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Saving the future 

Preparing for a post-Diablo Canyon SLO County

What separates San Luis Obispo County from Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Santa Barbara counties is that electricity users in those counties receive (or will soon receive) an annual 3 percent savings on their bills, some $4.4 million last year, and we don't.

These counties, along with 23 cities (including every city in SLO County except for Atascadero), have adopted community choice energy (CCE)—a program that provides carbon-free power at a lower cost. CCE also allows for local control of both our energy production and our regional economy. This is significant because now is the time to plan for a post-Diablo Canyon Power Plant future.

As CCE expands, annual savings may reach as high as 8 percent, which could save SLO County residents and businesses more than $8.3 million every year.

With savings this substantial, one would expect our county's elected leaders, who claim to be fiscally responsible, to eagerly put millions of dollars back into the pockets of local ratepayers. Yet for years, the SLO County Board of Supervisors, led by current board Chair Debbie Arnold, have refused to adopt CCE. Just recently, board members voted against even discussing it.

To me, this is pretty simple. This well-vetted program would save ratepayers money at a time of high housing costs and living expenses. It's already expensive enough to do business here.

A program that has achieved bipartisan support in other counties should be at the top of our board's agenda. Instead, rigid ideology and an insistence on bad government seems to be winning the day. This comes at the expense of our community and its future. It's shameful.

The benefits of CCE aren't limited to savings. The program is also economically and environmentally responsible. One of the key elements of community choice energy is the investment into local energy projects that would benefit SLO County by creating new jobs that would bolster our regional economy.

Just last month, the Atascadero City Council voted against joining every other city in SLO County in adopting CCE, as was highlighted in a recent New Times commentary ("They'd rather not discuss it," July 25). City leaders cited the fact that the county had not joined as a justification for holding off. While this is a poor rationale for preventing Atascadero residents from benefiting from the program, it highlights yet another reason why our Board of Supervisors should take action and adopt community choice energy this year.

Unfortunately, our county is on the verge of missing the deadline for the program to take effect in 2021. The Board of Supervisors has until the end of August to agendize CCE or forego millions in cost savings for our residents and local businesses for yet another year.

With counties and cities up and down the Central Coast and throughout California joining in to save money, benefit their local economies, and preserve the environment, I believe the question isn't if San Luis Obispo County will join, but when.

Will we rise to the occasion and recognize this key opportunity before us? Or will our county continue to lose out on millions in savings each year while our board majority drags its feet?

Of late, Debbie Arnold has been, unfortunately, the deciding vote against adopting Community Choice Energy. I urge her and her fellow majority members to do the right thing for the county and their constituents and support adopting this program before the deadline. Δ

Ellen Beraud is a candidate for 5th District SLO County supervisor. She is a former Atascadero mayor and City Council member, a small business owner, and a 30-year health care professional. Respond with an opinion piece of your own and email it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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