In June, the city of Buellton became the latest jurisdiction to opt into joining Monterey Bay Community Power, a community choice aggregation agency that has expanded along the Central Coast over the last two years.
Community choice aggregation agencies are public entities governed by a board of directors made up of officials from participating jurisdictions that handle generating and purchasing energy, while leaving companies like Pacific Gas and Electric Company responsible for transmission and distribution.
During its June 25 meeting, the Buellton City Council voted to join the agency that includes 33 cities and counties between Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara counties. Santa Barbara, which is pursuing its own community choice aggregation program, and Lompoc, which already serves as its own utility provider through a different program, are the only cities in the county that haven’t voted to join Monterey Bay Community Power.
One incentive to joining a community choice aggregation agency is that rates can be lower than those from private utility providers, so residents can save money on their bills. During the council meeting, Monterey Bay Community Power representative J.R. Killigrew said the agency has delivered more than $17 million in bill savings to customers in the first 20 months of operations.
Additionally, the public energy provider relies on a higher percentage of renewable sources of electricity—such as wind and solar—and allocates funding to local renewable energy projects, he said.
“By 2030 there’s a potential that we could be serving 100 percent of our load by new renewable contracts that we’re going to build,” Killigrew told the council.
The council voted to join the agency on a 4-1 vote, with councilmember Dave King voting against the decision.
During the meeting, King questioned whether Monterey Bay Community Power could guarantee that the agency’s rates will remain lower than PG&E’s. During a previous City Council meeting on the same topic in May, King also questioned whether the agency planned on installing windmills in the county, which he called inefficient and “an abysmal eyesore.”
“If you strewed windmills across all those oak trees, that would be a travesty,” King said. “That’s my apprehension about going to renewable energy.”
The council’s vote begins a long process of the city joining the agency, with service slated to begin in January 2022. All residents and businesses in the city will automatically join the agency at that time, but will continue paying their bills through PG&E.
Residents who don’t want to join the agency can opt out when service begins in 2022. Killigrew said that in the areas the agency currently serves, about 5 percent of customers have opted out.
Killigrew also told the council that due to the agency’s expansion along the coast, it plans to change its name to Central Coast Community Energy.