Kate Cagle
Daily Press Staff Writer

In a few years, Santa Monica residents will have an option to pay more for their electricity in order to power their homes with renewable energy.

The City Council unanimously voted to join an upstart regional public power agency made up of cities in Los Angeles County Tuesday.

“We believe that we can work in collaboration with other cities to ensure the environmental agenda is strong,” said Garrett Wong, a senior sustainability analyst for the City.

Wong advocated joining Los Angeles Community Choice Energy (LACCE) partnership to save on overhead costs and increase negotiating power with utilities rather than going it alone.

Customers will not notice a tangible difference when they turn on the lights at home.

Residents will still get their bill from Southern California Edison. However, they will be able to choose how much they are willing to pay for renewable energy on a sliding scale.

SoCal Edison currently offers less than 30 percent renewable energy.

The move to partner with other cities to buy more clean energy is part of the City’s overall goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

The new agency takes advantage of community choice aggregation (CCA) which allows local governments to buy and sell electricity in their own communities. Any revenue from sales can be used to invest in more renewable energy or initiatives, such as the city’s electric vehicle charging plan.

The Office of Sustainability has considered several options over the years, including creating Santa Monica’s own CCA or joining with other environmentally conscious coastal cities, but ultimately recommended going forward with a County-wide partnership that will result in a powerful negotiating position with suppliers.

However, other cities may push the LACCE toward decisions that emphasize lower costs to consumers over sustainability goals.

The Council appointed Councilmember Kevin McKeown to represent Santa Monica on the LACCE Board. McKeown promised to use his position to push the region toward greater sustainability overall.

Councilmember Pam O’Conner will serve as an alternate.

“As members of the county CCA we will get to affect what happens for all of Southern California on this very important issue,” McKeown said.

The City of Santa Monica has sought to be a leader on Climate Change as the federal government backs out of the Paris climate accord. On Tuesday, Mayor Ted Winterer signed onto the Chicago Charter, which commits dozens of cities to reduce greenhouse gases equal or more than the United Nations document.

“This is a very timely opportunity in front of us,” McKeown said.

“The Trump Administration is trying to elevate the nation’s fossil fuel consumption and got a big boost with the tax bill in the senate this past weekend which weakened investment incentives for solar and wind.”

A local task force recommended Santa Monica use its position in LACCE to immediately eliminate energy produced by coal, eliminate nuclear by 2030, and offer 100 percent renewable by 2030.

A member of the task force told the Daily Press she supported joining with the rest of the county in order to nudge other communities toward greater sustainability goals.

“Santa Monica has spent years considering how to take advantage of community choice energy, and is in a good position to push the LACCE Board to realize its goals of delivering clean, local, and efficient energy,” Amy Butte said.

“There’s a whole lot of innovation that’s possible and necessary for LACCE, and continued attention from Santa Monica’s stakeholders and leaders can make our participation key for achieving sustainability and wellbeing goals.”

The County Board of Supervisors have allocated $10 million in funding to begin operation of LACCE, encouraging cities to sign on quickly by eliminating up front costs for cities that join within the first 180 days.

Santa Monica’s approval Tuesday allows the City to make it within the window.

A financial analysis showed LACCE could make $6.7 million over ten years.

Nearly 90 cities and unincorporated areas are eligible to join the partnership.

“Joining LACCE would require vigilance and advocacy from the appointed Board member, staff and community stakeholders to ensure that Santa Monica’s needs and goals are not diminished by the larger group of members,” Garrett Wong wrote in a staff report.

“As a Board member, the appointed Director and staff could work in concert with other like-minded cities to form a voting bloc that would advance shared interests in high renewable content and innovative distributed energy resource programs that support local solar energy and electric vehicles.”

The LACCE Board will hire an executive director and form an advisory committee early next year, as well as set environmental goals.

kate@smdp.com

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