Future energy options to provide municipalities with affordable, clean energy

When one thinks of who provides their power in San Diego, there’s not much of a delay. That’s because in the City, as is the case throughout California and the rest of the U.S., there is currently only one utility provider – San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E).

By December, however, that company may no longer be the only provider in the utility market. San Diego-based nonprofit, Climate Action Campaign, has been pushing local and state legislators to adopt a “Community Choice Energy” plan, or “Community Choice Aggregation (CCA)” which would allow room for competitive rates and providers.

Ultimately, residents would have the option to choose whether or not they wanted to utilize a more cost efficient or cleaner provider.

La Jolla resident and volunteering consultant for the Climate Action Campaign, Mark Hughes, spent 34 years in the electric power business before his retirement in 2012. During this time, he worked in coal-fired power plants, with 15 of those years at Solar Turbines, who provided equipment to oil and gas companies.

“During the late ‘90s and early 2000s, I had a friend and colleague explain the concepts of greenhouse gases,” said Hughes. “As an engineer, I decided that I had to make a switch. What is measured emission-wise are defined as ‘criteria emissions,’ which include carbon monoxide, lead, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.”

As a result of his work with the Climate Action Campaign, this area, in particular, Hughes began to attend municipality meetings where energy would be discussed by SDG&E. Hughes claims that he was astounded at what they had to say.

“They claim that it is super expensive to build these facilities,” said Hughes. “In reality, you can build an equal facility for less cost with a greater longevity than a hyper-expensive facility.”

In her inaugural “State of the District” address, Councilmember Barbara Bry lauded the Community Choice Energy plan as a key aspect of future growth, even going so far as to co-author a Voice of San Diego article in favor of the burgeoning concept.

“Community choice energy… would allow the city to establish a nonprofit to replace the public utility as the purchaser of power. CCA is key to ensuring the success of the climate plan’s ambitious 100 percent renewable energy goal,” the article read.

“CCA would allow the city of San Diego to invest in local sources of renewable energy and to provide ratepayers with clean energy options at lower costs,” it continued. “Currently, San Diego Gas & Electric owns a monopoly, and consumers do not have a choice.”

So if there has historically been one utility provider, how would CCA affect SDG&E?

The Clean Air Coalition, a privately-funded special interest group intending to stop or delay the implementation of Community Choice Energy is comprised of “A broad group of local community, business, and environmental leaders joining together to ensure a diverse range of voices are heard before important decisions are made about San Diego’s climate future.”

“We’re fine with residents having a choice on where they get their power,” said Tony Manolatos, an attorney with Manolatos, Nelson, and Murphy representing the Clear the Air Coalition. “We just want to make sure that that option is equitable.”

Hughes argues that not only would the facilities and overall quality of utilities be equitable, but, if anything, more efficient at less of a cost.

San Diego, being the “eco-friendly” city that it is, already has 43 percent of its power grid “green,” according to Manolatos. He also feels that, in the future, it is a possibility to see a state-mandated 100 percent green energy directive.

“What happens, is the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) says ‘We need to study this and get back with the costs,” said Manolatos. “We won’t know until they [CPUC] weigh in.”

Since cost and quality are paramount when it comes to public utilities, overall, according to Manolatos, it comes down to “cost and emission [regulation].”

As mentioned earlier, there is not much that can occur until the CPUC conducts their study, which, according to sources, should occur sometime in June. Until then, residents have good reason to take a closer look at where their power comes from.

For more information on the Clear the Air Commission, visit clearair.us. Also, for information about CCAs and the Climate Action Campaign, visit climateactioncampaign.org.


Future energy options to provide municipalities with affordable, clean energy, by Blake Bunch, SDNews, March 10, 2018.

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