Executive Interview with René Bobadilla, Pico Rivera City Manager

By: Karen Villasenor

René Bobadilla, P.E., has served the City of Pico Rivera as City Manager since June 2014. He previously was City Manager of Huntington Park, from September 2012 to June 2014, and El Monte, from January 2010 to September 2012. 

  1. What’s your 30-second elevator speech about Pico Rivera Innovative Municipal Energy (PRIME)?

For the past 30+ years, several communities have not had a choice in energy providers. People were offered one service by one provider and that was it. Imagine not being able to select your own cable, internet, even wireless carrier? Imagine not being able to compare prices, contracts or services because there was only one company that offered that one service? For a number of communities, that is their reality. For the City of Pico Rivera, it is not our reality.  Pico Rivera has implemented its own Community Choice Aggregation program: PRIME. Named by one of our employees as an employment engagement exercise, PRIME is a reflection of a community that has come together to achieve the goal of a more sustainable future. PRIME is a new, locally run, power procurement program. It is a clean and modern power provider that is available exclusively to those who work and live in the City of Pico Rivera.

  1. What factors would you say led the City of Pico Rivera to implement a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program?

Pico Rivera has long been at the forefront of creating new, sustainable approaches to modern living. The City has been proactive in promoting power alternatives, resource conservation and smart energy consumption of all its natural resources. With a lofty goal of creating the most innovative, decentralized modern energy technologies in the state, Pico Rivera is determined to help design cleaner energy platforms for its customers. PRIME was the next logical step towards a more renewable future for our community.

  1. Why did you select California Choice Energy Authority (CCEA) as a partner to launch the program?

Pico Rivera decided to partner with the City of Lancaster to join the California Choice Energy Authority (CCEA) for most of its back-office expertise. Our goal in partnering on this initiative was to strategically exploit the services in this program that benefit from economies of scale and to continue to maintain local control. Ultimately, if the program saves money, the customers save money. This current partnership allows for comparative specialization. The City handles the services and decisions that directly impact our community because we know our community best. The JPA handles the services and decisions that directly impact the business because they know the business best. 

  1. From your perspective as City Manager, what has been the most rewarding aspect of launching PRIME?

The most rewarding aspect of launching PRIME is being able to offer residents a better choice, something they have never had when it comes to an energy provider. We provide a 50% renewable base product that is better for the environment. We offer cleaner energy sources. We are also one of the first to do it. Knowing that this program is the baseline for the development of many other sustainable energy programs is extremely rewarding.

  1. How has CCEA supported you in facing challenges while implementing PRIME?

We were fortunate enough to not have faced any major challenges while implementing PRIME. Although we researched how to become a CCA, we knew we wanted guidance from an already established CCA. We reached out to the City of Lancaster who had already gone through the process. We spent a lot of time asking questions, researching and asking more questions. The time spent with the staff in the City of Lancaster was invaluable. They held our hand through the entire process: guiding us through the feasibility study, educating us and preparing us for the uncertain future. Any issues that would have arisen were ironed out before they occurred. The City of Lancaster not only played a major role in our success, they played an invaluable role for which we are forever grateful.

  1. How have Pico Rivera residents responded to the program?

The residents of Pico Rivera have responded positively to the program. We assumed a 90% Participation Rate; we are currently at 96%. Many of our residents are happy to save money while also contributing towards a more environmentally sustainable future. They are proud of our accomplishments & the benefits to our community.

  1. What is your vision for developing energy efficiency programs through PRIME?

We are already working on several initiatives that include distributed energy resource (DER), energy efficient transit, solar panel installation assistance and much more. But we are pacing ourselves; it is quality over quantity, and we only just launched. Unlike some of our other partner CCA’s, PRIME is a much smaller operation. But big things can come in small packages.

  1. What do you think PRIME means for the future of Pico Rivera?

This is only the beginning for the City of Pico Rivera. We will be able to invest funds from the revenue of PRIME into more energy programs that benefit the community, such as infrastructure development. By investing locally, we are able to support our region’s renewable resources, and we help create new good paying, local jobs.

  1. What advice about CCA would you share with your fellow city managers?

My advice to cities that are on the fence about implementing a program like this would be to reach out to local cities that are currently doing it and ask questions! Do your research before committing your organization to any specific model. This is not a “one size fits all” program and every community is different.

  1. What are three things you think city managers should know about CCA and CCEA?

First, it is great to be able to offer your community a choice. Everyone wants to have a choice when deciding on a wireless carrier, cable carrier, internet carrier, etc., so why not have a choice in your energy provider? Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) allows cities to offer their communities a CHOICE!

Second, local control is crucial. CCA’s allow communities to make decisions locally: decisions that affect their communities, rather than leaving the decisions up to someone else, someone that doesn’t know your community, to reap the benefits.

Third, join CCEA. They have experienced experts and are a great resource to have. If you have questions or concerns about CCA or CCEA, reach out to already established CCAs, reach out to CCEA and ask questions. We all learn every day and the most important thing is to get started!