change, we have to act now and we have to act together.

"CCE is the path to global action against climate change. "

Global change can start with just a few passionate individuals with a vision for their local community that then spreads to communities across the state, the country, and the world. CCE is the path to global action against climate change—and we can make this path become a highway with our collective support as global citizens concerned for the future of our communities and our planet.

Learn how your community can begin supporting your local economy and the environment through CCE today.

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