CCAs in California focus on the rapid transition to highly renewable and/or greenhouse gas-free sources of electricity generation while keeping rates at or below what investor-owned utilities charge. California’s focus on the environmental benefits that CCAs can deliver distinguish it from other states where a focus on lower rates has been the primary driver of the growth of CCAs.
average participation rate (2022)
MW of new renewables since inception
218 (+ 511 unincorporated areas)
communities with Local CCA Authorization
218 (+ 511 unincorporated areas)
active CCA communities
MWh of annual load (2022)
statewide population participants
inactive CCA communities
10 to 25
Use this interactive map to explore CCA communities across California.
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California experimented briefly with electricity deregulation in the late 1990s, but pulled back after the California electricity crisis bankrupted the state’s three large investor-owned utilities (IOUs). For residents and almost all businesses, CCAs (where they exist) are the only alternative to buying electricity from the local IOU. (CCAs are not offered in cities that operate municipal electric utilities. Some large businesses are allowed to purchase power directly from independent electric service providers via “Direct Access,” but this program has been capped and its expansion is tightly constrained. Legislation to expand Direct Access (SB 237) passed in 2018 however a decision recommending against further direct access expansion was passed in 2021.
CCAs are opt-out programs and are established by a local ordinance voted on by the governing body of a county, city or special district (e.g. local water agency or public utility district). No public vote or referendum is required. CCAs are set up either by a single jurisdiction (as in the cities of San Francisco, San Jose and Lancaster) or by two or more jurisdictions that create a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to operate the CCA on their behalf. When a JPA is used, each jurisdiction, regardless of its population, usually gets one seat on the JPA’s Board of Directors. Directors are usually elected officials of participating jurisdictions, e.g., a city council member of county supervisor. Directors are appointed by the jurisdiction’s governing body.
The JPA approach is favored because it creates a legal firewall between the potential future liabilities of the JPA and the assets of its member cities and towns, although member cities may be required to provide loans or loan guarantees to enable the JPA to secure bank loans for its initial working capital.
Initial power supply contracts for new CCAs are typically for 5 years or less, but 15-25 year power purchase agreements (PPAs) for solar, wind and geothermal generation are common for more established CCAs. Development of local renewable energy projects is often a core goal. Most CCAs in California also offer solar net energy metering tariffs that are slightly more generous (e.g., 1 cent per kWh) than those offered by IOUs. Many also offer feed-in-tariff incentives for medium and large-scale local solar projects, energy efficiency programs, and demand response programs.
California’s first CCA, MCE, was launched in 2010 to serve customers in parts of Marin County. The program that was once branded as a “risky scheme” has proven to be economically viable and has expanded its service territory and its roster of programs and services.
In recent years with new CCA launches and communities opting to join already existing CCAs, total annual loads for these programs have steadily increased. The total CCA annual load in California has increased by 16% between 2021 and 2022 and is set to increase by 11% between 2022 and 2023.
Unlike the process in many other states, communities in California do not have to hold a referendum to start or join a CCA. Local elected officials authorize participation in a CCA by a simple majority vote.
Large hydro-electric dams and nuclear power plants are not classified as eligible renewable energy technologies in California, but the electricity they produce is considered to be greenhouse gas free.
Every CCA offers both a basic (default) electricity offering (typically 35% to 55% renewable) and also a 100% renewable option for one to two cents more per kWh.
Unbundled Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) are not widely used by California CCAs, though they are sometimes used during the first year or two of a new CCA’s operation before new solar or wind farms can be built to serve the CCA’s customers.
When it began delivering electricity in April 2017, Silicon Valley Clean Energy was the first California CCA whose default offering was 100% GHG-free.
Clean Power Alliance is currently California’s largest CCA and serves approximately 3 million customers and 1 million customer accounts across 32 communities throughout Southern California.
Formed in February, 2021, California Community Power is a Joint Powers Agency comprised of nine California CCAs. CC Power allows its member CCAs to combine their buying power to procure new, cost-effective clean energy and reliability resources to continue advancing local and state climate goals. The new JPA serves more than 2 million customers in more than 140 municipalities from Humboldt to Santa Barbara.
California Independent System Operator (CAISO)
California Energy Commission
California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)
California Air Resources Board
California Community Choice Association
California Alliance for Community Energy
California Renewables Portfolio Standard
Center for Climate Protection
US Energy Information Administration, California State Energy Profile
INVESTOR OWNED UTILITIES
Pacific Gas & Electric
San Diego Gas & Electric
Southern California Edison