David Mendez

Redondo waits on joining energy program

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by David Mendez

Redondo Beach Councilman Todd Loewenstein was the center of attention for about an hour at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, as his colleagues debated around him, and appealed to him, to sway his vote on the City Council’s bid to override Mayor Bill Brand’s veto against joining a regional electrical power program.

Their efforts were for naught, at least for now: Loewenstein pushed to continue the discussion in a month after a pivotal resolution regarding on Community Choice Aggregation programs is decided on by the California Public Utilities Commission.

The Redondo Beach City Council approved a resolution to join the Los Angeles Community Choice Energy program on Dec. 19 by a 3-2 vote. LACCE is an LA County-developed program intended to offer customers cheaper utility rates by competing against investor-owned utilities. Such programs also emphasize using sustainable power generation.

LACCE states they will serve about 2.5 million customers, including residents of nearly 24 member cities and unincorporated county areas. Should Redondo join, all residents would be automatically enrolled in the program, with the option to opt out, at low or no cost, to continue buying power from Southern California Edison.

But a draft resolution by the CPUC would alter the rules for new and expanding CCA programs, pushing back the timeline for CCAs to begin power service to ensure enough power is purchased to keep the region’s electrical grid from experiencing brownouts. Initially planned for Jan. 11, the CPUC’s decision on the resolution is planned for Feb. 8.

Mayor Bill Brand vetoed the decision to join LACCE, after a letter from Manhattan Beach Acting City Manager Bruce Moe stated the CPUC resolution would “increase exit fees on local customers [and] potentially impose financial burdens on local governments.”

Last week, Council members Horvath, Gran and Laura Emdee voted to bring a discussion of overturning Brand’s veto.

Councilman Nils Nehrenheim made a stand against the LACCE program, arguing that he doesn’t believe in their economic model. LACCE, he said, would run at a deficit for three years. City staff also noted that the City would lose an estimated $90,000 per year due to lost utility user tax revenue.

Council members John Gran and Christian Horvath tried to assuage Loewenstein, believing that the City could back out of an agreement, no-harm, no-foul, if a decision was made quickly.

Horvath also argued that the City should endeavor to be a leader in environmental changes, quoting Loewenstein as calling climate change “the existential crisis of our time.”

But Loewenstein opted toward caution.

“I’m a big proponent of CCAs…they put the pressure on the [CPUC] to go greener and get lower rates for ratepayers, not to mention it’s the right thing to do,” Loewenstein said. “But I think we need to wait a few weeks to do this…we make decisions based on all the facts, and I don’t think all of the facts are in yet. I don’t think three weeks is going to kill us.”

A 4-1 vote, with Councilman John Gran dissenting in a stand to support joining the CCA that night, carried. The Council will revisit overturning Brand’s veto on Feb. 13.

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