Nearly one-third of investor-owned utilities' load could be taken over by community aggregation, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. Another yet-to-be released study that looks at a portion of the communities interested in aggregation shows that at least 7.6 percent of utility load is ripe to be picked off by communities. However, recent experience in Ohio reveals that municipalities must beware of some pitfalls along the way. In a report to the Legislature released January 1, the CPUC said that 29 percent of California's electric load lies in communities where local governments are interested in community-choice aggregation. The report was intended to assess the scope of interest in community-choice aggregation. Of that 29 percent, a study by Navigant Consulting assessed 11 of the municipalities most interested in aggregation. The Navigant study, done for the Local Government Commission, showed that almost all the communities it examined could save an average of 3 percent on their electricity costs over a 20-year period. State law gives municipalities and other community organizations, such as water districts, the ability to break away from bundled utility service. Community aggregation allows those organizations to buy wholesale power and distribute it to local businesses and residents. Navigant assessed the feasibility of community-choice aggregation in a number of interested communities. They included Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, Marin County, Pleasanton, Richmond, and Vallejo, all in Pacific Gas & Electric territory. In Southern California Edison territory, they included Beverly Hills, Los Angeles County, and West Hollywood, and in San Diego Gas & Electric territory, San Diego County. Combined, these communities represent 7.6 percent of investor-owned utilities' aggregate electricity load, consuming 12,051 GWh a year. They have a combined peak load of 2,546 MW. The communities would have to add 1,631 MW of renewable power to meet a 40 percent renewables portfolio standard by 2017, the chief assessment criterion for the Navigant aggregation feasibility study. Actual savings in those communities could be higher than forecast, said one of the report's authors, because the study assumes that the communities will do nothing to promote energy efficiency. "The community-choice aggregators can claim all the public-goods money for their own," said Cynthia Wooten, Lumenx Consulting principal, a co-author and subcontractor on the study. "That's a lot of money for efficiency." Public-goods surcharges are collected by utilities through monthly bills to subsidize efficiency and other measures approved by the CPUC. Navigant's draft study follows the CPUC's adoption last month of the second phase of rules to implement community-choice aggregation legislation, AB 117, passed in 2002 (Circuit, Dec. 16, 2005). Numerous cities around California have stepped up their efforts to pursue community-choice aggregation. While the Navigant study presented a hopeful scenario for community-choice aggregators, it cautioned that communities will likely save money only if they pursue "asset-based" aggregation strategies that lower the cost of power generation. "That was a significant driver of the economics," said John Dalessi, Navigant associate director. Asset-based strategies could involve entering long-term power contracts with private generators. However, the greatest savings are likely when communities team up with municipal utilities that build new renewable power plants or build their own generation plants with tax-free bond money, the report authors said. Only 3 of the 11 communities would save money by purchasing their power on the wholesale market, largely because of the 2 cents\/kWh exit fee imposed under community-choice aggregation rules, the study found. In addition, Wooten cited other potential pitfalls. Under a 2001 state deregulation act in Ohio, 118 municipalities joined together to aggregate their load through the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council. The council soon entered a power-purchase agreement with Green Mountain Energy to provide power for some 450,000 customers at a discount of 6 percent, said Joe Dirck, council spokesperson. However, Green Mountain refused to renew the agreement at the end of last year because of rising costs. The company's refusal to renew the pact "threatened the continued existence" of the community-choice aggregation program, said Joe Migliorini, council chair. However, the council was able to negotiate an ongoing power supply from another company through 2008 that will save residential customers 5 percent and businesses and government agencies 1 percent, said Dirck. One of the keys to the savings, he said, is that the council is run by volunteers from member cities and spends only about a million dollars a year to hire needed contractors.