Community Choice Aggregation: A Local, Viable Option for Renewable Energy
Cities and counties across the country are choosing to create community choice aggregation (CCA) programs, sometimes known as community choice energy or municipal aggregation.
In this alternative system, municipalities can secure the electricity supply and determine the electricity portfolio on behalf of their customers, while still relying on existing infrastructure to deliver the electricity. By aggregating the demand for electricity, local communities can negotiate rates and increase their use of renewables. CCAs allow for communities to have more control over their electricity sources, lessening the control investor-owned utilities can exert on a community.
How Does It Work
The first step to achieving a community choice aggregation program is ensuring that the proper legislation is in place at the state-level. Several U.S. states have passed legislation that allows local municipalities to enact CCA programs, including California, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio and New Jersey.
This legislation removes the regulations around who controls the electric utilities in a certain region and allows for a local municipality to procure power independently. If a municipality chooses to enact a program under these laws, consumers within a CCAs control are given the option to participate, typically through an opt-out model, where the default is enrollment. While customers can choose to stick with the existing utility option, CCAs often provide an appealing competitive rate and more renewable options.
Municipalities are choosing to take on this new role in order to provide a benefit to their residents. With CCAs, local governments are able to go directly to the power providers, and negotiate contracts on behalf of their customers — residents and businesses. Since they are negotiating these contracts on behalf of a large aggregate of customers, the municipality has more negotiating power to reduce the purchasing price from the supplier and reduce rates to their customers, all while demanding a higher renewable energy mix.
CCAs are not only providing lower costs and more renewable choices, but they also:
- Support green jobs through the increasing demand for renewable energy.
- Encourage technological developments.
- Create innovative programs for customers to choose their renewable portfolios.
- Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Reinvest in local communities.
As more states begin passing legislation to allow CCAs to be formed by municipalities, several cities and counties are setting the example for how these programs can be successfully managed.
Marin County, California
Marin Clean Energy (MCE) launched in 2010 as California's first CCA program, following the passage of Assembly Bill 117, which gave communities the ability to purchase power on behalf of residents and businesses.
Marin County joined with three neighboring counties, as well as several other unincorporated regions and cities in the greater Bay area, to create MCE. Through this program, customers can choose between 60 percent renewable, 100 percent California-based renewable, or 100 percent locally sourced solar electricity portfolios.
For MCE to provide more renewable energy, local development of renewable energy projects has increased — and with it so have the number of available green jobs.
MCE reports that from 2010 to 2018, they've eliminated over 340,000 metric tons of carbon emission while helping cities and counties achieve their greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. MCE serves more than 255,000 customers across 34 communities around the Bay Area.
Albany, New York
In early March 2020, the City of Albany voted to create a CCA program to provide a competitive electricity rate with renewables to its residents.
By partnering with Municipal Electric and Gas Alliance (MEGA) and 13 other municipalities, Albany will offer an alternative utility provider to residents than the existing utility. Residents within the city's jurisdiction will automatically be enrolled in this program unless they choose to opt-out. Albany's CCA program features structure that allows residents to choose the percentage of renewables in their energy portfolio and will help facilitate Albany's transition to 100 percent renewable electricity.
Albany hopes this new program will help stabilize electricity costs by using its group purchasing power and competition, and ultimately reduce costs and deter predatory practices of energy telemarketers and door-to-door sales.
The towns of Melrose and Brookline have shown that CCA programs can also be successful in Massachusetts. The CCA program in Melrose has been providing the town with 5 percent renewable electricity since 2016. This program, one of the first for the state, relies primarily on wind projects in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to procure this electricity and provide it to customers though the CCA program.
The program has been widely supported due to its success stabilizing electricity rates, while providing a cleaner option.
Brookline Green Energy provides four choices for its customers with different amounts of additional renewable energy, ranging from zero percent to 100 percent. This is currently the largest amount of renewable energy provided by any utility in the state.
Additionally, Brookline Green Energy is committed to providing competitive prices by fixing its electricity costs through 2022, at which time they'll re-leverage their aggregate purchasing power to negotiate a new contract with electricity providers. This program is expected to reduce the town's overall carbon emissions by over 8 percent, a huge step toward reaching its goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.
What Can You Do?
Want your county to lead the way in fighting the climate crisis? Through asking your county to join the County Climate Coalition campaign, your county can join a growing coalition of counties across the nation dedicated to taking local climate action.
Join your local Climate Reality chapter to get involved in promoting innovative solutions to the climate crisis, including community choice aggregation, in your own community. You and your chapter can learn the best ways to urge your own county's elected officials to take regional action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Learn more now.
Across the country, everyday Americans are joining Climate Reality chapters and working together for practical climate solutions in communities from sea to shining sea.
These friends, neighbors, and colleagues are bringing clean energy to their towns, fighting fracking developments, and so much more. Most of all, they're making a real difference for our climate when it matters — and you can too.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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