Defining “Cooperate Fully” Strengthens Ten-Year Old Law

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Happy Ten-Year Anniversary to Community Choice in California! The original law that opened up the possibility of a community-based energy program like Sonoma Clean Power was enacted this season in 2002. This legislation gives communities a powerful means for pursuing renewable energy.

A key element of that law was that utilities are required to “cooperate fully” with emerging community choice programs. In the wake of several years of unequivocal and substantial evidence that the utilities did not “cooperate fully” in the San Joaquin Valley, San Francisco, and Marin County, the state legislature passed a bill in 2011 that spells out what “cooperate fully” means.

The dotting of the “I”s and the crossing of the “T”s of that legislation is being worked out at the California Public Utilities Commission this fall as they design a “Code of Conduct” to which the big utilities must adhere. The Climate Protection Campaign is participating in that process along with others in the CCA Regulatory Alliance.

Utilities will be prohibited, for example, from frightening ratepayers with threats that their lights will go out if they don’t opt out of the Community Choice program. This indeed was the sort of message given by PG&E even though lights will not go out even if a Community Choice program fails. Customers would just revert back to their previous utility.

What does this mean for Sonoma Clean Power? It means that the path is clear and the time is right to launch a program where the partners now have a much better understanding of what “cooperate fully” means. The Code of Conduct is due for completion in December.

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   – Woody Hastings

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