Unions Wait to Weigh in On San Diego’s Renewable Energy Ambitions

San Diego environmentalists are ready to transform the region’s energy sector, but it isn’t clear yet how much support they’ll get from local labor unions.

San Diego wants 100 percent of electricity sold within city limits to come from renewable sources by 2035. City officials say it won’t just be good for the environment, it’ll also create jobs through all the projects required to move the city from natural gas-fired power to green energy.

That has yet to guarantee the full support of local electrical workers.

The city could begin buying power for its 1.4 million residents from someone other than San Diego Gas & Electric. In doing so, the city would become what’s known as a “community choice aggregator,” also known as a CCA. Officials are still waiting on a technical and economic study of their options. It’s likely to be released later this spring, setting up a potential City Council vote could by the end of the year.

How local labor views the measure could determine how that vote comes down. Right now, they aren’t talking.

While San Diego unions have expressed general support for community choice in the past, they have yet to take a firm position on the city’s plans, in part because the city’s plans are not yet firm. Gretchen Newsom, the political director of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569, indicated in an email that they are still finalizing their position but declined to comment further.

In San Diego, there are two IBEW locals – Local 569 and Local 465. Local 465’s membership base are SDG&E employees.

SDG&E is not a fan of the city’s plan. The company would still control the power lines, but the city would suddenly oversee buying power for many of the company’s customers. SDG&E would still exist, but it would be literally and figuratively less powerful.

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Unions Wait to Weigh in On San Diego’s Renewable Energy Ambitions, by Ry Rivard, Voice of San Diego, March 30, 2017.

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