Murrieta has been asked to join a regional power buying agency that is being set up by the Western Riverside Council of Governments, a new entity called Western Community Energy.
Backers of the idea are telling the city’s elected leaders and its business community that the agency, a CCA, could deliver slightly lower rates for electricity.
But some residents have expressed concerns about creating a new layer of government and the possibility of higher rates that would be justified by the “green” credentials of the power the agency would be buying.
“Why change it?” asked Bob Kowell, a Murrieta resident who spoke out against the plan at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
The council did not end up voting on the proposal at Tuesday’s meeting — the discussion was postponed after a council member had to excuse himself for a work emergency — but residents who attended the meeting to speak on that item were allowed to make their comments.
Those speakers, to a man and woman, said the agency is part of the “global agenda” that isn’t wanted in by the city’s residents.
“Stick to small government principles,” said former Murrieta councilman Harry Ramos.
"You're thinking of getting into the electricity business … what are your qualifications?" asked @PatriceLynes, a former Temecula council candidate.
— TVD_Claverie (@TVD_Claverie) April 4, 2018
If Murrieta ends up joining the agency, the city’s residents would be automatically enrolled but they could opt out and pay a different rate from their existing power provider.
Patrick Ellis, president/CEO of the Murrieta Chamber of Commerce, told the council on Tuesday he was briefed on the proposal at a recent meeting and he said the concept seems “very, very good.”
But he prefaced those comments by saying there are some details that need to be worked out, such as the potential costs associated with the exit charge or fees that would be levied by the investor owned utility, which would still be responsible for billing and transmission of the power purchased by the agency.
Temecula also is being asked to join Western Community but Mayor Matt Rahn said staff is still reviewing the city’s options.
“We are continuing our discussion with WRCOG and gaining a clear understanding of the costs/benefits of this action, and the potential benefits to our community,” he said in an email.
CCAs were established by the state in 2002 but there were only a few early adopters, mostly cities and counties in Northern California that wanted to use their buying power to support the generation of new renewable energy sources.
There are now nine CCAs serving load in California, according to CalCCA, and more than 80 cities (including San Diego) are either engaged in or currently considering community choice energy.