San Diego’s Next Steps for Achieving 100% Renewable Energy

The city of San Diego is taking its first steps toward running entirely on renewable energy.

The city passed a Community Choice Energy program, or CCE, in late February. CCEs are a city-run energy provider for residents. It is set to lower energy rates by five percent and help the city achieve its renewable energy goals, according to Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office.

The CCE is the first piece of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, or CAP, to be implemented. The CAP is a program working to run San Diego on 100 percent carbon-free electricity by the year 2035, about 10 years sooner than the state requires.

The CAP has set goals for San Diego to accomplish in their attempt to run entirely on renewable energy. The city wants to both increase the number of zero emission city owned vehicles to 50 percent, as well as decrease total greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by the year 2020, according to the CAP. By 2035, the CAP aims to “create new jobs in the renewable energy industry, improve public health and air quality, conserve water, more efficiently use existing resources, increase clean energy production,” according to the city’s CAP website.

Prior to its implementation, San Diegans only had one energy provider, San Diego Gas and Electric, or SDG&E.

“This will bring good old fashion competition and choice to the electricity businesses in San Diego,” said Masada Disenhouse, executive director and co-founder of the environmental organization San Diego 350, which advocates for a county-wide CCE . “And we know that we need it, right? Our rates are among the most expensive in the country.”

However, the CCE does not remove SDG&E from the equation. Regardless of which energy provider consumers opt for, SDG&E will still deliver energy to residents and retain responsibility for customer billing, according to city’s sustainability website.

“We don’t make money on the sale of electricity,” said Joseph Britton, the communications manager for SDG&E. “If the city or other jurisdictions choose to form a (CCE) we support that choice and we’ll assist them in the transition process. We anticipate that anywhere from 70 to 80 percent of our customer load will probably be on a (CCE) in the coming years.”

While city residents may now choose between energy providers, SDG&E still monopolizes the energy market in San Diego County, said Jim Desmond, the county supervisor for District 5, in a Feb. 26 board meeting about a county-wide CCE option.

San Diego County voted on a CCE one day after the city did. Their vote resulted in a 5-0 agreement to pursue community choice energy as an option for all 18 cities in San Diego County. The board of supervisors agreed to commission a business plan. It will be presented to the county in October, with updates occurring every two months.

“I think I would rather see a county wide (CCE) than one done by the city of San Diego and one done by Solana Beach and all of the other cities that are pursuing this…,” said Greg Cox, county supervisor for District 1 during the board meeting. “And at the same time, I think it’s important to make sure that there’s no one agency that’s going to be the proverbial 900-pound gorilla that’s basically going to dominate whatever’s going to happen.”

While no decision regarding county-wide community choice energy will be made until late 2019, this did not stop dozens of county residents from voicing their support during the public meeting. The extra time means the county can more thoroughly examine the impacts of a county-run CCE program.

“We can search far and wide for someone in opposition, there was no one here today, but probably we could find somebody if we dig around the bushes enough,” said Nathan Fletcher, county supervisor for District 4 during the board meeting.

This report was a collaboration between NBC 7 and the SDSU School of Journalism and Media Studies.

San Diego’s Next Steps for Achieving 100% Renewable Energy, by Chris Bremer, NBC San Diego 7, May 1, 2019.

UC San Diego students host clean car show to promote use of zero-emission vehicles

University of California, San Diego had an unusual sight on its typically pedestrian-graced Warren Mall. Three environmentally friendly cars were parked outside of the Geisel Library for students to learn about and take photos with to advocate for clean energy.
One Tesla and two BMWs were parked on campus on April 26 by the California Student Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG Students) to advocate for two clean transportation bills that are currently in the California Legislature. Bill AB40, proposed by Assembly Member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) in December 2018, would require the California Air Resources Board to develop a strategy to reach complete electrification of the transportation sector by the year 2040.
The other bill proposed by Assembly Member David Chiu (D-San Francisco), AB1418, would set a framework for California school districts to build fleets of zero-emission school buses to eliminate the use of diesel school buses.
Lofty goals, but ones that CALPIRG Students Chapter Chair Sophie Haddad believes are worth fighting for.
“We know, especially as students, that climate change is one of the most pressing issues affecting our generation,” said Haddad, who also serves on the CALPIRG Students statewide board. “We want to stop the dependence on fossil fuels and transition to a 100% clean energy future.”
In order to work towards that clean energy future, CALPIRG Students hosted a clean car show to demonstrate how electric cars could help turn that vision into a reality. With the cars lined up on Warren Mall, students stopped by to learn how to take action against the impacts of climate change and how to support the two current clean energy bills. Representatives from Telsa and BMW were also there to answer any questions about the cars and other sustainability practices.
“The vision for the Clean Car Show is to bring together several electric cars from around San Diego,” Maya Lu, organizer of the show, said in a press release. “This will showcase to UCSD students and faculty the feasibility and potential of a future with all-electric vehicles.”
CALPIRG Students is a state-wide, student-run nonprofit organization that is currently active on eight UC campuses. According to Haddad, the group “advocates to protect the environment, make college more affordable and fight poverty.” CALPIRG Students’ continued campaign for clean transportation comes after the passing of SB100, which puts California on the path to 100% clean electricity by 2045.
For more information about CALPIRG Students, visit calpirg.org.

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Del Mar takes next step toward Community Choice Energy

DEL MAR — Amidst a growing regional dialogue on Community Choice Energy (CCE), the smallest city in the county is making its voice heard.

At an April 15 Del Mar City Council meeting, council members voted 5-0 to take the next step in establishing a CCE in North County.

The council expressed its intention to pursue a CCE program, and accepted a final technical feasibility study pursued by Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside that was meant to gauge the program’s feasibility in North County.

CCE allows local governments to harness control over energy procurement. Although programs differ depending on a region’s priorities, many CCEs opt to provide more energy from renewable sources than your average investor-owned utility.

So far, Solana Beach is the only city in the county and San Diego Gas & Electric territory to establish such a program, though it has become increasingly popular in the state at large.

Carlsbad passed a resolution in March stating its intent to pursue CCE, with Encinitas to consider such a resolution on April 17. Del Mar’s policy does not bind the city to pursue CCE, but marks their intent “in solidarity” with their North County neighbors.

With the city of San Diego as well as the county moving forward with CCE, Del Mar is taking a deeper look at its governance options.

In early March, the city extended their contract with EES Consulting — which drafted the feasibility study — to look at how a Joint Powers Authority could be formed with the other North County cities, an existing CCE like Solana Beach, or San Diego County.

The technical study determined that Del Mar is the only city among the study’s participants that could not go at it alone, due to its smaller electricity load.

The city also directed staff to pursue joint legal services, which will help participating cities navigate the legal complexities of establishing a CCE.

Resident and former councilman Terry Sinnott spoke during the item’s public comment, urging the city to “make sure you have an understanding of the risks” of establishing a CCE.

“You’re going down a path that is very complex,” he said, recommending the city get a second opinion from the Finance Committee.

The city is anticipating another public workshop on CCE to take place in August or September, as EES Consulting wraps up its analysis of potential governance options.

 

Del Mar takes next step toward Community Choice Energy, by Lexy Brodt, The Coast News, April 19, 2019.

Carlsbad takes another step toward alternative energy

Carlsbad took another step toward creating an alternative energy program this week when it approved the results of a feasibility study and agreed to spend up to $20,000 on legal services to assist in negotiations.

The city is considering a partnership with Oceanside, Encinitas and Del Mar to create what’s called a community choice energy program, which is expected to lower electricity rates and provide a higher percentage of power from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

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Poway deserves a choice

Solana Beach has been doing it since last year. San Diego City wants to do it as soon as possible. Los Angeles County is going to do it, too.

Marin County started doing it in 2010 and asked others to do it with them. Now over a dozen Bay Area cities and counties are doing it together.

“It” is Community Choice Energy—and it’s time for Poway to get serious about it, too.

Community Choice Energy, also known as Community Choice Aggregation, is a program that allows local governments to provide residents and businesses with an alternative to investor-owned utilities like San Diego Gas & Electric.

The goal: to supply energy that is cleaner and sometimes even cheaper than what the utility companies can offer.

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Board Holds Workshop on Community Choice Energy

Energy experts from across the state spoke before the County Board of Supervisors during a workshop Tuesday that may help determine whether the County buys and sells electricity.

The Supervisors heard from utility experts, consumer groups and representatives from cities and counties that offer community choice energy.

The Board voted in February to study whether community choice energy, also known as community choice aggregation, should be offered to residents of the County’s unincorporated areas. These programs allow cities and counties to buy, and/or generate, and sell electricity to residents and businesses as alternatives to public utilities like San Diego Gas & Electric.

The County buys electricity and natural gas for its own facilities on the open market instead of directly from SDG&E. During the last three years, the direct access program has saved the County an average of about $3 million a year.

The Board asked staff to look into the pros and cons of community choice energy for County residents and businesses with progress reports every two months. Tuesday’s workshop was the first progress report. County staff members will present the results of a County CCE feasibility study/business plan to the Board in October.

Video of the workshop can be seen here. The next progress report is expected in June.

 

Board Holds Workshop on Community Choice Energy, By Tracy DeFore, San Diego County News Center, April 9, 2019.

Not as easy as it looks: Report highlights obstacles for charging electric vehicles

Brianne Van Gorder of Rancho Bernardo loves her new Volkswagen eGolf. But as a first-time owner of an electric vehicle, she’s not so crazy about finding a way to charge it when she is away from home.

Sometimes, she has trouble finding a public charging station. And once she has found a charging station, Van Gorder learned she must first download an app from the companies operating the charging station to get the electricity flowing into her bright blue four-door.

“It’s so frustrating,” the civil engineer said. “I literally got this car about three weeks ago and I’ve discovered you have to have an app for each one of them. It’s not like there’s a universal app.”

Van Gorder’s complaints echo many of the same concerns raised in a report called “Ready to Charge,” released this week by Environment California and two partners.

“We’re still at a point where it can be a pretty big adventure to charge your car when you’re not at home,” said Dan Jacobson, the group’s director, who longs for the day when charging an electric vehicle, or EV, is just as easy and quick as filling up a gasoline-powered car or truck.

But the 38-page report says the day-to-day experience for EV drivers has a long way to go to reach that place and points to a host of issues that threaten to slow the state’s hoped-for transition from internal combustion engine cars and trucks to zero-emissions vehicles.

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Board of Supervisors to consider developing “electric vehicle roadmap” Wednesday

County supervisors on Wednesday will decide whether to develop a plan for an “electric vehicle roadmap” for the region, to look at ways to increase ownership and charging infrastructure of electric vehicles.

The proposal also calls for county staff to explore opportunities for grants and to advocate for state legislation and regulatory changes that would improve the affordability and availability of electric vehicles.

If approved at Wednesday’s meeting, county staff would be expected to send a plan to the board by August.

“We have a massive challenge in building a more sustainable transportation system,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who introduced the proposal. “It is my hope that San Diego County can be a leader in driving to a more sustainable future and build the types of transportation networks we want our children and grandchildren to have.”

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Where does Oceanside stand on Community Choice Energy?

After a draft technical feasibility study released in February revealed Community Choice Energy is financially possible and could benefit four North County cities, all but Oceanside have taken the next steps to consider an alternative power provider as an option.

That may change soon as staff prepares to recommend that City Council give staff the green light to continue exploring CCE as an option for Oceanside.

The four cities originally partnered to determine if a CCE, also referred to as CCA (Community Choice Aggregation), was a viable option for them together and as individual cities. The study, conducted by EES Consulting, Inc., found a CCE is feasible in each individual city except Del Mar due to the its small population.

The study’s total cost was $104,515.20, of which $41,689.60 was paid by Oceanside.

Russ Cunningham, principal planner in Oceanside’s Planning Division, said Oceanside has had a more “hesitant stance” on CCE compared to the other three cities.

In Del Mar, City Council has directed staff to continue participating in the CCE discussion. Both Carlsbad and Encinitas city councils have approved for their staffs to explore governance options, and Carlsbad has tasked its staff with creating a statement of the city’s intent to pursue CCE.

Meanwhile in Oceanside, City Council is only now catching up to speed on CCE, according to Cunningham.

“Up to this point Oceanside has taken a somewhat more weary, more cautious, maybe less eager approach to this issue and there are good reasons for this,” Cunningham said during a March 21 community meeting on CCE in Carlsbad.

He pointed out “two principal factors” for Oceanside’s cautious approach, the first being that Oceanside’s in-house municipal water utility is an enterprise operation funded through program revenues and not through taxpayer revenues.

“CCAs are enterprise operations that rely on rate payers, not tax payers, to stay solvent,” Cunningham said. “This is a very important distinction that we understand very well in Oceanside.”

This understanding, he continued, has led staff to “press for more detail on how a CCA may operate, how it would stay in the black in the face of changes in the energy market and how it would ensure competitive and stable rates.”

Experts to Explain Community Choice Energy Plan at County Workshop

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved an upcoming workshop on a community choice energy program.

After a public hearing in February, the board directed Chief Administrative Officer Helen-Robbins Meyer to develop a so-called CCE program that allows residents and businesses the option to buy electricity from different providers. Supervisors will formally vote on a program in October after reviewing options.

The workshop, which is open to the public, is set for 1:30 p.m. April 9 at the county administrative building, 1600 Pacific Highway.

Attendees will hear from research and regulatory experts and consumer groups.

— City News Service

 

Experts to Explain Community Choice Energy Plan at County Workshop, by Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, March 26, 2019.