SDG&E will not have to buy the Otay Mesa Energy Center for $280 million

San Diego Gas & Electric will not have to pay $280 million to take over the 608-megawatt Otay Mesa Energy Center natural gas power plant as part of a complicated and controversial agreement signed 10 years ago by the plant’s current owner, Houston-based Calpine.

Early Tuesday evening, an official at Calpine confirmed to the Union-Tribune that the company has accepted a 59-month power purchase agreement with SDG&E that will see Calpine employees continuing to operate the facility located in the foothills near Chula Vista that delivers electricity to utility customers.

The original agreement signed in 2009 is set to expire Wednesday and the 59-month deal will go into effect Thursday when the original 10-year agreement expires.

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San Diego progresses green energy transition

The city of San Diego is to press ahead with a Community Choice Energy (CCE) programme to provide residents with the choice of greener energy.

The San Diego City Council also approved a proposal to create a new regional joint-powers entity with several cities across the region including Chula Vista, La Mesa and Encinitas which will give them the ability to choose who they buy their energy from within their jurisdictions.

Largest US city

The vote in favour makes San Diego the largest US city to pursue a clean energy Community Choice programme. The regional entity will be the second-largest community choice entity in California in terms of electrical load.

San Diego was the first major city in the US to pledge to reach 100 per cent renewable energy by 2035.

After three years of research and analysis, Kevin Faulconer, mayor of San Diego selected Community Choice as the preferred pathway to reach the 100 per cent renewable energy goal in the city’s climate action plan.

The new entity would create healthy competition to benefit San Diegans, lower energy costs for ratepayers, and help the city reach its renewable energy goal by 2035 – a decade ahead of the state’s goal.

“Today is a monumental step toward 100 per cent renewable energy for our city, and a greener and cleaner future for our region,” said Faulconer.

“This is about lower energy costs for customers, green jobs for working families and renewable energy powering homes and businesses.” The future has arrived, and we proudly stand with our regional partners to lead the green energy revolution.”

Faulconer led a collaborative negotiation process with other cities to develop the terms for the new regional entity. The city of Imperial Beach is expected to consider this proposal later this week.

A regional approach would allow for greater negotiating and buying power as well as create efficiencies in operations and service. Analysis shows that Community Choice would result in lower energy costs compared to the investor-owned utility’s rates.

“Chula Vista is taking action to increase local control over the energy our community uses and by partnering with other jurisdictions, like the city of San Diego, we will be able to eliminate upfront costs and minimise risk to the city’s general fund,” said Mary Casillas Salas, mayor of Chula Vista.

“Climate change is already affecting our communities and we do not have time to delay action. We look forward to working with the other cities to provide our residents and businesses a new, cleaner, cheaper energy choice.”

Enacting Community Choice, a programme in which a public entity purchases greener power for residents, will be a multi-year process.

Following the formation of the joint-powers entity and appointment of its board of directors later this year, the board would then hire an executive leadership team, including a chief executive and chief financial officer, which would guide the entity through the implementation process.

The new entity would then seek approval from the California Public Utilities Commission with the goal of delivering power as soon as 2021.

“This is a historic moment. We are on the cusp of transforming our energy future and implementing our 100 per cent renewable energy goal, a linchpin of achieving our Climate Action Plan commitments,” said Nicole Capretz, executive director and founder of the Climate Action Campaign.

“We are so proud of all the cities stepping up to join this energy revolution.”

 

San Diego progresses green energy transition, by Smart Cities World Staff, Smart Cities World, September 23, 2019.

 

What to Watch as the City’s New Energy Agency Gets Off the Ground

Last week, the San Diego City Council took the big plunge and decided, in a 7-2 vote, to start buying and selling energy.

San Diego, along with several neighboring cities, will shortly form a “community choice” energy agency, or CCA. This is something I’ve written a lot about over the past two years, because it represents a major shift in who controls both literal and figurative power in the region.

Right now, energy decisions are made by a private company, San Diego Gas & Electric, which operates under the somewhat watchful eye of the California Public Utilities Commission and, of course, the shareholders of its parent company, Sempra Energy.

In the future, a group of local officials and their consultants will make most major energy decisions for the region.

Some big questions remain unanswerable — for now. Exactly how much will the power cost? Where will all the power come from? We don’t know yet.

The city has always had two major goals. First, by 2035 it wants all the power it buys and sells to come without burning coal or natural gas. That’s to comply with the city’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The city’s second big goal has been to sell power that’s cheaper than SDG&E’s.

Beyond that, there’s still a lot to be sorted out. Most big decisions will soon be in the hands of a multi-city “joint powers authority,” or JPA. Acronym check: A JPA will run the CCA.

Who will be in charge of this thing?

San Diego, La Mesa, Encinitas and Chula Vista are among the cities that will help oversee the new energy agency, which will resemble other regional agencies, like the San Diego County Water Authority or the San Diego Association of Governments.

Leadership is important, of course, and one of the first big decisions will be picking the person who runs the new agency. The former head of the Water Authority, for instance, made major decisions that increased water supply reliability but also increased water costs, so much so that some farmers have been driven out of business. High energy costs could obviously prompt similar economic consequences.

Likewise, the new head of SANDAG, Hasan Ikhrata, has ruffled the feathers of North County politicians with his apparent focus on public transit (rather than freeways). Worries that a CCA leader could make decisions that ignore North County’s interests may be among the reasons several North County cities are hesitant to team up with the city of San Diego right now.

Will the energy be cheaper than SDG&E’s?

This has been one of the big promises of community choice energy agencies across the state.

At various times, the city has estimated it could provide cheaper power than SDG&E, but it isn’t technically bound to do that.

It also may become hard to compare rates in the future if SDG&E gets its wish and can stop selling electricity and become what’s known as a “poles and lines company.” SDG&E makes most of its money by charging customers for the delivery of power, not from the actual power it sells.

One of the votes against forming a CCA came from City Councilman Scott Sherman, who argued that the region wasn’t offering residents much of a choice at all. Instead of a government-regulated monopoly (SDG&E), residents and businesses will get a new government-run monopoly (the city’s CCA).

Where will the power come from?

This is going to be a source of debate for years to come. There are huge opposing forces here.

An upstart CCA buys all of its power from existing power plants and wind or solar farms, something that doesn’t necessarily mean the city is helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Then, as it collects money from reselling that power, it can invest in new power projects.

Unions and contractors want to make sure any new power projects employ local workers. But land in San Diego is expensive, which is part of the reason why SDG&E and others have built solar and wind farms in rural parts of California or even in Mexico.

This could put local projects with good-paying jobs into conflict with low-cost power.

There are, however, lots of parking lots and rooftops that could support solar power in San Diego. Plus a CCA would likely be more interested in subsidizing residential rooftop solar than SDG&E is.

Another way to reduce project costs is to build in low-income areas, where land is less expensive. City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery has already made clear she’s worried about projects being forced into her district.

There might also be conflict among cities over where a project goes, since a new project could generate property taxes for the city it sits in.

There will also likely be disputes over what kinds of power the CCA should and shouldn’t buy. Even though nuclear energy doesn’t generate greenhouse gases, a segment of the environmental movement now opposes using it because of other dangers.

Do we have to keep calling this a CCA?

The city will try to come up with a nice new name for its agency so we can all stop using the term CCA.

There’s something else to keep in mind.

One of the advantages of a government-run energy agency is that people can have more say over how it operates than they can over, say, SDG&E. That is, if people show up.

Some agencies, like SANDAG or the Water Authority, have often skated along for years without much public scrutiny.

That said, efforts to combat climate change are top of mind now – following years of drought and fire – and a few local nonprofits, like Climate Action Campaign and SanDiego350, are focused on energy issues and CCAs.

As the CCA gets up and running, it may seem like there’s more political fighting over how a CCA does its business than how SDG&E did its business. And that could be an early sign of things going south. But it could also simply be because governments are inherently more transparent than private companies, so issues — like labor relations — that were handled relatively quietly now spill out into the open.

It may be years before we know if the CCA has kept its promise to lower rates and reduce greenhouse gases, but we’ll know pretty soon how open, transparent and democratic the agency will truly be.

(Disclosure: Mitch Mitchell, SDG&E’s vice president of state governmental affairs and external affairs, sits on Voice of San Diego’s board of directors.)

 

Environment Report: What to Watch as the City’s New Energy Agency Gets Off the Ground, by Ry Rivard, Voice of San Diego, September 20, 2019.

Imperial Beach and Santee go in different directions for community choice energy

The growing movement to adopt community choice aggregation, or CCA, energy programs in the region gained additional momentum Wednesday night, but Imperial Beach and Santee are heading in different directions on which governing structure to pursue.

As expected, the I.B. City Council voted 5-0 to become the fifth city in the region to officially join a CCA program led by the city of San Diego. But in Santee, council members unanimously voted to start negotiating an agreement backed by Carlsbad and Solana Beach to form a separate CCA.

Under the CCA model, local governments purchase contracts for sources of power (wind, solar, natural gas, etc.) in their jurisdictions, taking over a key responsibility long the domain of investor-owned utilities like SDG&E. The 19 CCAs that have sprung up in the past nine years across California have boasted of buying cleaner sources of power at slightly lower rates than offered by traditional power companies.

“The one common complaint I get from my neighbors is, my electricity bill keeps going up,” said Imperial Beach council member Paloma Aguirre. “I feel their pain too, and I think we’re going to have the option to give our community lower costs on energy procurement.”

Imperial Beach now joins La Mesa, Encinitas and Chula Vista in a joint partnership authority spearheaded by the city of San Diego that will govern a still-to-be-named CCA that is expected to become operational in 2021. San Diego has offered to pick up the start-up fees of the four other members.

In East County, the Santee City Council rejected an offer to join the San Diego-led partnership, worrying that a weighted vote option in the agreement could potentially blunt the interests of smaller locales.

Council members said they were more comfortable looking into a proposed CCA Carlsbad has stitched together with Solana Beach. Earlier this month, the City Council in Del Mar and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors also took steps to take part in the agreement

The Santee council voted to give city staff authority to negotiate with Carlsbad and return to have the council make a final decision.

“The Carlsbad model looks fantastic for us, but I need more information,” said Santee Councilwoman Laura Koval.

Like the San Diego-led CCA, the Carlsbad-Solana Beach program expects to be up and running in 2021.

 

Imperial Beach and Santee go in different directions for community choice energy, by Rob Nikolewski, San Diego Union-Tribune, September 19, 2019.

CalCCA Statement on the San Diego City Council’s Decision to Join a Regional JPA to Implement CCA

Today, in a -7-2 vote, the San Diego City Council gave the green light for the city to participate in the San Diego Regional Community Choice Energy Authority. The joint-powers authority (JPA) will govern and operate a regional community choice aggregation (CCA) program, with the primary goal of achieving a 100 percent renewable energy portfolio. San Diego – California’s second-largest city – is an affiliate member of the California Community Choice Association (CalCCA).

“CalCCA congratulates San Diego for moving ahead with CCA after a lengthy public process. We appreciate the city’s efforts to reach consensus with other communities in the region, and its willingness to make changes to the JPA agreement based on stakeholder input, all of which led to the creation of community-responsive principles for implementing CCA in the San Diego region,” said Beth Vaughan, CalCCA’s executive director. “CalCCA stands ready to support the city and its JPA partners as they continue on a path to launching a CCA program in 2021.”

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About CalCCA
Launched in 2016, the California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) represents California’s community choice electricity providers before the state Legislature and at regulatory agencies, advocating for a level playing field and opposing policies that unfairly discriminate against CCAs and their customers. There are currently 19 operational CCA programs in California serving approximately 10 million customers.

For more information about CalCCA visit www.cal-cca.org.

San Diego City Council takes the leap into community choice energy

The city of San Diego is about to enter the power-purchasing business.

On a 7-2 vote Tuesday afternoon, the San Diego City Council approved the formation of a community choice aggregation, or CCA, energy program. The council also approved a joint powers agreement that will see San Diego partner with Chula Vista, La Mesa, Encinitas and — by all indications — Imperial Beach to take the place of San Diego Gas & Electric when it comes to purchasing sources of electricity within their jurisdictions.

“This really is an important day for San Diego,” said Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry. “We have an entrepreneurial culture in San Diego and I think we will be the gold star of what community choice energy should look like across the country.”

But council members Chris Cate and Scott Sherman voted no, each raising concerns about whether the city is moving into shaky financial and political territory.

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Microgrids Offer Communities Bridge to Sustainable Future

In September 2017, Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm packing sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, took direct aim at Puerto Rico. Ranking as the worst natural disaster to ever hit the island, the hurricane devastated Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and left most of its residents without power for more than six months, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Today, the Environmental Defense Fund reports that Puerto Rico has largely restored its grid using a smarter, more resilient approach: microgrids. Recovery of the island’s power grid is just one in a growing number of microgrid applications by communities who want to ensure a future with greener, more affordable and more reliable sources of electricity. Microgrids are also becoming increasingly central to sustainability efforts undertaken by universities, industrial organizations and cities to combat climate change.

Building a Safety Net

The U.S. Department of Energy defines a microgrid as a localized electric grid that can disconnect from the traditional electric grid and operate autonomously in the event of a power outage.

Microgrids typically include multiple energy resources that support critical, interconnected power loads within a building, campus or community. These resources may include diesel-powered generators, renewable energy installations (solar or wind), transmission lines and battery-based energy storage systems. Most microgrids are designed to back up or complement the local electric grid.

“Think of a microgrid as a safety net,” said Peter Shattuck, a renewable energy expert with Anbaric Development Partners who has helped customers update their microgrids to meet new climate change goals. “As your dependence on electricity to power critical functions increases, so does your need for a safety net.”

He notes that microgrids, by continuing to operate when the main grid is down, add reliability and resilience to the main grid. They can also help to reduce energy costs for their owners. When demand (and electric rates) are low, microgrids can draw power from the local grid. When the local grid is experiencing high demand and rates are high, microgrids can draw power from their own resources at lower rates or even send power back to the main grid. By drawing on these “local” sources of power, utilities can also reduce their need to build out expensive transmission infrastructures.

Powering Sustainability

Traditionally, microgrids have been used by college campuses, hospitals, military installations and other organizations that cannot afford to be without power. However, microgrid applications today are increasingly motivated by sustainability efforts at the local, city and state levels, both domestically and internationally.

The University of California San Diego microgrid project, for example, provides electricity, heating and cooling to a campus with a daily population of 45,000 individuals. It uses gas turbines, a steam turbine and a solar energy installation to meet 85 percent of the campus’ electricity needs and 95 percent of its heating and cooling needs.

In the remote Andes Mountains community of Huatacondo lies Chile’s first microgrid, developed by the University <a target=”_blank” href=”https://buildingof Chile. The microgrid developers are adding distributed energy resources, such as solar energy, wind, and battery storage systems, to the village’s existing diesel-powered generator. In recent years, Huatacondo’s consumption of diesel fuel has dropped by 50 percent while it has become increasingly energy-independent through its renewable energy resources.

Keeping the Lights On

Faced with a growing threat of wildfires exacerbated by climate change, some utilities, such as San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), have developed plans to install battery-based microgrids to power community emergency services in the event of wildfires or other extreme weather events.

“Our goal is to ensure that our customers continue to have access to electricity and other essential services when their power is disrupted, either because of wildfires or public safety power shutoffs by the local utility,” explained Tom Bialek, chief engineer for Sempra Energy, the parent company to SDG&E.

To date, according to Green Tech Media, the utility has proposed seven of these community microgrids in the greater San Diego area. Collectively, they would provide 100 megawatts of backup power for emergency infrastructure, such as fire stations, law enforcement offices, emergency operations centers and community shelters.

Repurposing What Works

According to Bialek, the new San Diego microgrids will be created from a combination of new and existing resources, depending on what’s already available in each community. Every microgrid will need a source of power generation, a primary load to serve and control systems that allow it to “island” (run autonomously).

“If a community fire station already has a large solar photovoltaic array, for example, we would likely add some energy storage, size those resources to match critical emergency loads, then add an appropriate control system to manage it,” said Bialek.

He added that San Diego’s new microgrids will also benefit from “smart” optimization software that comes standard with most control systems.

“Traditional microgrids have been connected to the main grid by a single switch, so your resources were either ‘all on’ or ‘all off,’” explained Bialek. “Optimization software allows you to selectively power certain loads but not others within your microgrid, so you can make more efficient use of limited power resources for an extended period of time.”

Green Partnerships

Bialek has no doubt that microgrids will continue to proliferate and play a central role in the sustainability efforts of communities across the nation. He views their owners as key partners to utility companies in maintaining a safe, reliable and sustainable electrical grid.

“Our customers help us create greener, more sustainable communities through their use of rooftop solar and other renewable energy sources,” he said. “In return, we provide and maintain the underlying energy infrastructure and resources that allow them to be successful.”

 

Microgrids Offer Communities Bridge to Sustainable Future, by Brooks McKinney, Now, September 13, 2019.

Supervisors vote to go forward on Community Choice Energy; Gaspar votes no

The County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to continue exploring the idea of getting into the business of buying and selling electricity. Supervisors Kristin Gaspar and Jim Desmond opposed the motion.

The action came after a feasibility study/business plan was presented to the Board on the pros and cons of community choice energy also known as community choice aggregation.

Third District Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, whose district includes Escondido and much of North County, told The Times-Advocate why she voted no on the proposal. “There are two important takeaways from our action. First, we are not creating any new energy and second, the projected savings to customers in negligible. I have maintained an open mind but the data simply isn’t there to support the County entering the energy business.”

CCA programs allow cities and counties to buy and/or generate electricity for residents and businesses. A CCA would offer those in the county’s unincorporated areas an alternative to buying power from San Diego Gas and Electric. SDG&E would still provide transmission and delivery services.

Currently, Solana Beach is the only operating CCA in the county. The City of San Diego is working to form a Regional Joint Powers Authority (JPA) with Encinitas, Chula Vista and La Mesa. Other local cities have completed feasibility studies or plan to start one.

The County’s feasibility report cited estimated start-up and operation costs, a comparison of projected CCA and SDG&E rates, potential environmental benefits and options on how to govern the program.

The study found a CCA option that would provide 90% renewable energy by 2030 would save the average residential customer about $2 a month. Several governance options were considered, including the County operating on its own, forming a Joint Powers Authority with other local cities or joining the City of San Diego’s Regional JPA. All three options would allow for launching the CCA in 2021.

The Board initially requested staff look to CCA options last February and held a workshop in April to hear what utility experts, consumer groups and representatives from city and counties that offer the program had to say about it.

Residents had a chance to offer their input on the idea at five public forums around the county.

Tuesday’s action directed staff to negotiate a JPA with potential city partners including Carlsbad. Staff was asked to return to the Board with a CCA ordinance and JPA agreement on Oct. 15.

 

Supervisors vote to go forward on Community Choice Energy; Gaspar votes no, by Times Advocate Staff, Times Advocate, September 12, 2019.

Power Moves Put Pressure on SDG&E

San Diego Gas & Electric’s long-running regional monopoly is quickly coming to an end.

That much was clear following back-to-back votes at Thursday’s meeting of the San Diego City Council’s environment committee.

First, the committee approved a plan to start a government-run “community choice” energy agency to buy and sell electricity. The full City Council is expected to vote on a final deal next week to enter the energy market with several other neighboring cities and sell power directly to nearly 2 million people.

Then the committee OK’d hiring a group of consultants to help renegotiate the 50-year-old agreement that allows SDG&E to operate its power and gas lines within city limits.

Together, the votes signal a once-in-a-generation change to how the region gets its energy. Both are aimed at preparing the region for climate change, but also represent an ideological shift in favor of elected officials, rather than regulated monopolies, calling the shots.

The first move, despite objections from union electrical workers, has been a foregone deal since last fall. That’s when Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer decided the city should enter the energy business because SDG&E didn’t offer him a plan to meet the city’s goal to use 100 percent clean energy by 2035. The city’s environmental goals have become a legacy policy of the mayor.

The proposal amounted to a crack in SDG&E’s monopoly, but the company brushed it off because it doesn’t make its money from buying and selling power. The company instead makes money by operating the sprawling system of power lines and cables it’s built over the last century to each home and business in the region. It also delivers natural gas.

So, even if the city takes over the job of buying and selling power, SDG&E still collects money because those city-owned electrons still get to customers on company-owned power lines.

But now that profitable part of the company is coming under increased local scrutiny, too. Consultants hired by the city are meant to arm officials as they negotiate what’s known as a franchise agreement, without which it would be impossible for SDG&E to continue operating in San Diego. The current deal, signed in 1970, expires on Jan. 17, 2021.

At the least, the city is likely to ask for more money from SDG&E in exchange for that right.

In the most extreme – though unlikely – scenario, the city could buy that whole system, putting the city in charge not just of electrons but of all energy-related infrastructure, too. Right now, San Francisco is trying to do something similar with its own local power company, Pacific Gas & Electric. San Francisco just offered $2.5 billion to buy PG&E’s equipment within its limits.

SDG&E believes its days in the electricity market are numbered. It doesn’t want to be forced to buy power as it loses customers to a city-run alternative. That’s why last year it began floating an idea that would eventually require the state to buy out its long-term power contracts and possibly pay the company for several natural gas-fired power plants it owns.

Legislation to make that so didn’t move forward this year, in part because utilities were focused on wildfire-related bills, said Mitch Mitchell, SDG&E’s vice president of state governmental affairs and external affairs.

(Disclosure: Mitchell sits on Voice of San Diego’s board of directors.)

“We anticipate that there will be a bill that moves early next year,” he said. “Negotiations are ongoing. We’re talking to everybody that will be impacted.”

Any sort of city takeover of the company’s poles and lines is further off.

In San Francisco, the full-on takeover of PG&E is far more likely than a San Diego takeover of SDG&E. Generations of Bay Area politicians have battled with PG&E to a degree we haven’t seen in San Diego. Plus, PG&E is now bankrupt.

Councilman Scott Sherman said he’s not sure the city should get into the business of running the system of poles and lines that are known collectively as the grid.

“When it comes to buying a grid, I don’t know about that one,” Sherman said. “It takes 11 months to replace a lid on a water meter box. I’m not sure I want to be in charge of the grid.”

Still, the city taking these negotiations seriously is a sign of changing times and some disenchantment with SDG&E. The consultants will come up with a value for all of SDG&E’s assets in the city – a step that would be necessary if the city wanted to buy all that equipment – and also compare the city’s deal to deals between other cities and their local power companies.

Erik Caldwell, the city’s deputy chief operating officer, told the City Council committee the city was entering the negotiations with a few things rattling around.

For instance, the city believes the franchise agreement requires SDG&E to pay to move its lines when the city needs them moved; SDG&E disagrees. That set off a dispute that may increase the cost of a major city water project by tens of millions of dollars and possibly end up in court.

Caldwell also hinted that it would want to shift some costs to SDG&E in an attempt to reduce ratepayer bills.

When the franchise agreement was last updated, the city imposed what amounts to a backdoor fee on city residents by asking SDG&E to put a surcharge on its bills to pay for a city power line undergrounding program. Those fees now amount to about $8-10 a month, according to the company.

This all represents a new degree of uncertainty for a company that, not long ago, looked as certain of a monopoly as a monopoly could be. In the past, SDG&E successfully outmaneuvered other local politicians looking to disrupt the company’s power monopoly. But things like the rise of solar power and the threat of climate change have combined to upend the energy sector and put business-as-usual utility operations under the microscope.

SDG&E counters that it is among the greenest energy companies in the country. It’s shed coal power and only about half of its power still comes from burning natural gas – though the company separately sells natural gas directly to customers.

SDG&E is working to make sure the city and the public understand what its 4,100 employees do on a daily basis. Mitchell said the city, if it’s serious about taking over the grid, will also have to look at what it takes to maintain that system, including repairs and liability.

“If the city decided that they wanted to try and buy the system, they’ve got to come up with a value first and they have to figure out how they’re going to pay for that value, if indeed they decided to move forward,” Mitchell said. “That’s a longer runway. And in the end, there’s all kinds of scenarios. They might say, ‘We want to buy it, but we want to hire you guys to maintain it.’”

Nicole Capretz, head of the Climate Action Campaign, which supports community choice energy, said her group will also start campaigning for the city to get a better franchise deal or else find someone else to run the infrastructure.

“SDG&E might not be the best partner for that,” Capretz said. “It’s a competition.”

She said her focus is on how SDG&E is run at an executive level and not upending the work of its employees.

“I think they are going to be part of the solution, because this is not about the workers, this is about management,” she said.

For the first time in modern history, it’s an open question who the city’s energy utility will be.

 

Power Moves Put Pressure on SDG&E, by Ry Rivard, Voice of San Diego, September 12, 2019.

Encinitas set to join regional Community Choice Energy program

The Encinitas City Council unanimously voted to enter a Community Choice Energy program with cities including San Diego, Chula Vista and La Mesa.

“We’re about to run through the ribbon with our arms up,” Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said moments before the council’s vote at its Sept. 11 meeting.

The vote culminated a nearly four-year process the city undertook to evaluate its options to offer local residents and businesses a Community Choice Energy program, which would provide an alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric.

The program would begin in 2021. SDG&E would still deliver the energy to local customers who take part in the regional CCE program.

Since CCE programs typically give customers more renewable energy, cities like Encinitas, which is trying to reach 100% renewable by 2030, have embraced them as part of their efforts to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. City Councilwoman Kellie Hinze said tackling climate change is “the most important thing we’re going to do in our generation.”

According to the nonprofit Center for Climate Connection, there are 19 Community Choice Energy programs in California that have been established since 2002, when state law began allowing them. Customers have the choice to get energy from a CCE that serves their area, or they can remain with the existing provider. When customers take part in a CCE, they typically have the option to receive 50%, 75% or 100% renewable energy.

The increase in renewable energy provided by a CCE can help slightly lower customers’ rates, although 100% renewable energy can result in higher rates. In Los Angeles County’s newly formed Community Choice Energy program, for example, customers who select the 100% renewable energy option are projected to see as much as a 7-9% rate increase compared to Southern California Edison’s default rate.

At their Aug. 21 meeting, Encinitas council members elected to partner with San Diego, Chula Vista and La Mesa for a CCE instead of joining a North County CCE with Del Mar, Solana Beach and Carlsbad which is in the process of forming. The Del Mar City Council voted earlier this week to move forward with its North County neighbors, and Solana Beach council members will discuss it at a meeting on Sept. 16.

Encinitas City Councilman Joe Mosca will represent the city on the San Diego Regional Community Choice Energy Authority, which will oversee the program. Blakespear will serve as the alternate. The two serve as the council’s CCE subcommittee to study the possibility of starting one for Encinitas.

“I look forward to working with you going forward to make sure we’re addressing this climate crisis,” Mosca said to council members and supporters in attendance at Encinitas City Hall.

 

Encinitas set to join regional Community Choice Energy program, by Luke Harold, Del Mar Times, September 12, 2019.