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A Santa Cruz Power Authority?

March 6, 2013—A new sustainable energy model is gathering steam in these parts. Santa Cruz County yesterday inched closer to an important study of Community Choice Aggregation, and this evening the Scotts Valley City Council will start discussing whether it wants to follow the rest of the cities in the county and join in the fun.

Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, is a way to do an end run around big utilities (read: PG&E) that aren’t using much renewable energy in their power mix. A CCA creates a regional power authority—in our case it would be the County of Santa Cruz—that purchases green energy from all over the country as a major (or exclusive) part of its energy mix. When Marin County started its CCA a few years ago, it decided on 30 percent renewables to start and gradually moved up to 100 percent. When San Francisco launches its CCA, which is any minute now, it will start with 100 percent renewable energy sources.

A major selling point: homes and businesses within a CCA area could install solar panels (or wind turbines, we suppose) and sell that power to the CCA at a better rate than they currently get from PG&E. (PG&E buys solar power back from its green-minded customers at a miserly 6 cents per kilowatt hour—less than half the baseline kwh rate it charges and far less than its peak kwh charge of 30 cents. Grrr.)

The takeaway here? CCAs are a way to encourage renewable energy development both at home and beyond. So if you’re a progressive green-type place, it’s a way to ditch your slow-moving, dinosaur slurry-imbibing major utility provider and take matters into your own hands.

And now back to what’s happening here in Santa Cruz County. Gine Johnson, a member of the county’s Commission on the Environment and the former executive director of Ecology Action, is forming a committee made up of reps from all over the county (including Scotts Valley, mayhap) and raising money for a big, ‘spensive feasibility study. That $150,000 or so is supposed to come from private donors and the state rather than the county’s empty pockets. Word on the street is that Johnson is determined to get it all together by April 1—no joke—and get this big green ball rolling. You can read more at the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

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