Renewable energy conference features speakers from the US, Sweden and Finland

California may be half a world away from places like Sweden and Finland but for the eighth consecutive year, San Diego will host a renewable energy conference on Nov. 15 that will feature a collection of policy experts, industry leaders and clean-tech innovators.

“We think the frame of mind in Southern California and Scandinavia is very much the same,” said Hans Janzon, president of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce-San Diego. “We all try to be climate smart and have as small a footprint as we can.”

Called Green Connections 2018, the conference is open to the public and will be held at the San Diego Gas & Electric Innovation Center at 4760 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.

Topics include growth in renewable energy markets, developments in energy storage and demand response — that is, how consumers can affect the operation of the electric grid by reducing or shifting their electricity usage during peak periods. Twelve companies from Scandinavia are scheduled to take part in the conference.

Renewable energy conference features speakers from the US, Sweden and Finland, by Rob Nikolewski, San Diego Union-Tribune, November 6, 2018.

SANDAG calls for dramatic increase in charging stations as sales of electric cars soar

Regional officials are pursuing an aggressive expansion of electric car charging stations as sales of zero-emission vehicles have dramatically increased this year throughout San Diego County.

San Diegans purchased more electric vehicles than hybrids for the first time ever this spring, with sales continuing to climb through the fall, according to data from the New Car Dealers Association San Diego County.

Between July and September, 5.3 percent of registered new cars were electric vehicles, while 4.7 percent represented hybrids. Plug-in hybrids that have both a gas tank and a rechargeable battery accounted for 2.9 percent of registrations.

“What’s happening in San Diego is happening statewide and perhaps nationwide, but San Diego has been out ahead of the rest of the state,” said Ethan Elkind, director of the climate program at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at UC Berkeley. “Any cities that are serious about meeting climate goals will be focusing on electric vehicles, like purchasing electric fleets.”

 

 

Why San Diego plan for community choice energy is a blueprint for bipartisan climate action

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s recent announcement of support for community choice energy marks an unprecedented step toward a cleaner environment, greater customer choice and local renewable energy development.

Whether it’s called community choice energy or community choice aggregation (CCA), it’s a mouthful that’s really something simple: SDG&E will no longer have a monopoly on providing our electricity. Customers like us will have a choice, with the community leading the way.

That choice will include the lower rates and greener electricity that come from a nonprofit public utility, or the option to stick with our hyper-profitable private natural gas subsidiary.

The mayor’s support for community choice energy — followed by an expected affirmative City Council action — will provide us with the best tool for reaching San Diego’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2035.

Around the state, nearly 20 community choice programs serve millions of customers with renewable electricity options at costs that inevitably wind up lower than the private utility. Across the board, the lights have stayed on, the electricity choices have gotten cleaner and consumers have saved money.

If that wasn’t enough reason to pursue community choice, these programs increasingly invest in their own regions by building clean energy projects that provide high-quality jobs for local workers, as well as devote resources in communities of concern to ensure everyone can participate in and benefit from the clean energy economy.

As the biggest city to embrace community choice in the state, San Diego can make an enormous positive impact with its community choice energy program. Potentially including more than 1 million customers, it can eliminate more than 1.5 billion pounds of carbon from our skies every year. Ultimately, the mayor’s support for community choice energy may prove among the most important decisions he has made.

As plans begin to organize the program in partnership with other cities in our region, those of us who advocated long and hard for community choice will shift our efforts to ensuring families, workers and communities play a role in designing the best possible program and ensuring its accountability — including prioritizing investments in communities on the front lines of the climate crisis.

Choice means exactly that. Even with a fully operational community choice energy program, every electricity customer in the city will retain the option to choose SDG&E as his or her purchaser of electricity. The utility will also continue to handle monthly billing for everyone so switching is fast and easy.

It also makes sense to have just one electricity grid and one grid operator, so the state of California has determined that, when community choice programs come online, utilities like SDG&E retain ownership and maintenance of our electricity “highway.”

For the first time, SDG&E will have a competitor in part of its business — and consumers should reap the benefits of that competition. In the more than 160 California jurisdictions with community choice, consumers are expected to save more than $90 million this year alone, while also having new options for reasonably priced 100 percent clean electricity.

For over a century, SDG&E has profited handsomely as a monopoly. Over roughly the last decade, regulators have allowed payouts to shareholders to more than double while increasing our rates over 50 percent, even though electricity demand has remained flat. Going forward, SDG&E proposes further steep rate hikes.

It is not surprising, then, that the private utility spent millions and fought hard to block community choice. But our broad-based coalition of environmental, business, social justice, worker and faith-based organizations tirelessly made phone calls, emailed, testified and marched in support of community choice. We met with local political leaders and made a compelling case: community choice is a key tool in fighting climate change, while also providing families choice and savings.

In these challenging times when our future is on the line, adoption of community choice represents a game-changing victory for the climate and for San Diego families. Our success, with a big assist from the mayor and council, should be a source of inspiration. It shows that, even in this divided climate, we can work together across party lines to do what’s right. Despite long odds, reason can prevail, people power can win and we can fight to keep this planet livable for generations to come.

Capretz is executive director, Climate Action Campaign. Lane is co-chair, Public Policy Team, SanDiego350. Price is community development coordinator, Grid Alternatives San Diego.

 

Why San Diego plan for community choice energy is a blueprint for bipartisan climate action, by Nicole Capretz, Joyce Lane & Eddie Price, The San Diego Union-Tribune, November 9, 2018.

State Finance Department sued for refusing to release analysis of power grid expansion bill

San Diego attorney Michael Aguirre is suing the state Department of Finance and its director for refusing to turn over records related to Gov. Jerry Brown’s failed efforts to expand the California power grid.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court, state finance officials refused to release their financial analysis of the grid-regionalization bill as required by law.

When a finance official testified before the Senate Appropriations Commission in August, she said there was “no file on this measure.” Department officials later told Aguirre the report was a draft and not subject to public release.

Aguirre wants a judge to order the release of the analysis, which he suspects will show the expanded grid would cost taxpayers and utility consumers millions of dollars.

“The public interest in the disclosure of the sought fiscal impact documents is significant,” the lawsuit said. ”The documents relate to proposed legislation purporting to restructure California’s energy sector with potentially disastrous consequences.”

A Department of Finance spokesman said the office was withholding comment on the litigation because it had yet not been served with the complaint. But in emails to Aguirre before the lawsuit was filed, officials said it was prudent to keep the analysis confidential.

“The public interest served by the document’s nondisclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in its disclosure,” it said. “This is because the document is part of the Governor’s and the Director of Finance’s deliberative process involving internal administration communications.”

The so-called Western grid would expand oversight of the network of power poles and wires from a nonprofit called the California Independent System Operator, or CAISO, to an entity that would manage the flow of electricity across as many as 14 states.

CAISO is governed by a board appointed by the California governor. The new organization would be run by a board appointed by energy industry insiders.

Critics say the transition would take away the state’s authority to manage the power grid and to determine how much renewable energy would be generated and used in California to comply with its ambitious climate-change goals.

The regional grid proposal, which Gov. Jerry Brown has pushed as a way to save consumers money and improve electricity delivery across the Western states, was unable to pass the state Legislature this summer.

It was the third straight year a regional-grid bill failed to reach the governor’s desk, and some lawmakers already are talking about reintroducing the legislation next year.

 

State Finance Department sued for refusing to release analysis of power grid expansion bill, by Jeff McDonald, The San Diego Union-Tribune, October 31, 2018.

San Diego to form world’s largest single city CCA

Community choice aggregation (CCA) has become quite the hot topic in California. CCAs happen when local governments, either municipalities or counties, form an entity to procure electricity for their communities. In the Golden State they have allowed communities procure renewable energy even more rapidly than the statewide 60% by 2030 mandate.

Last week, atop the city’s Alvarado Water Treatment Plant, San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer (R) announced that the city of 1.4 million would be forming its own CCA. The decision comes as critical action toward’s the city’s Climate Action Plan, which sets an even more ambitious renewable mandate than California’s already-aggressive state one, at 100% by 2035. So, not only is San Diego the largest city in the U.S. to have set an 100% renewable energy mandate, but it is the largest single city in the world to form a CCA.

“I want San Diego to lead this region into a cleaner future,” Faulconer said in a release announcing the CCA. “This gives consumers a real choice, lowers energy costs for all San Diegans, and keeps our city on the cutting edge of environmental protection. We are a city where our environment is central to our quality of life and Community Choice will ensure we leave behind a better and cleaner San Diego than the one we inherited.”

This decision comes just weeks after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted to increase the “exit fees” that customers have to pay when opting out of utility procurement and into a CCA. Furthermore, CPUC chair Michael Picker has previously expressed concerns over the implementation of CCAs and their affect on utilities.

The raise on exit fees is especially important, as CCAs are already responsible for complying with local capacity requirements and ensuring that remaining utility customers do not see cost increases. However, these concerns do not seem to be an issue in San Diego, as the mayor’s office expects the city to see “a cost reduction of 5 percent or more compared to the utility’s energy generation rates residents and businesses are currently paying,” according to the mayor’s office.

Now, with the announcement in the past, comes the process of procuring power for the city of San Diego. Under the proposed CCA’s business plan, a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) would be formed in 2019, along with the appointment of a board of directors. From there on, the board would hire an executive leadership team, a chief executive and a chief financial officer. These executive positions would guide the JPA through the CCA implementation process, in hopes of delivering power to customers by the plan’s target date of 2021.

“San Diegans deserve to have a choice in where their energy comes from,” said City Councilmember Lorie Zapf. “This is an opportunity to reach our climate goals while at the same time lowering costs for everyone, especially families struggling to make ends meet. With this decision, Mayor Faulconer is ensuring that San Diego continues to set an example for other cities to follow when it comes to protecting our environment.”

 

San Diego to form world’s largest single city CCA, by Tim Sylvia, PV Magazine, October 29, 2018.

San Diego Zoo Selects EDF Renewables For 1MW/4MWh Battery Installation

The iconic San Diego Zoo selected EDF Renewables North America to install a new 1 megawatt (MW) / 4 megawatt-hour (MWh) battery at the facility to save money on its electrical bills via the peak shaving functionality of the battery.

The Zoo is looking to leverage the new energy storage installation to eliminate hefty demand charges by absorbing those spikes in usage locally. In addition to peak shaving, the battery will charge up when power is the cheapest, doling it back out again to the Zoo when electricity rates are high.

The battery is coming to the facility with zero money down from the Zoo, thanks to EDF Renewables’ performance-based contract that has the Zoo only paying for the installation if EDF Renewables delivers actual utility bill savings for the Zoo. This puts the entire risk for the installation into the hands of EDF Renewables and allows the Zoo to enter a contract where it can have confidence that it will realize the expected savings.

The Zoo believes the battery will allow it to reduce the cost of operations compared to life before the battery installation. “This is a perfect example of how we are identifying and implementing cost-effective energy and green environmental projects as a part of San Diego Zoo Global’s commitment to sustainability,” Adam Ringler, director of performance improvement at the Zoo said. “In this case, the savings can be invested into enhancing the Zoo experience, and furthering wildlife conservation and education.”

The new storage installation highlights the potential for realizing significant savings by installing energy storage at larger scales as well as the creative financing methods installers are creating to reduce the risk to hosts. In this case, it is no wonder that a Zoo would not want to buy a massive battery as they’re all about the animals.

At the same time, the compelling financial case for installing a battery is too good to pass up, so a partnership that brings in an expert to take care of the management of the battery and the financial risk of managing it over time is a perfect fit.

Andrew Goldstone, director of distributed solutions at EDF Renewables commented, “We are honored to be partnering with such a well-known and respected organization in the San Diego Community.  This is a perfect illustration of how we are bringing decades of experience and our financial stability to serve not only utilities and wholesale markets, but also end-users of energy through our Distributed Solutions group.”

 

San Diego Zoo Selects EDF Renewables For 1MW/4MWh Battery Installation, by Kyle Field, Clean Technica, October 29, 2018.

San Diego’s Climate Action Plan is years ahead of schedule despite few efforts to cut emissions

When San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced his support for a government-run alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric this week, many political insiders were somewhat stunned that the momentous decision had come to pass.

Many in the know had long guessed that the investor-owned utility and its powerful parent company Sempra Energy would somehow prevent the mayor from siding with a small band of environmentalists led by local advocate Nicole Capretz.

Green groups had argued that having the city purchase energy for its residents under a so-called community choice aggregation was the only way to meet its Climate Action Plan goal of using 100 percent clean energy by 2035. But for nearly a year, the mayor had also considered letting SDG&E craft a plan to run the city on all renewable power.

“This is unquestionably the most striking David vs. Goliath stories in recent SD history,” Rachel Laing wrote on Twitter. The longtime political strategist is married to the mayor’s chief spokesman Greg Block, and has worked for everyone in town from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce to Sempra to former Mayor Jerry Sanders.

Since Faulconer approved the city’s Climate Action Plan in 2015, he has repeatedly touted progress on the blueprint as far ahead of schedule, claiming the city has made bold moves to reign in greenhouse gases.

“I for one am very proud of our city’s leadership on climate action and believe that it should be the source of pride for all San Diegans,” he said at a press event on Thursday to announce his support for community choice.

However, on the same day as Faulconer’s big announcement, his staff also quietly released this year’s annual climate plan progress report.

The report shows that since the plan was approved in 2015, the city has made only marginal progress on reducing greenhouse gases — thanks largely to California’s recent drought restrictions on water use, its low-carbon fuel standard and requirements on utilities to buy increasingly more renewable power over time.

In fact, more than 80 percent of all greenhouse gas reductions envisioned through 2020 in the climate plan come from state and federal actions.

The rest of the emissions cuts come from a small suite of local programs, such as efforts to boost recycling and composting, expanding the urban tree canopy and, most notably, getting commuters onto transit, bikes and sidewalks in lieu of driving.

According the city’s 2018 progress report such programs are lagging considerably.

The climate plan, for example, calls for roughly 20 percent of commuters to bike, walk or ride transit by 2020. Today, that number is roughly 12 percent, according to the update. On its current track, the city isn’t projected to get to 19 percent until 2035.

“We’ve asked for a transportation master plan,” said Capretz, executive director of the Climate Action Campaign. “We have no idea how we’re going to get to the transportation goals. This is not a top priority for the city.”

Complicating the issue, transit ridership is down all over the country, including in the city of San Diego. But the mayor has also not delivered a long-promised transportation master plan, as well as millions of dollars of bike lanes throughout the city.

Recently, Faulconer acknowledged the challenge and importance of limiting tailpipe emissions from driving.

“We’re going to quickly turn our attention to transportation, knowing that’s the big next hill that we have to tackle,” he said, “and we are going to make sure that we have a plan and strategy for that.”

The city has also called for diverting 75 percent of all the solid waste from its landfills by 2020 by ramping up recycling and introducing a compositing program.

In 2015, San Diegans sent about 1.6 million tons of garbage to the landfill, diverting about 64 percent of total refuse. With a composting program yet to be introduced, the city still tosses about 1.6 million tons into the landfill, with a diversion rate last year of 66 percent, according to the progress report.

The tree canopy program has also yet to bloom, although efforts to catalog the city’s inventory of trees have started.

The climate plan calls for 15 percent of the city to be covered in trees, up from 13 percent today. However, to meet that target the city would need to plant roughly 150,000 new trees. Last year, it planted 307, according to the progress report.

“Nothing’s changed really,” said Anne Fege, chair of the Community Forest Advisory Board. “They have a small staff, and I’m working to try to make sure we have some funding. It continues, but it’s awfully slow. Really slow.”

Since approving the climate plan in 2015, the city has cut annual emissions by about 5 percent from about 10.8 million to 10.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas.

The city’s progress report does not outline how many of these reductions came from local as opposed to state and federal programs, but it acknowledges that most of the heavy lifting has come from programs outside of its jurisdiction.

Despite limited progress, the city has already met its greenhouse gas reduction goals through the end of Mayor Faulconer’s term in 2020.

In fact, the city met that benchmark before the plan was approved three years ago.

Specifically, the plan calls for a 15 percent reduction in climate emissions below 2010 levels by 2020 — a metric similar to the state’s target of reducing emissions to 1990 level by 2020.

When the climate plan was inked, the city had already experienced a 19 percent reduction in emissions below the 2010 benchmark, according to calculations in the document.

While that’s due in part to California’s tough environmental laws, it’s also because of inaccurate projections from the San Diego Association of Governments that were used in the climate plan.

As a result the city has taken credit for what appears on paper to be a massive reduction in driving, while in fact the number of cars and trucks on the road have actually increased dramatically.

Faulconer’s team said the city relied on the best available data when it adopted the plan, and they don’t plan to change the accounting flaw.

Still, this may not matter for Faulconer, once considered as a possible Republican candidate for governor.

The recently called for creation of a community choice program could help refurbish his image as environmentally conscious conservative in the vein of former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, Faulconer joined the famous Hollywood actor in Los Angeles on Thursday for a discussion of efforts to combat climate change before returning to San Diego to announce his support for the government-run energy program.

“Mayor Faulconer has put this plan into action by adopting it, making it legally enforceable and keeping San Diego at the forefront of global climate action leadership,” said Assemblyman and former City Councilman Todd Gloria at the mayor’s press event on Thursday.

 

San Diego Failed To Reduce Carbon Footprint In 2017, by Joshua Emerson Smith, The San Diego Union-Tribune, October 27, 2018.

San Diego Moves Ahead With 100% Clean Energy Community Choice Program

San Diego is on track to becoming the largest city in the U.S. to create a community-choice aggregation program, with a goal of 100 clean energy by 2035.

“This is not a partisan issue,” said Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, at a Thursday event in Los Angeles. “It’s a ‘right thing to do’ issue.”

“And we’re actually going to save dollars by doing it,” he added.

The Southern California city of 1.4 million residents will officially announce later today that it is forming its own government-run power program, as an alternative to service from investor-owned utility San Diego Gas & Electric. The program is expected to lower electricity rates by up to 5 percent, and achieve 100 carbon-free electricity a decade before the state of California hits that milestone.

“There are Republicans out there that are smart and are going in the right direction, and they don’t see [climate action] as a divided issue or a partisan issue…they see it as a people’s issue,” said former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hosted the Thursday morning event at the L.A. Cleantech Incubator.

The San Diego plan is based on a sound business model and has backing from both environmental and business leaders, said Faulconer. The program is scheduled to be in place by 2022, and will automatically enroll San Diego electricity customers, although they can choose to remain with SDG&E.

The city’s announcement comes shortly after the California Public Utilities Commission voted to increase the “exit fees” that community-choice aggregators have to pay. CCA advocates have said the change will burden communities and stifle CCA growth.

San Diego has been weighing a move to a CCA model for several years as a way to meet its Climate Action Plan targets. SDG&E has been working with city officials on a counterproposal that would allow San Diego to contract for increasing amounts of renewables without moving to a CCA model. But on Tuesday, the utility withdrew from those negotiations.

In a letter to city officials, the utility said “there is no clear scenario” to develop a 100 percent renewables plan that would hold the city free from legal and financial liabilities for procurement contracts, as the city requested. SDG&E said it does not believe such an arrangement would win regulatory approval, “due to potential exposure to remaining SDG&E customers not covered in this program.”

The utility also cited “significant and evolving legislative and regulatory actions related to energy procurement” as a reason for withdrawing. California recently passed legislation to materially expand direct access, and the California Public Utilities Commission is considering a new procurement model in light of the growing adoption of customer choice. The CPUC is holding an en banc meeting on Oct. 29 to discuss recommended actions.

“These actions are just a couple of recent changes that will impact our ability to provide an alternative in the near term, even if the City’s financial risk priorities were relaxed,” SDG&E wrote.

Under the CCA model, SDG&E will continue to maintain transmission and distribution lines and manage customer billing, while the local government will decide what kind of power is purchased to serve the area. SDG&E’s decision to cede control of energy procurement to the city, which represents around half of all SDG&E customers, comes despite its efforts to oppose and delay the switch to a CCA.

California’s three largest investor-owned utilities have opposed CCAs since they were first formed, but were barred in 2011 from lobbying directly against them.

SDG&E and the City of San Diego will have to continue working together closely when the CCA takes effect in 2022, assuming that the plan doesn’t somehow get derailed along the way.

Working with the utility is “a big part of what we’re doing in terms of making that infrastructure, SDG&E, available for the electrification of transportation,” said Mayor Faulconer. Cleaning up the transportation sector in particular is how the city plans to reduce its carbon emissions.

This is a developing story. GTM will report on additional aspects of the San Diego CCA plan as they become available.

 

San Diego Moves Ahead With 100% Clean Energy Community Choice Program, by Julia Pyper, Greentech Media, October 25, 2018.

CalCCA Statement on the Advancement of Community Choice Aggregation in San Diego

Concord, Calif. – The California Community Choice Association (CalCCA) has issued the following statement by Executive Director Beth Vaughan in response to the City of San Diego’sannouncement that it is moving forward with community choice aggregation (CCA):

“The California Community Choice Association welcomes San Diego’s selection of community choice aggregation as the preferred pathway to reach the city’s 100 percent renewable energy goal. The association appreciates San Diego’s careful consideration of CCA as a means to address climate change, provide residents and businesses with a choice of energy providers, and reduce costs for ratepayers. There are 19 CCA programs operating successfully throughout California and we look forward to more communities joining this exciting movement.”
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About CalCCA: The California Community Choice Association supports the development and long-term sustainability of locally-run Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) electricity providers in California. CalCCA is the authoritative, unified voice of local CCAs, offering expertise on local energy issues while promoting fair competition, consumer choice and cost allocation and recognizing the social and economic benefits of localized energy authorities. There are currently 19 operational CCA programs in California serving an estimated 8 million customers in 2018.

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

San Diego’s Power Move: City Takes on Utility Over Green Energy

San Diego is going into the utility business.

After a long and often contentious debate, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is set to announce on Thursday that the city will create an alternative to the area’s investor-owned utility, San Diego Gas and Electric Company. The city says the government-run program will increase competition, lower electricity rates by as much as 5 percent and ensure that the city reaches its goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035, 10 years ahead of the state’s mandate.

“We’re giving our customers the choice, and that choice is to go with greener energy,” Mr. Faulconer said in an interview. “It keeps San Diego on the cutting edge of environmental protection.”

The move makes San Diego the largest city in the state to embrace a program in which residents essentially band together to buy power in bulk. More than 160 cities, towns and counties in California currently take part in similar programs, which began two decades ago in Cape Cod and spread to other locations in Massachusetts, New York and Illinois.

San Diego’s program is expected to be in place by 2022, and utility customers will be automatically enrolled in it, though they can also choose to stay with SDG & E.

A group calling itself the Clear the Air Coalition, which includes leaders of organizations funded by Sempra Energy, the parent company of SDG & E, argued against the proposal, saying it would increase rates and jeopardize the city’s finances without making a significant difference in carbon-free energy.

“We just don’t see a real strong need,” said Tony Manolatos, a spokesman for the coalition.

But the city said it believed the government-run entity was the only way to achieve its carbon-free electricity goals, a view held by others that have adopted the approach.

One such program, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority in Northern California, hopes to become the first on the West Coast to get power from an offshore wind farm.

The Interior Department last week took the first steps toward leasing waters off California for floating wind turbines. San Diego’s coastal winds aren’t suitable for offshore turbines, but the city plans to tap solar arrays, land-based wind farms and geothermal power to meet its goals.

 

San Diego’s Power Move: City Takes on Utility Over Green Energy, by Ivan Penn and Inyoung Kang, The New York Times, October 25, 2018.