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Community Choice Aggregation

Will Public Banking Bring More Clean Energy Programs to California?

By Nithin Coca - Sharable, September 28, 2017

At a recent forum at Oakland City Hall, experts from the public banking and community energy sectors explored how the creation of a public bank could help communities transition to clean energy while creating economic opportunities.

"We need to build a more sustainable world, we need to be using energy that is positive for the environment and community, and we need to do it a way that support local jobs," said Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan who is leading the public bank creation efforts.

The forum took place in Oakland, California, just days after the approval of a resolution to fund a feasibility study by the City Council, with support from neighboring cities. The first and only public bank in the U.S. is the Bank of North Dakota.

"A public bank can really create community wealth in ways other institutions are not capable off," said Gregory Rosen, the founder of High Noon Advisors, a local consulting firm with experience in clean energy investing. "It can help people of different backgrounds and income levels come together, for the good of the community."

California’s Clean Energy Revolution: More Than Just Jobs; Study finds Renewables Portfolio Standard brings worker training, living wages, good benefits

By Betony Jones, Dr. Carol Zabin, and Jeremy Smith - UC Labor Center, July 12, 2016

California’s leadership on climate policy solutions has brought much attention to the quantity of jobs created in the state’s renewable energy industry. Yet the quality of those jobs has largely remained a mystery, and clean energy jobs aren’t automatically good jobs. A new UC Berkeley report released this morning at a press conference at the IBEW-NECA Sacramento Area Electrical Training Center finds that California’s principal climate policy, the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS), has created good jobs with a career path for non-college bound workers. This is a virtuous cycle: the renewable projects create paid training for workers through state-certified apprenticeship programs, and they help fund the training of future workers through joint employer and employee contributions made for every hour worked.

The report finds that the RPS has created a “high road” renewable energy industry, which contrasts markedly with “low road” strategies of states such as Texas in which job training is rare, wages are low and benefits often nonexistent.

What’s more, the high-quality jobs resulting from California’s RPS largely have been created in regions of the state where they are most needed, with high unemployment and low income.

The report, “The Link Between Good Jobs and a Low Carbon Future,” was published by the Donald Vial Center for Employment in the Green Economy, part of the UC Berkeley Labor Center.

“What’s unique about California is that the boom in renewables has created quality jobs that lead to real careers,” said Betony Jones, Associate Chair of the Donald Vial Center and a co-author of the report. “These are not just jobs to get by. Workers on these projects are getting health care, pension contributions, and paid comprehensive training that leads to career stability,” she said.

“This benefit package helps maintain a skilled workforce that benefits not only the construction industry but also the state’s broader economy,” said Dr. Carol Zabin, co-author of the report.

Senator Kevin de León remarked, “This research offers powerful new evidence of the positive economic impact California’s climate policies are having for blue-collar working families across our state, especially in our most disadvantaged communities. California is poised to build on this success over the coming years with even more ambitious goals for clean energy generation established under Senate Bill 350.”

Jose Muñoz, a journeyman electrician and father of three from Calexico, has worked on several commercial-scale solar projects, wind farms and energy storage projects in San Diego and Imperial Counties since 2006. “The benefits and training that come with these jobs are the most important things,” he said. “One job site can have about 600 electricians and lot of those are local guys who come from fast food jobs or working in the fields,” said Muñoz. “They have never had benefits for themselves and their families before.”

Key Findings:
The report calculated the following effects of California’s RPS from 2002-2015:

  • Creation of 25,500 blue-collar job-years (about 53 million hours of blue-collar construction work), with greatest job gains in counties such as Kern, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial, where unemployment rates are far above the state average and income is far below average.
  • California’s Inland Empire and San Joaquin Valley together have seen 65% of these jobs.
  • Almost all the large-scale renewable projects are built under project labor agreements, which provide union pay rates, health insurance and pension programs for all workers, whether or not their employers are union.
  • Utility-scale photovoltaic construction projects have funded 1,700 apprentices, providing them with earn-while-you learn classroom and on-the-job training, and putting them on a pathway to mastery of their trade and a middle-class career.
  • This high-road construction industry not only provides full family health care and retirement benefits, but also is the primary funder of the apprenticeship training system, with the state paying only a portion of the classroom training.
  • In contrast, the renewable energy construction industries in other states such as Texas or Arizona are more commonly non-union, provide lower wages, do not participate in apprenticeships, and lack health care and retirement benefits.

Energy Democracy: Inside Californians' Game-Changing Plan for Community-Owned Power

Al Weinrub - Yes! Magazine, November 12, 2015

On September 21, Pa Dwe, a 16-year-old student at Oakland’s Street Academy, spoke out against the export of coal through the Port of Oakland to City Council members: “I’m opposed to this coal export because it will make my community in West Oakland sick. I support jobs, but not the kind of jobs that make us sick. There are clean job alternatives, like Community Choice energy, and this will be good for the health of my community. This is my generation; I want to have a healthy life.” 

Pa’s comments exemplify a growing awareness that the people of California can only successfully address climate change by breaking with fossil fuels and the state’s investor-owned utility companies.

These utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), control about 75 percent of the electricity market in California, with the other 25 percent being supplied by public (municipal) utilities.

By creating slick, misleading ad campaigns about how green they are, the monopoly utilities have done their best to fight renewable energy programs. This often happens behind the scenes, and with the willing assistance of the scandal-ridden California Public Utilities Commission—the agency that is supposed to regulate these behemoth energy enterprises.

Back in 2002, in the wake of the Enron-induced crash of California's electricity system—which to this day has left rate-payers bailing out the utility companies— California passed AB 117, the Community Choice Aggregation law. This law allows a city, county, or any grouping of cities and counties, to “aggregate” electricity customers in their jurisdictions for the purpose of procuring electricity on their behalf. Under this arrangement, a public agency—the newly formed Community Choice program—decides where electricity will come from, while the incumbent utility delivers the electricity, maintains the electric lines, and bills customers.

The new program is a hybrid between a public agency and a private utility. The utility owns the distribution infrastructure, but the public is in the driver’s seat regarding energy decisions.

“It puts our community in control of the most important part of our electricity system,” explains Woody Hastings of the Center for Climate Protection in Sonoma County, one of the jurisdictions that has opted for a Community Choice energy program. “That means we can purchase more renewable and greenhouse-gas-free energy on the market than PG&E offered us. But more importantly, we can build renewable energy assets right here in the County. We not only get the benefits of low carbon electricity, but we get the economic benefits—the business opportunities and clean energy jobs—that come from investing in our own community.”

Sonoma County’s Community Choice customers get power that is 30 percent lower in greenhouse gases than PG&E. They also pay up to 9 percent less on average than PG&E customers. In addition, electricity net revenues go back into the community rather than into the pockets of PG&E shareholders and overpaid executives.