August 9, 2014
Senator Noreen Evans
200 South School Street
Ukiah, CA 95482
Re: AB 2145 (Bradford) * OPPOSE
Dear Senator Evans,
I am writing on behalf of the Democratic Party of Lake County in strong opposition to the amended AB 2145. AB 2145 remains nothing more than a corporate monopoly power grab to destroy competition from Community Choice clean energy programs and further entrench the monopoly utilities. It should be thrown out in its entirety.
AB 2145 contains:
1) Anti-competitive Geographic Barriers
2) 5 Year Rate Setting Community Choice Poison Pill
3) Unprecedented Complaint Process Bureaucracy
1) Anti-competitive Geographic Barriers: With its three-county restriction, AB 2145 would prevent cities and counties from grouping together to serve larger numbers of customers in order to buy and generate energy at lower bulk rates and compete on electricity prices with the monopoly utilities. Many small, rural, and lower income communities would find it impossible to launch Community Choice programs, because they would be forced to do so with a prohibitively small customer base. To limit the size and buying power of Community Choice programs undermines their competitiveness, especially when the utilities have no such restrictions.
Building a larger customer base for group buying power is crucial. When Marin’s program expanded to bring in additional customers in the working class city of Richmond, rates for customers went down. Marin’s inclusion of Napa County is projected to lower rates by 3%, while still delivering a greener energy mix than PG&E. If AB 2145 becomes law, communities all over California will be blocked from repeating Marin’s successes.
2) 5 Year Rate Setting Community Choice Poison Pill: AB 2145’s requirement that Community Choice programs set rates for customers five years in advance (while the monopoly utilities have no such requirement) is an unacceptable double standard. It is yet another attempt to place regulations on Community Choice that the utilities themselves don’t have to follow. It would be impossible for any energy provider to set rates five years in advance. This provision would expose Community Choice to endless lawsuits over even the smallest unexpected rate changes, and could potentially shut down every Community Choice program in the state.
3) Unprecedented Complaint Process Bureaucracy: AB 2145 takes customer relations oversight away from local accountable elected officials, and places it in the vast state-level bureaucracy of the CPUC. No other local public water or power systems are placed under such a heavy handed, distant, state agency governing process. This section would tie local Community Choice customer relations in knots, would create a financial burden both locally and at the CPUC, and would delay timely resolution of customer communications and concerns.
California’s two operating Community Choice programs in Marin and Sonoma counties are already exceeding the state’s renewable portfolio standard, and are doing so at lower prices to customers than the existing monopoly utility. Over a dozen other California cities and counties are preparing similar programs to provide a wide array of strong community benefits including greatly expanded local renewable energy and energy efficiency, stimulation of local economies by localizing energy spending, improved local health outcomes (through shutting down fossil fuel power plants), resilience against power outages and shortages, and increased clean energy sector union jobs.
All of this is providing powerful new competition with the monopoly utilities.
AB 2145 is an insidious attempt to undermine Community Choice competition with the utilities and further entrench their antiquated business model. Enactment of AB 2145 would not only be bad for consumers and workers. It would also interfere with California’s ability to meet its climate action goals, which are crucial to the California economy and the sustainability of the planetary environment.
We urge you to strongly oppose AB 2145.
Chair, Lake County Democratic Party
*Currently AB 2145 is in the State Senate Committee for Appropriations. The Bill has been placed in the suspense file. The suspense file is for a bill or set of bills, with a fiscal impact, set aside in Appropriations Committee by a majority of Members present and voting. These bills may be heard at a later hearing.