Redondo Beach moves forward on energy program study
by David Mendez
The City of Redondo Beach is cautiously continuing its look toward providing renewable energy for itself and its residents, directing staff to analyze the effects of participating in a joint agreement with other cities throughout the South Bay or L.A. County.
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The action is essentially a do-over of direction made on March 21, when a split vote among four present council members, including one abstention, caused confusion among the Council and the community.
The South Bay Clean Power Working Group has been developing a Community Choice Aggregation business plan over the past two years. Their goal is two-fold, according to staff. First, a CCA program would strive to provide secure energy supplies to customers at competitive prices; second, it would strive to sustain the development of clean, renewable energy. This would happen, proponents say, through negotiating and securing utility rates from renewable energy providers at low-rates.
According to SBCP acting chair Joe Galliani, 14 South Bay and Westside cities, including the Beach Cities as well as Torrance, West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Culver City, are targeted to join the program.
“We believe that ‘local’ is the name of the game in CCAs,” Galliani said. “Community is the key.”
The meeting also loomed in the shadow of a decision made by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, who unanimously approved a similar public energy program earlier in the day.
The SBCP and County programs are separate, but similar entities. In both programs, electricity is still to be delivered by Southern California Edison over its existing power lines. However, purchasing power and rates will be set by the controlling Joint Powers Agreement.
Should Redondo opt into either the County or the SBCP program, residents would be automatically enrolled into the program, but may opt-out at no charge and continue purchasing power from Edison. Participating residents would be able to decide whether they wanted their rates to support varying levels of renewable energy, up to 100 percent of their electricity.
“I think it’s important to focus on goals and beneifts,” said Gary Gero, the county’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “With competition comes better rates.”
However, a coalition of opponents, led by conservative activist Arthur Schaper, vehemently opposed the plans espoused by Galliani and Gero, describing them as “expansion of government” and an uncertain proposition. Sitting directly behind the podium, the opponents waved signs, heckled, and scoffed during the presentations.
“This is definitely a scam,” said one resident. “The people behind me realize that this is an expansion of government…the free market doesn’t like renewable energy.”
“This CCA thing has boondoggle written all over it,” said another, clad in a Donald Trump for President T-shirt, who identified himself as “Mike Hunt” from Orange County.
Councilman Christian Horvath, who has led community meetings introducing his constituents to the topic of CCAs, noted that he believes that the City has a fiduciary responsibility to look into joining a CCA program; L.A. County estimates that their program could lower customer rates by an average of five percent.
“I think this is a no-brainer,” Horvath said. “Edison has written a white paper saying that they’re getting out of the procurement business…[other CCA models] have been profitable within two years.”
Councilwoman Laura Emdee was skeptical.
“I don’t like that this adds more bureaucracy, and I’m concerned about financial risk,” Emdee said. “I want to see what differs from the ones who didn’t succeed, what they did and what this plan does to combat that.” Emdee also added that she’s concerned about City staff taking time away from providing its core community services.
By a 3-2 vote, with Council members Emdee and Martha Barbee against, the Council directed staff forward on study and providing a recommendation on whether to join either program.