Last week, PG&E pled guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of unlawfully causing a fire in Butte County.
Simultaneously, the legislature is laying out the pathway for a state takeover of PG&E if they fail to emerge from bankruptcy (which as of Saturday, it appears they will) and perform safely going forward (SB 350 – The Golden State Energy Act).
A sort of “Plan B” if you will. Over the last 10 years, cities and counties in California have been pursuing their own Plan B, moving away from the traditional investor owned utilities and pursuing their own plans for how to serve their communities energy needs.
In fact, Yuba, Sutter, and Colusa counties are already surrounded by communities that have chosen to control their energy future instead of having PG&E decide for them.
To our north, Butte County is moving forward with the creation of Butte Choice Energy – a process that was underway prior to the Camp Fire and one that they are still moving forward with today.
On June 8, Valley Clean Energy celebrated 2 years of serving the electricity needs of our neighbors in Yolo County. To our east, Pioneer Community Energy serves unincorporated Placer County and five cities (Roseville is already served by its own municipal utility and so is our southern neighbor, Sacramento).
If the Legislative “Plan B” occurs with PG&E and the State takes over their service territory, what does the Yuba, Sutter, and Colusa community want to be a part of and what can be done now to control our own destiny?
Just as Butte, Placer, and Yolo Counties have done, our community can make its own decisions on energy by creating a locally controlled agency through Community Choice Aggregation. Local governments in more than 200 cities, towns and counties throughout California have already chosen to participate in community choice aggregation to meet climate action goals, provide residents and businesses with more energy options, ensure local transparency and accountability, and drive economic development.
There are 21 Community Choice Aggregators currently operating in California proudly serving 10 million people and growing every day.
Many communities are looking at it as not only a choice about providing lower electricity costs and cleaner energy, but also as a means for economic opportunity and job creation in their communities.
As the local governments grapple with budget cuts in this uncertain time of the COVID-19 pandemic, having community choice aggregation in place already could have been a net revenue to the local economy instead of having our electricity dollars go to PG&E shareholders.
Our community should take the time and resources required now to determine if the creation of a community choice aggregation agency makes sense for the Yuba, Sutter, and Colusa Counties.
Perhaps now is the time for our community’s pioneering spirit to shine as it always has and light our own future. If we don’t, the state’s vision for a “Plan B” will make those choices for us.
Julie Gill Shuffield is a small business owner and community leader in Yuba City.