Morning Report: Inside SDG&E’s Playbook for Shutting down Energy Choice

A major power struggle is playing out in communities across the San Diego region.

Local cities like San Diego, Solana Beach and Carlsbad want to be in charge of buying power for residents. The cities suspect they can provide greener energy at a lower cost than San Diego Gas & Electric, which has held on to its power monopoly for decades despite some serious attempts over the years to loosen its grip.

In his latest, Voice of San Diego’s Ry Rivard compares the latest round of municipalities’ moves to unseat SDG&E to past endeavors.

“The question is whether tactics SDG&E used to preserve its monopoly in the past can work again today,” Rivard writes.

There’s actually an anti-municipalization playbook from an energy industry trade group, and some folks think SDG&E has been following its strategies closely, including using campaigns to call municipalize power “risky” and “costly.”

Whatever playbook SDG&E has been following, it’s been working. Earlier this year, the county government looked at buying power for some people in the region, but SDG&E-affiliated lobbyists swung into action and helped kill the plan. Decades ago, the San Diego County Water Authority explored a takeover of SDG&E, but it never happened.

The city of Chula Vista got close to chipping away at SDG&E’s power, but in the end, the energy company agreed to give Chula Vista a bunch of perks if the city backed down, so it did. San Marcos did successfully create a utility to compete with SDG&E, but the agency has never really amounted to much.

While it’s still too early to tell exactly how the latest round of competition from local governments across the county will shake out, Rivard writes that the failed efforts of the past have not been all for naught: They may have ultimately steered SDG&E a bit away from gas. Until SDG&E is at 100 percent renewable energy, though, expect these kinds of takeover attempts to continue.

Morning Report: Inside SDG&E’s Playbook for Shutting down Energy Choice, by Kinsee Morlan, Voice of San Diego, July 3, 2017.

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