BERKELEY -- Like it or not, most PG&E customers get their electricity from a mix of sources that include nuclear, hydroelectric, natural gas, coal, wind and sun.
But there's a renewed effort in the Oakland-Berkeley area to create a program -- formally called Community Choice Aggregation -- where decisions are made locally on what energy sources to use and where to procure that power.
It's a chance to eliminate coal, nuclear power and "big hydro," and create local jobs at the same time, according to Tom Kelly, co-chair of the Community Choice Energy Working Group, part of a coalition supporting Berkeley efforts to implement the city's Climate Action Plan to reduce emission of greenhouse gases.
Berkeley's energy commission and various environmental organizations have been looking at creating a CCA since the state approved the framework in 2002. That legislation leaves the transmission of electrical power and administrative functions such as billing to existing utilities. Last year, new legislation, SB 790, opened the possibility for water agencies such as the East Bay Municipal Utility District to participate in CCAs.
EBMUD is exploring a CCA that could include Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, El Cerrito and possibly other cities under its jurisdiction. Richmond entered into a similar agreement this year with the Marine Energy Authority.
"EBMUD has a staff with tremendous expertise in the wholesale power market," said Andy Katz, who
If a CCA were created under EBMUD's authority, a new entity would not have to be created.
The Berkeley City Council voted unanimously last week to ask EBMUD to consider certain priorities when evaluating a local CAA. They asked for a "transition to a fossil fuel-free and nuclear-free energy portfolio," the procurement of renewable electricity from local sources and stressed the importance of doing so "within a reasonably competitive portfolio."
Building new local sources of energy -- such as putting solar collectors on warehouse rooftops -- is a key element in the plan, said Al Weinrub, who co-chairs the Community Choice Energy Working Group with Kelly.
"When the development of energy resources takes place close to home, that means (local) investment, that means jobs, reinvigorating the economy and reducing greenhouse gases," Weinrub said, taking a swipe at "the likes of PG&E that only cares about its own bottom line."
Not everyone is as excited about the prospects of a CCA as Weinrub and Kelly.
Scott Murtishaw, former chairman of the city's Energy Commission, underscored that the commission has yet to take a position on developing a local CAA.
One issue that he said divides members of the commission is whether to emphasize building local renewable resources and hiring locally, or whether to insist on the program's cost effectiveness.
"If you're going to launch a CCA, you need to be very clearheaded about the decisions," he said. "They shouldn't be based on unrealistic goals."
PG&E hasn't opposed an EBMUD-centered CCA publicly to date. A PG&E representative attends Energy Commission meetings as a resource, but has not addressed the CCA issue there, Murtishaw said.
A PG&E representative did not return calls for comment on this story.
PG&E has spent millions of dollars opposing CCA. In 2010, it contributed some $46 million in a failed attempt to pass Proposition 16, which would have required two-thirds approval from local voters to establish a CCA program.
In Marin County, PG&E provided more than $9 million to an effort to discourage participation in Marin Clean Energy, according to the Marin Independent Journal.
On Dec. 11, EBMUD staff will present a preliminary report to its board on establishing a CCA.