County barely moving forward with electric program

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Final decision awaits CPUC decision

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors narrowly approved moving forward with the creation of Community Choice Aggregation, which would have the county provide electricity. County residents should not expect to hear anything about its implementation until late summer.

The vote was 3-2, with supervisors Kevin Jeffries (1st District) and Chuck Washington (3rd District) voting no. Several of the supervisors are concerned about how the California Public Utilities Commission may decide a regulatory issue affecting the potential charge to entities replacing the private utility provider.

The CPUC is expected to issue a decision in the summer of 2018 and the ultimate charge may significantly influence the success of a county electric agency.

Deputy County Executive Officer Brian Nestande assured the board that submitting the proposed implementation plan to the CPUC would not initiate a county program. Once approved, Riverside County could wait months or years before contracting to buy and then sell electricity.

“The exit-fee issue is the only thing holding me up,” Jeffries said to Nestande. “It is a gamble, risky.” With the CPUC decision still months in the future, Jeffries preferred delaying a board decision on the program.

In response, Nestande emphasized that the board’s vote would only authorize filing the plan with the CPUC for approval. The program will not be implemented before knowing the CPUC decision.

“We are not entering into any action and not spending any county money,” he stated.

In casting his positive vote, Supervisor Marion Ashley (5th District) said, “Lets get to the [CPUC] decision and then make our decision.”

Washington’s “No” vote was not based solely on the exit fee question. He has done substantial review of the issue and expressed two reasons.

“I think there are questions unanswered,” he said. “I think this approach we’ve taken is not thoroughly vetted.” He was specifically concerned about the potential savings for CCA customers.

Secondly, he preferred offering the CCA program to the whole county rather than limiting it to just the unincorporated areas. This would include a much larger customer base, he argued, and concluded, “I’ll be a ‘No’ vote.”

The feasibility study of a CCA program and the implementation plan has cost the county about $250,000. The estimated annual cost of running the program is about $1.7 million, which will be recovered from electric fees.

The feasibility study estimated that customers would save between 7 and 13 percent on the purchase of electricity through the establishment of a CCA. Residents in the unincorporated areas will be CCA customers unless they choose to opt out and remain with Southern California Edison.

Once the CPUC approves the county plan, the county can issue requests for the cost to purchase electricity.

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