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NID roundtable at Nevada County fairgrounds will highlight community-owned power

Know & Go

What: Community Choice Aggregation discussion

When: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 23

Where: Ponderosa Hall, Nevada County Fairgrounds

For info: Go to https://nidwater.com/

Nevada County residents will be able to explore the possibility of controlling their power supply during a roundtable on Community Choice Aggregation on Thursday.

The discussion, hosted by the Nevada Irrigation District, will highlight how Community Choice Aggregation programs are administered by local governments to purchase electricity as an alternative to investor-owned utility sources such as PG&E. Topics will include the basics (the what, why and how of Community Choice Aggregation), potential benefits, the formation process, a case study presentation with “lessons learned,” and a general Q&A.

According to NID General Manager Rem Scherzinger, the water district decided to take the lead on Community Choice Aggregation because it currently is exploring the concepts of “net zero energy” and “carbon-free water.”

Specifically, Scherzinger said, the district wants to make its North Auburn water treatment plant “electrical grid neutral,” where it is either generating its own electricity or uses power generated elsewhere by NID.

The carbon-free water concept is one being implemented by other districts, where the entire water system is being run off sustainable carbon-free power.

“The district sees Community Choice Aggregation as a great opportunity to move toward a carbon-free supply” of power, Scherzinger said. ‘Our problem is, we’re buying power from PG&E, so there’s no control over where that power comes from. This would give us an opportunity to work with PG&E. to design a rate package that has carbon-free power as one of the fee structures.”

The district has seven power plants that generate enough electricity to supply the equivalent of more than 60,000 homes, according to its website. It produces an average 375 million kilowatt hours of energy each year, and sells its electrical output to PG&E.

Forming a Community Choice Aggregation program would allow Nevada County, through NID, to leverage its local supply, Scherzinger said.

“There would be more local control and it would give us the opportunity to define where we get our power — we can pick environmentally sustainable sources,” he said. “That’s its greatest strength, besides providing power at a lower cost — the community’s ability to define how it wants to, or where it wants to, get its power from. I think that’s tremendously powerful.”

Community Choice Aggregation, explained

In California, there are 18 Community Choice Aggregations already in existence, including in Placer, Humboldt and Alameda counties. Currently, more than 80 cities are considering community choice energy, and it is estimated more than 50 percent of California residents will be served by a Community Choice Aggregation by 2020.

When a Community Choice Aggregation launches, customers of the existing supplier — PG&E in the case of Nevada County — are automatically enrolled in the aggregator’s service and would have to opt out if they want to remain customers of PG&E.

Once established, the Community Choice Aggregation program purchases power for its customers. It would have authority to design its own rate structure and procurement protocols. PG&E would still provide services such as transmission, distribution, metering, billing, collection and customer service. Customers would receive one combined electric bill.

Community Choice Aggregations are formed by either a local jurisdiction or via a joint powers authority, and has a governing body made up of city and county officials.

Typically, Scherzinger said, a Community Choice Aggregation works best when it represents at least 10,000 customers.

“We’re exploring the interest,” he said.

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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