If you’re a resident or business owner in the city of Wildomar, you may not notice much when you receive a bill for electricity from Southern California Edison in early May.
But something will be different according to the city and representatives from the Western Riverside Council of Governments – you’ll be paying less.
“Residents should be excited for the simple fact that there is a cost-saving that they’ll see immediately on their bill,” Mayor Dustin Nigg said. “Not a whole lot, maybe five bucks, but it’s something.”
Wildomar has joined up with Western Community Energy, a Community Choice Aggregation program that gives local governments the opportunity to buy electricity directly from its source and offers it to the community at a more competitive rate than Southern California Edison.
The way it works now is Southern California Edison purchases energy from a provider, distributes that energy and bills the customer. With the new plan, WCE will purchase the energy and SCE will distribute and bill the customer. Not much of a change, but the devil is in the details.
“We’re purchasing the energy, but there’s no overhead, there’s very little overhead,” Nigg explained. “We purchase it, Edison takes that energy we purchased and they transmit it to the residents as they do already and that’s how we’re able to save money.
“It has to be pointed out that the way everything kind of works right now is Edison doesn’t produce a whole lot of energy; they buy their energy,” he said. “They’re a bigger entity, they have more overhead, other types of things. Inherently a customer with Edison is going to just pay a little bit more just because of those things.”
The most significant aspect of the program is it allows residents to have a choice where they did not before. Residents could buy energy from SCE or – well – find alternatives some other way. With WCE, residents now have a choice, they can opt-out of the program at any time.
However, customers who do opt-out after 60 days of the program’s start date could pay a penalty levied by SCE. The cost of that penalty has not been announced.
“Rates is a big thing, now our board can adopt and guide on the development of electricity rates,” Tyler Masters, program manager at the Western Riverside Council of Governments said during a presentation at the Feb. 12 meeting of the Wildomar City Council. “In the future, we can develop energy programs that are more localized for our subregion versus coastal communities, we’re HVAC driven.”
Masters told the council that there are 19 similar programs across the state to California with more than 50 cities participating in the various groups and none have opted out of the programs so far.
Masters said that WCE’s program goals are to offer a 37% renewable rate as a default, provide that rate at a discount, offer a voluntary 100% green option for residents and businesses and build up a reserve.
Norco and Perris will join Wildomar in the launch. Eastvale, Hemet and Jurupa Valley will launch in May.
“Right now, there are six cities, but more cities will be coming on board after,” councilmember Bridgette Moore said during the council meeting.
Solar customers who generate more energy than they consume over the course of a year will also see a bigger return from SCE at the end of the year. Whereas SCE is compensating anywhere between roughly 0.03 to 0.05 cents per kilowatt-hour, WCE’s rate is 0.06 per kilowatt-hour.
“You’ll get a bigger credit or a bigger check, depending on what you choose,” Masters said.
WCE participating also won’t affect SCE energy programs such as CARE, FERA, rebates or summer discount plans. There’s no need to reapply, either.
“Myself, I’m going to kind of watch her for the next year and as long as there’s a savings I’m going to stay in it. And as soon as that saving goes away, I’m going to opt-out,” Nigg said. “WCE, one of their mandates is having reserves in place for price fluctuations, so it doesn’t affect residents’ bills.
“Another thing that concerns residents is, do they have to pay two entities?” he said. “The answer is no. They get the bill in the mail with Edison, they’ll see debit at the bottom of the bill that says this much goes to WCE, but they pay Edison like they normally do and Edison and WCE rub the numbers at the end of the year.”
Nigg said he was kind of surprised to see as much pushback from the community as the council received.
“I was actually surprised that there was so much turmoil with this, to be honest, because we were talking for two years and the whole idea is to save money,” he said. “For some people I get it, there was definitely that concern of how is the government getting involved making it cheaper? Which is not typically the case. And I understand that but we’re purchasing the power, just like Edison, but we’re buying it at a better rate right now, and it benefits the customer.”
For more information, visit www.westerncommunityenergy.com or follow WCE on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.