OAKLAND -- Efforts to get a utility agency to play a leading role in setting up an agency to control electricity purchases went down the drain Tuesday, when the East Bay Municipal Utility District board voted against further study of a Community Choice Aggregation program.
CCAs, which were established under 2002 legislation, allow local decisions on what energy sources to use and where to procure that power. PG&E continues to own transmission lines and to bill customers. Marin established a CCA two years ago; San Francisco and Sonoma County CCAs will start up next year. "I see (a CCA as) of no benefit for us," said Castro Valley-area EBMUD director Frank Mellon.
"If the cities, indeed, want to form a (joint powers agreement) and have us as an administrator, that's fine. We get paid. We're not investing in it; we're not the ones that are taking the losses."
Rather than spending funds on further study, the board suggested the cities expressing interest -- Berkeley, Oakland, Albany and Emeryville -- should create a CCA on their own.
Reached on Wednesday, Berkeley Vice Mayor Linda Maio, who had urged the board on Tuesday to continue studying the plan, said she was "astonished and saddened" by the board's reaction. "Clearly, there's not only no interest -- there was actual hostility. It's as if we were on different planets," she said, adding, however, "This does not deter us."
Only board members Andy Katz, representing
They pointed out that EBMUD, with an established structure and a positive record administering energy-related resources, has a critical need to fight climate change. "Imagine where we stand, losing the snow pack," Katz said.
CCA supporters from the Local Clean Energy Alliance, the Bay Area Chapter of the Sierra Club, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, StopWaste.org and the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition were among speakers addressing the board. They stressed the need to combat climate change by maximizing renewable resources, and the importance of buying energy locally -- such as from solar panels on public buildings -- to create green jobs and boost the local economy.
Opponents, many representing various East Bay chambers of commerce, pointed to risks a CCA presented. "You'd be in an entirely different market environment," said Paul Junge, public policy director for the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. "Focus on your core mission."
An EBMUD staff report indicated that the Marin Energy Authority was profitable during its two years of operation and noted that if EBMUD were a partner in a joint powers agreement, "little to no impact on the district's core business is assumed, since, except for some additional staff to administer and oversee the JPA, most functions would be contracted out."
But board President John Coleman, representing the Walnut Creek area, pointed to high startup costs, estimated at $2 million to $3 million and needed working capital projected at $12 million to $22 million. While bond funding is a possibility, Coleman argued the new indebtedness would negatively impact the district's bond rating.
Board member Lesa McIntosh, representing the San Pablo-Hercules area, said her concern was the higher rates charged in Marin. But advocates argued that customers can opt out of a CCA and stay with PG&E.
Tom Kelly, chairman of the Community Choice Working Group of the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition, said he was disappointed at the board's rejection and now will encourage Berkeley to join the Marin or San Francisco community choice programs.
"We're confronting a global catastrophe," he said.