IBEW 1245 is supporting AB 2145, a bill in the California Assembly that would compel advocates of Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) to tell the truth when marketing energy services to potential customers.
California law allows communities to form CCAs to replace the existing utility as the provider of electric power for the community. But in trying to attract potential customers, some CCAs have tended to obscure the facts. The proposed legislation would require that a CCA provide factual information about its resource mix, its rates in comparison to the local utility, and any claimed reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The legislation serves three basic purposes, according to IBEW 1245 Business Representative Hunter Stern.
“Customers should know what they’re getting. Currently CCAs do not have to let potential customers know about the level of GHG emissions that would be generated by electricity from the CCA. They should know the exact amount, as they do with PG&E electricity,” said Stern.
A second concern addressed by the legislation, according to Stern, is rates. Currently a CCA can advertise a deceptively low rate to attract a customer away from their current utility.
“The problem is that the CCA can use an ‘average’ rate which could bundle a variety of rates for customers in different classifications. This average rate is highlighted to suggest lower rates than the actual rate for a particular customer classification,” said Stern.
The CCA rate is just the Generation rate, said Stern, and that represents just 40%-45% of the overall electric bill, with Transmission and Distribution being the other main components of a bill. As a result, it is “almost impossible for the typical electric customer to determine whether their Generation rates have actually increased, decreased or stayed the same” under the CCA.
The third issue, Stern said, is the “opt-out” process. CCAs prefer a model that would allow a CCA to automatically switch all customers from their existing utility to the CCA. Under this model, customers could wake up one morning to find themselves getting power from a new supplier without having had any say in the matter.
“A few decades ago phone companies were switching people’s long distance provider without telling them. It was called slamming,” said Stern. “We don’t think it’s appropriate for CCAs to be switching people’s electric service unless the customer agrees to it—knowingly.”
AB 2145 does not prevent CCAs like those in Marin and Sonoma from acquiring and serving electricity customers. “But it does mean that CCAs should protect the rights of consumers to make their own decisions,” Stern said.