UCS says NO on 16

The Union of Concerned Scientists has officially come out AGAINST Proposition 16.

The two-thirds vote requirement sets a problematic precedent for a community’s desire to raise and spend funds for an approved purpose.  For the specific purposes outlined in the ballot initiative, the two-thirds vote requirement would effectively prevent local communities from having a choice as to who they purchase their electricity from.  Today, this choice, or the threat of such a choice, could have a positive impact on the behavior of the regulated investor-owned utilities (IOUs) in a number of areas, including rates and increasing investments in local sources of renewable energy.  

The environmental community in California has said that we need to move away from the 2/3 vote toward a simple majority vote on state budget and related revenue matters.  This proposed constitutional amendment goes in the opposite direction.  

Local governments rightfully fear that if this initiative passes, opponents with the sufficient financial resources to mount a public campaign will try to restrict local government’s ability to issue other types of revenue bonds.  

While publicly owned municipal utilities (POUs) can’t guarantee more or less renewable energy than the IOUs, most California POUs have a voluntary green power option that ratepayers can opt into to promote additional development of renewables.  The California IOUs currently do not have such an option and don’t appear to be moving any time soon in that direction.  

While the initiative exempts the 2/3 vote requirement for bonds that would go to 100 percent renewable power, it would still require a 2/3 vote for any combination of renewable and non-renewable energy-even if a newly proposed community choice entity committed to a portfolio of, for example, three-quarters renewables.  

The recent desire and community support for creating new Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) entities for retail electricity purposes, along with the periodic attempt by some communities (e.g. Yolo County) to expand existing POUs, has led PG&E to put this proposition on the ballot to thwart, once and for all, the ability of communities to move toward a limited or full-blown public power option.  

It is relevant to note that all the local jurisdictions that have been promoting the CCA or public power expansion have made renewable energy a top priority in their plans to take over part of the electricity service in their communities.  Not surprisingly, the jurisdictions that are most interested in the public power option, each have relatively progressive elected leaders who have publicly indicated strong commitments to increasing renewable energy.  

Of course, these commitments don’t guarantee that more renewable energy will be produced or used, but we do like to encourage every utility to increase their percentage of renewables as much as possible, and these local elected leaders have expressed a strong desire to create portfolios of energy that have a higher percentage of renewables than the IOUs would be required to procure.  Showing encouragement to elected leaders at all levels of government to promote more renewables can be a positive strategy.  

Please vote NO on 16.