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A Look at Three Community Choice Aggregation Systems in the US

Community choice energy programs around the United States, known as community choice aggregation (CCA), are revolutionizing how energy can be produced and delivered to residential areas and business districts.

CCA is usually municipally managed (that is, managed by a town or local government) and/or cooperatively owned. It is designed to offer consumers a more affordable and greener alternative than what is available from traditional investor-owned utilities (IOU). Typically, an IOU has a monopoly on a regional energy market, which can keep the cost of electricity high and the rate of bringing in new, more sustainable energy technologies slow.

The CCA model allows a municipal body like a city or county to manage the power grid within its jurisdiction. Electricity is purchased and/or generated by municipalities themselves. Most, though not all, CCA projects incorporate renewable energy into the grid.

Giving the public a choice

A CCA is usually considered in places where the cost of electricity has risen substantially and the resilience of the grid has deteriorated. The first states to pass CCA legislation were Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 1997. Ohio, California, and Illinois subsequently passed similar laws.

Most CCAs work on an “opt out” basis, which means residents are automatically included in the program until they choose to opt out and remain with the original IOU.  

Many communities have had success with the model of community choice energy. Three US municipalities especially have enjoyed cleaner, cheaper energy with their CCAs. 

  1. Marin Energy: Marin County, CA

Marin County, CA is home to perhaps the most successful CCA in the country. It is run by Marin Energy, a not-for-profit energy provider. The CCA also serves unincorporated Napa County and the cities of Benicia, El Cerrito, Richmond, and San Pablo. Residents can choose to receive 50 percent or 100 percent renewable energy that is generated from multiple sources, including solar, wind, bioenergy, geothermal, and small hydro.

Marin Energy stands out especially for their

  • 100 percent renewable energy option (Deep Green 100% Renewable Energy) and

  • installation of “solar trees” to counter carbon footprint: suspended solar panels over parking spaces.

     2. Community Choice Power Supply Program: Lowell, MA

Hampshire Power (based in Northampton, MA) operates Lowell’s CCA. Hampshire Power also manages other CCA programs across the state. The company offers renewable energy options from wind and solar farms. They partner with Nexamp Community Solar, also based in MA.

Lowell’s Community Choice Power Supply Program stands out because

  • the energy provider (Hampshire Power) is local and committed to developing a local energy economy and

  • the program offers a 100 percent renewable option to consumers.

    3. City of Cleveland Electric Aggregation Program: Cleveland, Ohio

The City of Cleveland Electric Aggregation Program is, as the name suggests, run by the city municipality. It is part of Cleveland’s Climate Action Plan, launched in 2013. The city has partnered with Constellation Energy Services, Inc., who guarantees 50 percent of the power supplied is sustainable energy. The Cleveland CCA is run cooperatively, like a buying club within a community.

The City of Cleveland Electric Aggregation Program stands out because it

  • guarantees 50 percent renewable energy generated from wind power and

  • is publicly managed by City of Cleveland.

Why We Like It

CCA serves the people, not the shareholders. It also allows for greater renewable energy choices.

With so many voices in the conversation on clean energy and climate change, it can be hard to get your head around just what it all means. The EESI blog puts the sometimes complex issues surrounding sustainability and renewable power into simple, plain language. Take part in the discussion–share your opinion in the comments section.