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Rob Bonta’s Curious Vote on Electricity Community Choice Bill

A bill is winding its way through the California Senate this week, an assembly bill that opponents say favors PG&E over community choice electricity programs. Local California assembly member Rob Bonta’s affirmative vote on the bill in late May is being questioned, and seems curious given his path to the capitol through city hall in Alameda, a municipality that owns a 127-year old independent electrical utility.

Community choice aggregation is an electrical supply model that allows consumers to choose competitive providers over traditional suppliers.

Bill AB2145 would seem to favor California’s largest energy providers: Southern California Edison Company, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Pacific Gas and Electric, the provider of power to much of Bonta’s 18th assembly district.

Residents in Bonta’s hometown of Alameda have long had an alternative to Pacific Gas and Electric. City-owned Alameda Municipal Power provides electricity to roughly 34,000 residences and businesses in Alameda, and through its Alameda Green program, allows customers to buy their power from certified ‘green’ sources.

Bill AB2145 would change the community choice energy law of 2002, to say that, essentially, Pacific Gas and Electric is the default electricity provider where it operates, and that customers have to affirmatively declare their decision to buy from a community choice provider.

Under existing law, the intent of which was to provide communities with access to greener, lower cost electricity from alternative providers, a community choice provider, if available, is the default provider, and customers have to make an affirmative declaration to switch providers to, for example, Pacific Gas and Electric.

A 2005 analysis of the 2002 law, conducted for the California Public Utilities Commission by researchers at The Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley, found that consumers and communities stand to benefit from community choice, while utilities such as Pacific Gas and Electric, and its Southern California brethren, stand to lose “significant revenue.”

Critics of AB2145 say the bill is nothing more than Pacific Gas & Electric and the other big power providers protecting their turf, that it will stifle the creation of new community choice programs, and that it undermines the ability of local communities to make choices about their energy sources.

Bonta, otherwise a progressive, parted ways with his assembly colleague Nancy Skinner, of Berkeley, with whom he has worked on tougher gun control laws, on AB2145; Skinner voted against the bill.

On KPFA radio this morning, Corrine Van Hook, communications and outreach manager for Bay Localize, an Oakland-based equitable community activist group, would say only that “money and politics” can explain widespread California assembly support for the bill – 51 aye votes and 15 no votes on May 28th.

Reached by e-mail, Van Hook told Action Alameda News, “plain and simple, Community Choice enables community benefit — quality clean energy job creation, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, thriving local economies, improved public health and more. AB2145 represents an attack on Community Choice because it solidifies a monopoly by the default utility Pacific Gas and Electric which means that rate payers wouldn’t have easy access to take advantage of greener, lower cost electricity. Why would we want to put limits on a program that has proven not only to save our communities money, but invest in them while achieving a clean energy future? AB2145 is the complete opposite of serving constituents’ needs.”

Staffers for Rob Bonta did not respond to our request for comment by our deadline today.

The Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee was to vote on AB2145 this afternoon.

“I really hope AB 2145 does not pass today,” said Van Hook.

1 comment to Rob Bonta’s Curious Vote on Electricity Community Choice Bill

  • Dennis

    Do you actually think that Rob Bonta actually gives a hoot about Alameda? It seems to me that this guy will do just about anything to advance his way along the political food chain. Another politician that will say anything to get re-elected. Time for the voters to wise up and get rid of trash like this! He certainly isn’t looking out for the citizens of this town.