Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) is the local community choice energy (CCE) program soliciting our county and local cities to join. Is this a private company competing with PG&E? No, MBCP is a public entity whose employees are covered by the PERS retirement plan. California law enables MBCP to take over managing how PG&E customers get their electricity. And do ratepayers get a choice? No, not until after your city or county votes to enroll you in MBCP collective. Then you can "opt out."
And just how does MBCP attract cities and counties to join its collective? With money, in the form of rebates to electric users. But where does the money come from? Well, part of it comes from diverting profits that would have gone to PG&E but now goes back to consumers. Sounds good so far, if you are a consumer. That is, until you realize MBCP is tax-exempt. It pays no taxes in California, ever, part of the joint powers agreement structured by the state of California.
This fact is important because PG&E does pay taxes. These taxes pay for our public schools and other public services. Without PG&E's tax money, how will these be paid? That's right. You and I and all of our neighbors will have to pay the bill. Sweet deal for MBCP. We get a rebate, which may or may not be enough to pay the bills when Diablo shuts down, and the county and cities no longer have PG&E tax revenue.
And MBCP bragged about its commitment to spending any surplus funds on energy-saving projects and projects benefitting our respective communities. We would have local "representation," but not control. Each community has a full or partial vote at the ever-growing table. When more communities join (currently 19), the voices of the others are diluted. If and when it becomes absolutely necessary, SLO could create its own CCE, just for our county.
MBCP has been able to afford rebates because it has had Diablo's nearly 20,000 gigawatts of clean power. Similar quantities of carbon-free energy will not be readily available when Diablo is shut down. Can we expect the government to bail us out?
Looking across the state, Los Angeles and Ventura counties—including Ojai, Carpinteria, and Camarillo—have seen rising rates resulting from their CCE's choosing 100 percent carbon-free electricity. There simply is not enough solar and wind energy in the entire United States capable of sustaining zero carbon. Who are we fooling?
San Luis Obispo County 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold recognized this "fast hustle" tactic for what it was. Arnold's experience and dedication to her constituents helps our county make the right decisions for the right reasons, and not govern like lemmings, doing something just because everyone else is doing it.
And don't forget. Handing the government ultimate control over a major portion of the means of production is classic socialism and communism. Let's remember, we still live in America, not Venezuela or China. Δ
Michael T. J. Mullen writes about community choice energy from Paso Robles. Send a response for publication to email@example.com.