Buellton city councilors were divided Thursday night in their interest in joining a program that supporters say would offer cleaner energy at a slight cost savings and more local control over electrical supply.
Jennifer Cregar, a project supervisor with Santa Barbara County’s Energy and Sustainability Initiative, talked to the city council about the program and accompanying strategic energy planning.
She said the Community Choice Energy program would change the source of the energy provided to residents in Santa Barbara County.
“The only thing that would change is that now you, through representation on a joint powers authority board, would get to decide where the electricity comes from that flows to our buildings here and how much you’re going to charge customers for that,” Cregar said.
She said most customers wouldn’t notice a change, and PG&E or Southern California Edison would still maintain the power lines and perform customer service functions.
A feasibility study showed that a CCE program would provide a cost savings of $11 to $51 a year.
If the city wanted to participate, it would need to sign a memorandum of understanding with the county and interested cities.
In addition, the county is hiring a consultant to identify opportunities to cost effectively develop clean-energy resources in a strategic energy planning study.
Staff estimated that Buellton’s portion to join the study would cost anywhere from $6,500 to $12,000.
The county has authorized $150,000 towards the study, while Carpinteria and Goleta have signed a memorandum of understanding.
In city documents, staff expressed concerns that the city didn’t have the money or expertise to join the endeavor.
Mayor Holly Sierra said she was concerned about the size of the community.
“I want to be able to do right to our residents,” Sierra said.
She said she liked the strategic energy planning idea, but wanted to see how other nearby communities felt about it.
“I don’t say that I totally oppose this 100 percent,” Sierra said. “I kind of tend to agree that we should not make a decision tonight.”
Councilor Art Mercado said his biggest concern was Buellton’s ability to manage the type of project, but that he was in favor of the CCE.
“Just from the first month of personally doing solar we’re having good luck,” Mercado said.
Councilor Ed Andrisek said he wasn’t interested in participating given the information councilors were presented.
Andrisek said, “I think it’s a real leap of faith for us to do it.
“The money grab bothers me and I would like to have more input than we have here.”
Councilor David King said he had absolutely no support for the idea.
“I just drove across six states and I will tell you that I’m ashamed that any governing body in this country has put those three winged, bird killing, inefficient monstrosities across this country for miles and miles and miles,” King said of wind-powered energy. “And I think that it would cut me to the core if I supported anything, one dollar of taxpayers money to put one of those in this beautiful, majestic Santa Barbara County.”
King also said he was concerned a small city like Buellton would get swallowed up by decisions being made for it.
Sierra said she wanted to give councilors time to do some research about the ideas.