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California City Votes to Power Municipal Facilities With Green Electricity:

State Law Restricts Participation by Residents, Businesses

In the first decision of its kind anywhere, the Santa Monica City Council has voted unanimously to enter into negotiations to purchase 5 megawatts of renewable energy to power all of its municipal facilities needs for one year.

The city will negotiate with Commonwealth Energy of Orange County to purchase 5 megawatts of annual generation, equivalent to the volume of electricity consumed by 5,000 to 6,000 homes. The contract will reduce emissions of air pollution and global warming particulates by thousands of tons annually. The city will pay an estimated 5% premium, or $140,000 more per year, above current costs in return for the switch to renewable energy.

"Buying green power fits into Santa Monica's 'Sustainable City Program', " said Craig Perkins Director of the Department of Environmental and Public Works. "Switching to green power allows Santa Monica to play our role in reducing climate change gases and eliminating other emissions which cause severe health problems."

Because California's electric restructuring law prohibits "Community Choice" by severely restricting municipal aggregation, however, Santa Monica's 90,000 residents and it substantial business community will not participate in the program. Instead, they will continue to purchase nuclear, coal and gas electricity from Southern California Edison and the California Power Exchange.

Nevertheless, local officials are bullish on green power and intend to focus on educating local residents on the value of renewable energy. "The new structure of the electric industry creates an opportunity for all civic institutions in California to play a role in developing a forward looking energy policy," said Susan Munves, City Conservation Coordinator. "It is incumbent on the city to play a leadership role in implementing a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy policy."

Santa Monica has long been active with extensive energy efficiency program, an electric vehicle program, and photovoltaic installations. According to Susan Munves, the city's conservation coordinator, Commonwealth Energy offered the best price and greatest flexibility in meeting the distinct needs of Santa Monica.

Copyright (c) 1999 by the American Local Power Project.