The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is currently considering adopting the Community Choice Energy program, which would allow the County to buy electricity wholesale and thereby potentially provide residents with less expensive and more environmentally friendly energy.

The County is now conducting research on the program, after beginning deliberation at a board meeting on May 7. If approved, Community Choice Energy will make SB County an electricity purveyor, meaning it would be responsible for selecting the source of energy and setting the prices, while utility companies would still distribute the energy. This could lower the cost of electricity, which is currently subject to regulation by regional entities and utility companies.

SB County Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf said the program has proven effective in other counties in California and could be especially successful in SB County.

“Community Choice has potential to be a very successful program for Santa Barbara,” Wolf said. “We have a long history of protecting the environment and investing in alternative energy sources, and are fortunate that this program has been implemented successfully in other counties across the state, so we have a good model from which to work.”

Wolf said Community Choice Energy will make energy more affordable and customizable to individual preferences.

“Community Choice has the potential to benefit utility customers in Santa Barbara with potentially lower rates and the knowledge that their energy is being generated in a sustainable way,” Wolf said. “Consumers would likely have the option to select their preferred level of renewable energy on a sliding cost scale.”

Santa Barbara County First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said Community Choice Energy offers users different price options depending on their rate of electricity consumption.

“The rates would be comparable to existing power rates, from lower cost options to higher cost options, which would be totally at the discretion of our resident,” Carbajal said. “The program would be completely voluntary. Choice, voluntary and environmentally friendly are the key and most important aspects of this type of program for our community to know.”

Community Environmental Council Chair Dave Davis said the program will reduce SB County’s carbon footprint, ultimately combating climate change.

“[Reducing carbon emissions] is the most important action Santa Barbara could take on a regional basis to move the needle in promoting clean energy, which contributes to climate change and exerting local control in our energy choices for the future,” Davis said.

Carbajal also said the program would help SB County become more environmentally friendly.

“This will help Santa Barbara County achieve significant ground in significantly achieving our climate action plan goals and doing our part to create a more resilient and sustainable community, nation and world,” Carbajal said.

SB County Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said she supports SB County conducting further research on Community Choice Energy.

“I think the idea of possibly enacting a Community Choice aggregation program for Santa Barbara County is intriguing and innovative,” Farr said. “That is why I voted to pursue the issue and have County research and bring more information to the Board of Supervisors about it at a future meeting.”

Community Choice Energy is a progressive choice for SB County, according to Farr.

“Whether the County has the ability to move forward towards full implementation of the idea will depend on costs and how they might be shared by other interested jurisdictions in our region like the cities and other counties,” Farr said. “I think it’s a good idea.”