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.

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