Lancaster Choice Energy Logo

City of Lancaster Launches Lancaster Choice Energy

Utility is California’s First Municipal Community Choice Aggregator, as well as the First in Southern California

Lancaster, CA. 5/7/2015 – The City of Lancaster today announced the commencement of service to Lancaster Choice Energy’s initial customers, marking the launch of the first municipally-operated community choice aggregator in the State of California and the first to operate in Southern California. Lancaster Choice Energy (LCE) will begin serving its first phase of customers on their electric meter read dates throughout the month of May.

          “Lancaster Choice Energy marks an incredible milestone in the continuing evolution of the City of Lancaster,” said Mayor R. Rex Parris. “Through this innovative new program, we have succeeded in not only increasing the renewable energy content consumed by the citizens of Lancaster, but also lowering their energy rates. This places money squarely in the pockets of Lancaster residents and businesses, giving them more purchasing power while also keeping more money right here in our local economy. Lancaster Choice Energy is the epitome of a win-win situation.”

LCE’s first phase encompasses more than 850 accounts, including all municipal accounts as well as residents and businesses that have elected to enroll early in the program.
“This first phase of early adopters allows us to finalize our enrollment process, data communications, and all systems on a smaller scale before we roll the program out citywide,” added Parris. “This enables us to ensure that all aspects of the program are operating smoothly, providing a seamless transition for our residents and businesses when they are enrolled.”

LCE will partner with the existing regional investor-owned utility (IOU), Southern California Edison (Edison), to offer electric service to all customers in the City of Lancaster. Edison will continue to provide electric delivery services such as transmission and distribution, as well as continue to maintain power lines and bill customers. LCE, in contrast, will provide the electricity itself. LCE’s charges for electric generation will appear as a line item on customers’ Edison bills, while Edison will continue to charge for its services.

“Edison will continue to be responsible for anything you can physically see or touch, while LCE provides the electricity to power your home or business,” explained City Manager Mark Bozigian. “This approach enables LCE to set energy rates locally, while also determining the renewable content of the energy consumed here in Lancaster.”

LCE’s electric generation rates are lower than Edison’s rates; exact savings vary based on the customer’s rate schedule and energy usage. Customers enrolled in the California Alternative Rates for Energy (CARE) and Medical Baseline programs, which are not subject to exit fees charged by Edison, are projected to reap the greatest savings. LCE rates are set annually by the Lancaster City Council, while Edison’s are subject to change more often. In 2014, the California Public Utilities Commission approved more than a dozen changes in Edison’s rates.

“Every dollar saved through LCE translates to more money being kept within our local economy,” said Parris.  “For businesses, this could mean a new piece of equipment or money towards hiring a new employee. For families, it could mean being able to afford dance lessons or karate classes. We are proud to offer this benefit to Lancaster residents and businesses, and we are incredibly proud to be able to offer such substantial savings to our local families who are most in need.

“Because Edison typically changes its rates several times a year while LCE’s are set annually, we not only offer our customers increased stability for budgeting purposes, but they can also anticipate that the gap between our rates and Edison’s will increase and ultimately save them even more money.”

Crazy Otto’s was one local business that chose to enroll in LCE early. Owner Jin Hur has made a number of upgrades to enhance energy efficiency, thus lowering operating costs while also helping to protect the environment.

“I was excited to hear about the Lancaster Choice Energy program,” said Hur. “It will not only help Lancaster become a greener, more sustainable community, but also offers an opportunity for cost savings. Given the substantial energy needs of operating a business, this amount can be significant. This is an excellent program for local businesses.”

LCE currently offers two product options: Clear Choice, which contains 35 percent renewable energy, and Smart Choice, which is 100 percent renewable. Clear Choice is the default product in which all customers will be automatically enrolled, unless they choose to “opt up” to Smart Choice. Smart Choice is offered at a small premium over the cost of Clear Choice, at a flat rate of $10 extra per month for residential accounts and 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour more for commercial accounts.

“One of the greatest aspects of LCE is consumer choice,” added Parris. “For more than a century, most Californians have been locked into a single choice when it comes to energy service: utilize your local IOU or live in the Dark Ages without electricity. Now, the citizens of Lancaster not only have a choice of energy companies; they also have a choice of products. They can enjoy increased renewable energy at a lower cost with Clear Choice, or they can reduce their carbon footprint by opting up to Smart Choice. Either way, by participating in LCE, they are helping to build a greener future for our community.”

Hunter Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram/Hunter Fiat was the first business in the City to opt up to Smart Choice service.

“Hunter Dodge is deeply invested in the Antelope Valley community,” said Tim Fuller, co-owner of the dealership with brother Tom Fuller. “Tom and I truly care about our community, and are dedicated to protecting it for future generations to enjoy. Being able to participate in the Smart Choice service allows us to help us meet our goal of protecting the environment while benefiting the City of Lancaster to grow and prosper.”

Other businesses and organizations that have chosen to enroll early in LCE include:

  • All About Fitness
  • Antelope Valley Chevrolet
  • Antelope Valley College
  • Antelope Valley Florist
  • Antelope Valley Ford
  • Antelope Valley Union High School District
  • Aven’s Fine Home Furnishings
  • Bella West Spa & Salon
  • BeX Bar & Grill
  • Calandri/Sonrise Farms
  • Camille’s Sidewalk Café
  • George’s Cleaners
  • Kinetic Brewing Company
  • Lancaster Honda
  • Lancaster School District
  • Lemon Leaf Café
  • MDM Architects
  • Panache Salon
  • R. Rex Parris Law Firm
  • Re-Max All-Pro
  • University of Antelope Valley
     While the current phase includes municipal accounts and those who have chosen to enroll early, LCE service will extend to all electric accounts citywide in October. Customers will receive four separate notices via mail informing them of their impending enrollment in LCE and providing instructions to opt out and remain with Edison if they so choose. Those who wish to receive LCE service may simply do nothing and will automatically be enrolled in Clear Choice, which provides a lower rate as well as higher renewable energy content than their existing service.
Lancaster Choice Energy Logo

City of Lancaster Receives 2015 Renewable Energy Award

Lancaster, CA. April 29, 2015, – Earlier this month, the City of Lancaster was awarded the Green California Leadership Award in the category of “Renewable Energy” for its Lancaster Choice Energy program.

Presented by Green Technology, a nonprofit organization, the Leadership Award recognizes pioneering projects and programs which are initiated by government entities to create a more sustainable future for California and the world. All nominated projects must provide a measurable benefit to the natural or human environment. The City received the “Renewable Energy” award because, through Lancaster Choice Energy, Lancaster is the first stand-alone city in the State of California to take control of local energy, providing residents the choice to opt for less expensive, more renewable energy.

“Receiving this award serves as confirmation that we are not only steadily progressing toward our Net-Zero goals; we are at the forefront of the municipal energy movement,” said Mayor R. Rex Parris. “Through Lancaster Choice Energy, the City and the community will continue working together to climb toward our Net-Zero ambitions, paving the way for other energy conscious municipalities to follow suit.”

For more information regarding the Green California Summit, visit www.green-technology.org/gcsummit/index.html.

Lancaster over halfway to ‘net-zero’

LANCASTER – The city ended 2014 at 54.4% of its goal of becoming a net-zero city, and city leaders said they are on the way to 100% when Lancaster can procure and produce more electricity via renewable sources than is consumed in city limits.

As the city launches its own utility in May, Lancaster Choice Energy, it is on its way to reaching 100% as early as the end of the year, city leaders said in a meeting at Antelope Valley Press. The city joins Marin and Sonoma counties in becoming a “community choice” aggregator, in which the city sells power directly to residents and businesses.

The city’s approach to net-zero status is divided into two phases. Phase One is expected to be reached by the end of this year when the city is forecast to be procuring and producing more energy via renewable sources than it consumes at its peak load of consumption, which is 215 megawatts for the year.

Phase Two is expected to be reached by 2020, with the city planning to be producing more energy via renewable sources than the total amount of energy consumed by the entire city, which is 530 megawatts. To achieve those benchmarks, city officials have developed and deployed a variety of programs aimed at involving the entire community.

“This plan was staff-driven, totally innovative,” Mayor R. Rex Parris said in a meeting with the Valley Press.

“The rewards will be huge over the next couple of decades, and we will achieve a level of self-determination we never dreamed of.”

He lauded staff development work done by Assistant City Manager Jason Caudle, city Finance Director Barbara Boswell, and a team of staff with whom they worked.

One such program is the Solar Lancaster program. Launched in 2010 in partnership with SolarCity, Solar Lancaster is an affordable solar financing program for homeowners, business owners and nonprofit organizations.

The program simplifies the process of going solar by reducing energy bills, offering financing options and discounted solar pricing, while providing custom solar system designs and monitoring.

The program, which city officials say is one of the most expansive solar community programs ever undertaken, includes such clients as Sierra Toyota, the Lancaster School District (19 sites), Desert Christian School (three sites), Eastside School District (two sites), the Lancaster Business Park and Lancaster Baptist Church.

“Leadership matters,” City Manager Mark Bozigian said. “We have a phenomenal city council.”

In addition, five city facilities, including Lancaster Municipal Stadium, City Hall and the Lancaster Performing Arts Center, are now powered with solar energy in a 1.45-megawatt project projected to save the city an estimated $6 million over 15 years.

To further integrate renewable energy into the daily lives of residents and businesses, the council last year voted to adopt a residential solar mandate, making Lancaster the first city in the nation to require all new residential construction projects to include solar power.
“In Lancaster, we take risks and move the ball forward,” Parris said. “We have to look to the well-being of people.”

The city’s business-friendly attitude toward utility-scale solar development also plays a key role in maximizing its renewable energy production, officials said.

The city’s Better Built Home program, which became available Jan. 1, gives incentives to residential builders to incorporate environmentally friendly features such as LED lighting, gray-water systems, energy storage systems and smog-eating roof tiles. By offering builders the equivalent of approximately $9,000 to $12,000 in incentives per dwelling unit, the city is able to ensure the environmentally conscious choice is the most cost-effective choice for homebuilders and future homeowners, city leaders said.

“As a city with just under 160,000 residents and thousands of businesses dispersed throughout our limits, achieving true net-zero status is a goal that most would deem impossible,” Parris said. “We are even going to do it in a shorter time frame than originally anticipated.

“Lancaster will reach net-zero status, and we will be a replicable example for communities around the world. Net-zero is possible, net-zero is cost-effective and net-zero is necessary to maintain the wellness of our planet.”

City OKs power-selling project

By: Antelope Valley Press | February 26, 2015
LANCASTER – City Council members took the final step Tuesday night toward starting to sell electrical power in October to city homes, business and other energy users.

In a 5-0 vote, the City Council set electricity rates that city officials said will undercut Southern California Edison’s standard residential prices and business rates by 3% and by nearly 15% for 19,000 lower-income Lancaster households.

The council also voted to allow residential customers to pay an extra $10 monthly fee to get their power from 100% renewable sources, compared to 35% for the standard plan.

“This is going to be, as a result of our success, something every city in Southern California should do,” Deputy City Manager Jason Caudle said before the council vote.
Homes, businesses and other customers automatically will be switched to the new system, called Lancaster Choice Energy, but customers can “opt out” and choose to remain with Edison, officials said.

Southern California Edison will continue to own and maintain power lines and other electrical distribution equipment in Lancaster. Its crews also will answer repair calls.
Residents and businesses still will get electric bills sent out by Edison, but the bills will contain an electrical delivery fee charged by Edison plus an electrical generation charge from Lancaster Choice Energy.

“All of this should be seamless to the customer,” Caudle said.
The rates are proposed to reduce electric bills $2.7 million a year for Lancaster residents, businesses and other customers, city officials said.

The reduction would have been greater for non-low-income households and commercial customers, city officials said, except for a Southern California Edison surcharge or “exit fee” that the California Public Utilities Commission allows Edison to charge most customers who leave its service.

The exit fee, which the PUC allows to be charged for 20 years, is a little over 1 cent a kilowatt-hour for most residential households and about 0.6 cent to roughly 0.9 cent for business customers, city officials said. City officials said they intend to approach state lawmakers about reducing or shortening the fee.

The exit fee will not be charged to lower-income households that get discounted Edison bills as part of the California Alternate Rates for Energy, or CARE program, which Edison said covers 42% of Lancaster households. The low-income threshold is $47,700 a year for a family of four.
Including the Edison “exit fee,” the Lancaster Choice Energy rates are 8.72 cents and 11.077 cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on usage, for standard residential customers. CARE customers’ rates are 7.674 and 10.031 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Rates were developed to generate enough revenue to cover annual expenses, fund a 10% operating reserve and financial stability reserve, and at the same time save customers a minimum of 3% per kilowatt-hour compared to Edison rates, stated a report from Barbara Boswell, the city finance director.

Lancaster Choice Energy will start providing electricity for city buildings, parks and other facilities in May. Some residential and business customers will also sign up to start trying the new arrangement then.

Service will be extended to all other customers in October.

Lancaster Choice will offer residents two electricity products – Clear Choice, a 35% renewable energy product, and Smart Choice, a 100% renewable energy product. City staffers had proposed making the 100% renewable energy product available for an extra fee of 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, but at Tuesday’s meeting the City Council switched the fee to $10 a month, saying the flat fee would be more understandable to customers.

The rate schedule for commercial customers mirrors Edison’s commercial rate structure, making comparisons easier for customers, though in total there will be 19 different rates compared to 76 from Edison, city officials said.

Homes will automatically be placed in the Clear Choice program, but they will have an opportunity to “opt up” to the Smart Choice program.

Lancaster Choice customers who possess electricity-generating facilities, such as rooftop solar panels, will be able to opt for the power supplier’s Personal Choice Product.

Based on that option, customers whose facilities generate more energy than they use will receive a credit of 6 cents per kilowatt-hour on their bill.

Customers who have a credit greater than $100 as of October each year will receive a check in the amount of that credit.

Anyone with a credit less than $100 will see the money roll into the next billing cycle, according to the report.

Lancaster will be California’s first city to offer a “community choice aggregation” system. Such systems are in operation in Marin and Sonoma counties. Community choice aggregation systems are authorized under a state law passed in 2002, following California’s so-called “electricity crisis” that saw statewide rolling blackouts.

The plan, officials said, came as part of the city’s efforts to become a “net zero” community – producing as much power as it consumes.

Most of the power will be provided by a company called Direct Energy, which sells electricity to businesses and other customers around California. Owned by a British firm called Centrica, Direct Energy has more than 6 million residential, commercial and government customers in the United States and Canada.

The five-year contract is arranged so Lancaster is obligated to buy a decreasing percentage of its power annually from Direct Energy, meaning it can seek other, cheaper sources or use power provided by local solar power fields or other facilities.

City set to sell cheaper power

LANCASTER – City Council members likely will approve suggested rates Tuesday night for power being sold by the municipality, and that cost would undercut Southern California Edison’s standard fees by 3%.

Rates were developed to generate enough revenue to cover annual expenses, fund a 10% operating reserve and financial stability reserve, and at the same time save customers a minimum of 3% per kilowatt hour compared to an Edison, stated a report from Barbara Boswell, the city finance director.

City administrators will use money from the General Fund to pay the initial startup costs, according to Boswell. However, she stated, that money “can be repaid within three years of operation.”

Lancaster Choice Energy, the power provider, will start serving the customers who have municipal accounts in May. Then, in October, service will be available for all other customers, the report stated.

The rate setting was a core element of the power program.

In addition to bringing in sufficient revenue for operating expenses of the Lancaster Choice program, city officials also took into account the funds needed to maintain reserves.

Aside from meeting those revenue requirements, Lancaster Choice Energy aims to provide customers with stable rates by “reviewing and adjusting” those charges each year, and adopting a cost structure which beats the current Edison per-kilowatt hourly fee, Boswell’s report stated.

Lancaster Choice will offer consumers two electricity products – Clear Choice, a 35% renewable energy product, and Smart Choice, a 100% renewable energy product.
People who sign up will automatically be placed in the Clear Choice program, but they will have an opportunity to “Opt Up” to the Smart Choice program.

The 3% rate reduction does not apply to residential customers enrolled in Edison’s California Alternate Rates for Energy program, commonly called the CARE program.

Customers in the CARE program will save 15% compared to their current Edison rates.
Lancaster residents who qualify and participate in the Edison CARE program will not be subject to fees imposed by Edison to customers that switch from Edison to Lancaster Choice.
Customers who select the Smart Choice will pay a 1.5% per-kilowatt hour premium “to cover the additional cost of the product,” Boswell’s report stated.

Lancaster Choice customers who possess electricity-generating facilities, for instance roof-top solar panels, will be able to opt for the power supplier’s Personal Choice Product.
Based on that option, customers whose facilities generate more energy than they use will receive a credit of six cents per kilowatt hour on their bill.

Customers who have a credit greater than $100 as of October each year will receive a check in the amount of that credit.

Anyone with a credit less than $100 will see the money roll into the next billing cycle, according to the report.

asemchuck@avpress.com

City of Lancaster and Green Charge Networks Unveil New Energy Storage System at Museum of Art and History

City of Lancaster and Green Charge Networks Unveil New Energy Storage System at Museum of Art and History

Partners also Launch Lancaster’s First Electric Vehicle Fast Charging Station

Today, the City of Lancaster and Green Charge Networks unveiled an energy storage system at the Lancaster Museum of Art & History (MOAH). The partners also unveiled Lancaster’s first Electric Vehicle (EV) fast charging station, located in MOAH’s parking lot. In its ongoing pursuit of optimal economic and environmental efficiencies, the City is constantly working to maximize the use of alternative energy and green technologies. With the help of a California Energy Commission grant, Green Charge Networks, a leading California energy storage company, installed both the new storage system and EV fast charging station.

“The City of Lancaster prides itself in utilizing cutting edge technologies. It is great to see these technologies installed and operational right here in the heart of our downtown,” said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris.

MOAH’s new energy storage system is an important addition to Lancaster’s alternative energy efforts. The system stores energy to be used during peak hours, thus offsetting ever-increasing demand charges which continue to spike City-wide electric bills. Over the past decade, demand charges throughout California have grown more than 7% each year – accounting for 50% of the electric bills of many businesses and institutions. Green Charge Networks’ system utilizes proven technology to cut these demand charges by up to 50%. In bringing this energy storage technology to Lancaster, the company helps Lancaster take yet another step toward its goal of becoming America’s first Net-Zero city.

“Green Charge Networks’ GreenStationTM will reduce the museum’s demand charges, thus lowering their operating costs and maximizing the building’s power efficiency,” said Vic Shao, CEO of Green Charge Networks. “Since solar-generated power is now required for new homes throughout the City of Lancaster, adding intelligent energy storage will save dollars while creating a more flexible grid that’s ready to take solar power utilization to the next level.”

The new EV ChadeMO DC electric vehicle fast charging station also supports the City’s green energy efforts, as it is the first EV charger in Lancaster capable of charging compatible electric vehicles to 80% capacity in approximately 30 minutes (roughly a tenth the time that it takes at the seven other public EV chargers in the City). This new EV fast charging station is operated by NRG eVgo and is now available for public use in MOAH’s rear parking lot.

The City’s seven additional public EV chargers are conveniently located throughout the area. Three single car chargers are installed in the north parking lot of Lancaster City Hall, while four EV chargers have been installed in the southeast section of the Metrolink Station parking lot, located on Sierra Highway.

“Today is yet another example of the City of Lancaster’s dedication to improving power efficiency throughout our community. This new energy storage system will save taxpayer dollars by lowering MOAH’s energy costs,” added Mayor Parris. “We’ve also made a new charging station available for electric vehicle owners – all via innovative and environmentally conscious technologies. We’d like to acknowledge Green Charge Networks and the California Energy Commission for helping to make this possible.”

City, energy firms talking

By: Charles F. Bostwick | September 30, 2014

LANCASTER – City officials are negotiating with energy firms Constellation/Exelon Generation Company and Direct Energy as they move forward with plans to supply electricity to Lancaster homes and businesses.

Either or both firms could be chosen, or city officials could pick another company, to provide power – from wind, solar and conventional power plants – that the city would resell as it begins supply ing electricity on a phased schedule starting next year and continuing into 2016.

“So far we’re on schedule,” Deputy City Manager Jason Caudle said.

As Lancaster goes through the process to become a “community choice aggregator,” the firms were identified in the revised implementation plan approved by the City Council last week for submission to the California Public Utilities Commission.

City officials narrowed their list to those two firms because they wanted to deal with firms that have experience working with Southern California Edison and with the California Independent Systems Operator.

Constellation/Exelon supplies electricity to Sonoma County’s community choice aggregation agency, which began operation in May, and Direct Energy sells electricity to businesses and other customers around California, Caudle said.

The City Council is likely to make a choice in January, he said. However, he noted, the city also could choose to buy electricity through both, or could choose an entirely different company.

Electricity prices are likely to be set in February by the council, Caudle said.

Based in Chicago, Exelon owns nuclear and conventional power plants, as well as wind and solar facilities that include the 2,100-acre, 230-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One on Avenue D at 170th Street West. Its Baltimore-based Constellation business unit provides energy products and services to approximately 100,000 business and public sector customers and more than one million residential customers. Constellation owns the solar panels installed this year at the Palmdale Civic Center, DryTown Water Park and Marie Kerr Park.

Owned by a British firm called Centrica, Direct Energy has more than 6 million residential, commercial and government customers in the United States and Canada.

Lancaster officials say they expect to be able to offer electric rates that will meet or beat Southern California Edison’s prices.

As envisioned now, the new power arrangement would first be used for city buildings, parks and other facilities starting in early 2015, then Lancaster business, and then residences by May or November 2016. There are 5,500 commercial and industrial electric customers and 48,865 residential customers.

House with Solar Panels

PACE Program Participant Figtree Financing Now Offering Clean Energy Funding

Firm also Seeking Local Clean Energy Contractors

Lancaster, CA. September 30, 2014 – Figtree Financing, a participant of the City of Lancaster’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program, is now providing financing services to commercial and residential property owners interested in investing in clean energy upgrades. In addition, local clean energy contractors are being called upon to become Figtree Registered Contractors, which will enable them to expand their businesses by helping to meet the green technology needs of PACE-participating property owners.

The PACE Program expands Lancaster businesses’ and residents’ choices in the alternative energy arena by connecting them to the financing company of their choice, as well as the local participating contractor of their choice. The Program makes alternative energy lifestyles accessible to property owners of all financial circumstances by providing up to 20% of a property’s value to be financed for energy efficiency, renewable energy, or water conservation upgrades.

Figtree Financing is the first of three PACE-affiliated financing choices to be made available to Lancaster residents and contractors. The California Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Program is expected to become available in October 2014, while the CaliforniaFIRST Program is expected to be available in January 2015.

PACE and its affiliated financing programs provide their services through local contractors, who sign up to become Registered Contractors. Those interested in becoming Figtree Registered Contractors are encouraged to sign up soon, as they must be trained to qualify.

“This is an excellent opportunity for both our residents and our many clean energy contractors,” said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris. “This program enables the City to continue providing Lancaster residents and business owners with green energy opportunities, while also increasing the demand for providers of these environmentally-friendly services. The PACE Program makes it easy for property owners to utilize green energy, bringing Lancaster closer to our Net-Zero goals.”

To become a Figtree Registered Contractor, visitwww.figtreefinancing.com/contractors. For more information regarding Figtree Financing, visit www.figtreefinancing.com.

City Seeks to Broker Own Power

By: Charles F. Bostwick | September 2, 2014

LANCASTER – Moving ahead with plans to sell electricity to residents and businesses, the City Council agreed to take the next steps in the 2- to 2-year-long process that requires obtaining approval from Southern California Edison and state power regulators.

The council approved a service agreement with Southern California Edison to become a so-called “Community Choice Aggregator” – the name for what the city is doing – and approved a registration application form to become an electric service provider, which begins the process of registration with Edison and the California Public Utility Commission.

“The Lancaster Choice Energy program will be well underway by this time next year, and we are extremely excited about offering our citizens the power to choose,” Mayor R. Rex Parris said in a city announcement after the vote at this past week’s city council meeting.

City officials say they expect to be able to offer electric rates that will meet or beat Southern California Edison’s prices, but the rates aren’t likely to be set until early next year. That will be done in a public vote by City Council members.

Before that happens, the city must hire a firm that will acquire power contracts – such as with solar fields, wind farms and conventional power plant operators – for sale to Lancaster. City staffers are investigating and interviewing firms that expressed an interest, documents show. The power broker firm could be named by the end of this month.

As envisioned now, the new power arrangement would first be used for city buildings, parks and other facilities starting in early 2015, then Lancaster business, and then residences by May or November 2016 – a slippage from the initial hope to have it all done by the end of next year, officials said. There are 5,500 commercial and industrial electric customers and 48,865 residential customers in Lancaster, city officials say.

Under the plan, Southern California Edison would continue to own and maintain power lines and other electrical distribution equipment in Lancaster.

Residents and businesses would continue to get electric bills sent out by Edison, which would contain an electrical delivery fee charged by Edison plus an electrical generation charge from the city’s energy authority.

City officials envision customers could sign up for a renewable-energy option or an economy package.

In addition, residents and businesses could choose to remain customers only of Edison, officials said.

Once the new system is in place, residents and businesses will be offered several chances to “opt out” of switching from Edison to the Lancaster energy authority.

Under the new arrangement, Lancaster electricity rates will be set by the city, rather than by the California Public Utility Commission, which has authority over Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and other investor-owned utilities.

The new power arrangement is possible under a state law passed in 2002, following California’s so-called “electricity crisis” that saw statewide rolling blackouts.

California’s first “community choice aggregation” to go into operation was in Marin County, where the Marin Energy Authority began serving customers four years ago as Marin Clean Energy.

About 125,000 homes and businesses are customers, or about 80% of the county and neighboring Richmond, while about 20% remain customers of Pacific Gas & Electric, spokeswoman Jamie Tuckey said. Sonoma County’s community choice aggregation agency began serving its first customers May 1.

For a typical Marin County residence using 500 kilowatts a month, the average monthly electric bill is about $83 for PG&E customers, $82 with Marin Clean Energy’s Light Green plan and $87 with its Dark Green plan, she said. For a typical commercial customer using a little more than 1,000 kilowatts a month, the monthly bill is about $272 with PG&E, $259 with Light Green and $270 with Dark Green, she said.

The Light Green plan uses 50% “renewable” sources including solar, wind, geothermal and small hydro-electric power, she said. The Deep Green plan uses 100% renewable sources.

The agency recently launched a third plan that uses energy from a new solar field in Marin County, she said.
Marin Clean Energy customers get one bill, which carries Marin Clean Energy’s electrical generation charge and PG&E’s delivery charge. For residential customers, that’s about $36 of the $82 or $87 typical bill, records show.

Solar Panel Reflections

City of Lancaster Takes Next Step Toward Becoming a Community Choice Aggregator

Last night, the Lancaster City Council approved three items which will propel its efforts forward to offer Community Choice Aggregation to its businesses and residents. The Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) Service Agreement with Southern California Edison (SCE) was approved, along with the Electric Service Provider (ESP) Registration Application Form. The latter begins the process of registration with the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) and SCE. With the approval to move forward on these items, the City remains on track to not only implement its CCA ‘Lancaster Choice Energy’ in 2015, but also achieve the ambition of Net Zero status in the future.

“Our City’s goals in the alternative energy arena have always been ambitious, and we are very pleased by how quickly they are coming to fruition,” said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris. “Every step we take feeds into the bigger picture of establishing renewable energy as the foundation of local power, and thus community sustainability. Lancaster’s realization of Net Zero status is closer than many think. The Lancaster Choice Energy program will be well underway by this time next year, and we are extremely excited about offering our citizens the power to choose.”

The mission to establish Lancaster Choice Energy officially began on May 13, 2014, when the Lancaster City Council approved the implementation plan which outlined the City’s intent to establish a Community Choice Aggregator. A month later, the approved plan was submitted to the CPUC for review and certification. Final certification is imminent.

The approvals provided at last evening’s City Council Meeting begin the next step in the process of establishing the City’s CCA. The CCA service agreement with Southen California Edison governs the relationship between Lancaster Choice Energy and SCE.

The service agreement identifies SCE as maintaining ownership and responsibility for the transmission and distribution of lines throughout the service area, in addition to ongoing billing and customer service support. This key contractual obligation will ensure minimal impact and maximum ease of use for Lancaster businesses and residents.

The distinguishing feature of the agreement is the CCA’s role in not only providing electrical energy to consumers, but also establishing its own rates for that energy. Essentially, citizens will have the utmost control in weighing the various factors which determine their choice for energy resource. They can remain with Southern California Edison or they can choose Lancaster Choice Energy. The crucial factor with this program is the City is giving them the power to choose.

An added benefit of Lancaster Choice Energy is having local leadership available to address citizen concerns, since the CCA will be administered directly by the City. The current process requires citizens to make appeals to the CPUC in San Francisco when rate and environmental impact issues arise. While this may not pose an inconvenience for some, it is fundamentally important for additional options to be provided to the public. Competition in the local marketplace is always healthy for driving competitive pricing, as well as freedom of choice, particularly in a service category which is a necessity for most everyone.

The availability of Lancaster Choice Energy is fast-approaching. However, additional agreements, such as the Binding Notice of Intent (BNI), will still require approval from the Lancaster City Council. When the BNI is approved and submitted to Southern California Edison in the first quarter of 2015, Lancaster Choice Energy will be officially authorized to provide energy to local consumers. At that time, the City’s three-phase rollout of energy service will commence as follows: Phase 1 – Municipal enrollment in May 2015; Phase 2 – Commercial/Industrial enrollment in November 2015; and Phase 3 – Residential enrollment by November 2016 (if not sooner).