Gibbs: Energy: One for all?

Opinion - santa clarita news
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With the 2016 elections behind us, our time to take a deep breath and enjoy the ephemeral peace from political campaigns appeared to be at hand. But that period has turned out to be short-lived.

Besides having announced candidates for both state and federal offices already campaigning for 2018, three individuals recently announced their candidacy for the three seats on the Santa Clarita City Council that will be opening next year. Candidate Logan Smith was one of them.

Logan stated that his first priority if elected would be calling for a vote for Santa Clarita to join the Los Angeles Community Choice Energy (LACCE) agreement to get more people on renewable energies and to reduce their monthly energy costs. He makes it sound like a truly win-win situation!

No matter what your political leanings, I believe we would all support a program that reduces our monthly expenses for a modern-day necessity. Having never heard of this program previously, I decided it deserved further investigation to see if both reduced costs and a larger renewable energy footprint could go hand in hand by means of an aggregate that is developed and managed by a governmental agency.

The county of Los Angeles is forming the LACCE as a way of offering “competition” to investor-owned utilities (IOUs) for the procurement electricity for county residents who currently are provided power by Southern California Edison.

The LACCE will be able to purchase electricity in the wholesale market (with a possible focus on renewable providers). LACCE would supply the power while SCE would continue to handle transmission, distribution, and (for now) billing and customer services.

While the intended goals are undoubtedly noble, I see a growing list of concerns that need to be understood and solved before blindly accepting any “win-win” claims of this program:

Akin to the ongoing health-care debacle, with this program government is assuming it has the where-with-all to start running a facet of the economy better than private industries, and to do so for only the betterment of the community – and in this case the planet.

The government entity is now assuming all the risk for purchasing the appropriate amount of power (both too little or too much could be extremely problematic), the price being paid, and the infrastructure cost to maintain personnel and ancillary items to be as good at purchasing power as the power company.

How does the government cover losses when it makes mistakes or fails to meet its promises? How can it promise lower prices when this plan calls for a new layer of government employees to be funded, and which would be added to the ever-struggling CalPERS system?

Under Logan’s proposal, qualified electric customers in the SCV would be automatically enrolled into the LACCE program but provided notices on the procedures to opt-out if they choose.

Here’s a thought: How about instead of government automatically enrolling customers and relying on human apathy as a means of gauging program support, provide notices on how to opt-in and see just how popular it proves to be with utility users?

What happens when Southern California Edison loses a large base to whom it supplies power and is left stuck with long-term energy purchasing contracts and no one to buy the power? I highly doubt Edison is going to shrug its shoulders and eat the cost.

What if LACCE starts to offer incentives (which I assume the taxpayer will be funding one way or another) for rooftop solar? Sure, more people will get on solar power and reduce the amount of energy being purchased and transmitted, but this still inevitably leads to increases in infrastructure retainment costs.

I applaud Mr. Smith’s desire to save people money and use more renewable energy. But instead of building a huge government agency to run and control power purchases, I offer my own proposal.

Do not require a business or residence to be on the common power grid. Let’s allow consumers to use roof-top solar and mini-wind turbines to charge and maintain a battery system to provide personal electrical needs – if they desire.

Then, as a backup plan, customers could pay SCE for an emergency backup service in case their own battery systems go down or do not provide enough energy at peak usage times in their home.

You would immediately see renewable energy become a primary power supply. A lower demand from consumers would mean renewable sources could pick up more of the primary load needed on the grid, and people could still use grid power as their backup service.

Overall cost for energy would be reduced, renewable energy reliance would increase, and one less intrusive, all-knowing government entity would be created.

The Advocates of SCV goal is to bring together civic-minded individuals who will advocate on issues important to the Santa Clarita Valley and to expand community awareness and citizen involvement.

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