The Clean Power Alliance You Might Already Be In (And Not Even Know It)

Two of six new wind turbines erected for Clean Power Alliance by Terra-Gen at its Voyager II windfarm in the Tehachepi mountains west of Mojave, CA. Those tiny figures at the base of the turbine towers are workers. (Sharon McNary/KPCC/LAist)

Hey, Southern California Edison customer: Ready or not, you and nearly a million of your fellow ratepayers may have been involuntarily enrolled in a new kind of government-run power utility called the Clean Power Alliance.

One-fifth of Edison's customers were opted into the alliance by 31 city or county governments beginning this month.

But don't worry. You still have choices. You can bail out if being part of an effort to pay less for energy generated from renewable sources (solar, wind, etc.) isn't your thing.

THIS IS TOTALLY NEW, WHAT'S THE BACKSTORY?

The Clean Power Alliance is what's known as a Community Choice Aggregator. It is a government entity that can buy power directly on the open energy market and ship it to consumers on existing Southern California Edison power lines.

The start-up agency has elbowed its way onto Southern California Edison power bills in 29 cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

"We're offering choice, we're bringing competition," said Ted Bardacke, executive director of the Clean Power Alliance. "You've never had a choice in Southern California before on a mass scale of where to get your electricity from."

Those who have been opted by their city or county government into the Clean Power Alliance might see their bill might go up or down slightly, depending on the level selected as a starting point.

However, you're not stuck with that level. You can go online to adjust your bill to a lower rate or to tell the utility to buy a higher percentage of renewable energy on your behalf.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I'M IN THIS ALLIANCE?

If you ignored the sunny yellow notices they mailed to homes, you might be in already and not know it.

It all depends on where you live and the decision made by your local elected officials.

Here's how that breaks down geographically:

Residents of unincorporated areas of Los Angeles and Ventura counties are in the Clean Power Alliance. [That means people who live in those counties but not inside any city boundary.]

Also in the Alliance are are residents of these cities: Agoura Hills, Alhambra, Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Camarillo, Carson, Claremont, Culver City, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Hawthorne, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Moorpark, Ojai, Oxnard, Paramount, Redondo Beach, Rolling Hills Estates, Santa Monica, Sierra Madre, Simi Valley, South Pasadena, Temple City, Thousand Oaks, Ventura, West Hollywood and Whittier.

WHO'S NOT IN THE CLEAN POWER ALLIANCE?

If you are a Southern California Edison customer who does not not live in one of the areas listed above, you are not in the Clean Power Alliance. But you could be in the future, if your city council makes that choice.

Cities that operate their own municipal power utilities, like Los Angeles, Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena cannot join the Clean Power Alliance because they already buy power on the open energy market or they have their own generation plants.

OKAY, I'M IN THE CLEAN POWER ALLIANCE. WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?

Grab your Edison power bill and go online to cleanpoweralliance.org to see which of three price tiers your local government chose for you. It's either Lean Power, Clean Power or 100 Percent Green Power.

I'M FRUGAL AND I WANT THE LOWEST POSSIBLE RATE

Good news. You have an option to get a cheaper-than-Edison rate by selecting the Clean Power Alliance's "Lean Power" tier.

Some cities have opted already into the cheapest rate — about 1 to 2 percent lower than Edison. That tier uses about the same percentage of renewable energy sources as Edison, about 36 percent.

Cities opted into the "Lean Power" tier are Agoura Hills, Arcadia, Calabasas, Camarillo, Hawthorne, Paramount, Simi Valley and Temple City.

I WANT A HIGHER PERCENTAGE OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

If you're opted into the "Lean Power" but want a higher percentage of renewable energy sources to be purchased on your behalf you can get it by paying more. Go online with your power bill at cleanpoweralliance.org to choose a higher tier.

There are two other tiers to choose from that offer a higher percentage of renewable energy.

The "Clean Power" tier costs about the same as Edison's basic rate and it has 50 percent of renewable energy sources. That's 14 percent more renewables than Edison.

The areas that are defaulted to the "Clean Power" tier" are: Alhambra, Beverly Hills, Carson, Claremont, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Los Angeles County (unincorporated areas only), Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Moorpark, Redondo Beach, Sierra Madre and Whittier.

The "100% Green Power" costs 7 to 9 percent more than Edison basic rates and it pays for energy from 100 percent renewable sources. The cities that opted their residents into this tier are: Culver City, Ojai, Oxnard, Rolling Hills Estates, Santa Monica, South Pasadena, Thousand Oaks, Ventura City, Ventura County (unincorporated area only) and West Hollywood.

TL;DR: I JUST DON'T WANT TO BE BOTHERED.

No problem. You don't have to do anything. If you're in the Alliance your bill will charge you for Southern California Edison to deliver the power, and contain a separate line with the charge for the energy itself from the Clean Power Alliance, at whatever tier chosen for you by local leaders.

NO THANK YOU.

You can get out. Even though your local city or county government opted you automatically into the Clean Power Alliance, you don't have to stay. Anyone who wants to exit the Alliance can do so online at cleanpoweralliance.org.

Keep in mind that if you do go back to Edison for your power, Edison keeps you as a customer for one year before you have the option of joining the Clean Power Alliance again.

I GET A SUBSIDIZED RATE FROM EDISON, DO I KEEP IT?

If you're already getting a subsidized rate through Edison due to a disability or qualifying low income, you can keep that same rate through Clean Power Alliance.

If you are not already getting a subsidized rate, you might be eligible for one. It's worth checking to see. Families whose children are on subsidized meal plans at public schools can qualify for the subsidized power rates, however you must apply.

I ALREADY PAY EDISON EXTRA TO PURCHASE MORE RENEWABLES

If you want to continue, opt out of the Clean Power Alliance and back into your pre-existing relationship with Edison. However, Edison prices for cleaner power are about 9 to 10 percent higher than comparable Clean Power Alliance tiers.

WHY WAS THE CLEAN POWER ALLIANCE CREATED?

Local governments were motivated by different goals. Some joined the Alliance to offer their residents lower rates for power. Others joined in order for their residents to have access to power generated from a higher percentage of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal sources.

A 2002 California law created Community Choice Aggregators as a means to provide customers of the big investor-owned utilities (like Southern California Edison) a choice of electricity generator. The law was passed after the California electricity crisis during which Enron traders manipulated the prices of power, driving up prices to consumers.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR EDISON?

The Clean Power Alliance's power shoppers go out and buy power from renewable and other sources, and ship it through Edison's power lines.

Edison's profit doesn't come from the electricity it buys for customers. That means the utility isn't losing money when customers switch to the Clean Power Alliance.

Edison still gets paid (and makes a profit from) transmitting that power through its lines, as well as on the overall construction maintenance of its power distribution system.