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POMONACity-backed power company unveiled, set for Oct. 1

Source: 
Pasadena Star-News

The city of Pomona next month will launch its own power company, which officials say will produce clean and renewable energy along with savings for customers.

Set to launch Oct. 1, Pomona Choice Energy replaces Southern California Edison as the city's main power provider. Household accounts will be enrolled in the new service automatically, though customers may opt out if they so choose. Businesses will be allowed to enroll at a later date.

Under the program, Pomona, not SCE, will purchase power directly from suppliers and significantly more of it will come from renewable resources, according to Chris Diggs, the city's water resources manager who is overseeing Pomona Choice.

The program allows the City Council to select the power sources for the community, and gives it a say in setting rates. The council is expected to set rates annually based on projected costs.

SCE is not completely out of the picture, however. The utility company will deliver electricity to customers, maintain power lines and infrastructure, and do the billing for Pomona Choice.

Initially, Pomona Choice rates will be comparable to those currently charged by SCE, according to the city. The council is expected to reevaluate rates and consider further discounts at a public hearing by mid-2021.

The rollout of the program, meanwhile, has troubled some residents, such as Ellen Thompson-Christiansen, who said the city hasn't provided enough information about it. When she first saw a notice about the program, she said, she thought it was an energy company ad, not something associated with Pomona.

"It's absolute madness that I'm just hearing about this now and I didn't even know it was a notice about my energy bill," said Thompson-Christiansen, who has opted out of the program. "Being that it's September already and service is supposed to start in October, it's just insane."

The program has been under development since 2018.

Diggs said he hopes

residents stick with Pomona Choice to realize some of its long-term benefits, not only in their bills but in the city and environment.

"The biggest reason we're doing this is to provide customers with a less expensive power option," he said. "This is something that I think will be worth it for everyone."

Pomona Choice will offer three plan options: a default 35% renewable energy plan, a 100% renewable energy plan at a slightly higher rate, and a net metering option, available by October 2021 for customers who generate their own solar or wind power.

Local businesses will be able to join the program by June 2021.

All customers are expected to see up to a 3% discount compared to their current billing, Diggs said.

"This is a program that will have many benefits to residents, including competitive rates compared to Edison and at the same time have the option of going green by using renewable energy," Diggs said. "It's a win-win."

Revenues from the service will go first toward stabilizing rates through reserve funds. Once the reserve is established, Diggs said, revenues can be used to implement residential and commercial programs for energy conservation and local power generation.

SCE customers who currently receive Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES, Federal Emergency Relief Administration and Medical Baseline discounts, will continue to do so with Pomona Choice.

Residents will receive four informational notices in the mail, two before service starts next month and two afterward. Those who opt out within the first 60 days of the program may return to it at any time without penalty. Customers who opt out after that initial 60 days of service may be prohibited by SCE from returning to Pomona Choice for up to one year.

A number of Southern California cities have gone into the power business, such as Baldwin Park, Whittier and Pico Rivera.

For those with questions about the service, the city is hosting an online seminar at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, with Diggs and Mayor Tim Sandoval. More information will be posted to the city's website at ci.pomona.ca.us.

jrojas@scng.com

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