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San Diego County supervisors choose provider for energy choice program

Supervisors voted to select San Diego Community Power (SDCP) – which includes Chula Vista, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, La Mesa and the city of San Diego as members.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to select San Diego Community Power as part of a Community Choice Energy program.

After more than an hour of debate and public input, supervisors voted to select San Diego Community Power (SDCP) — which includes Chula Vista, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, La Mesa and the city of San Diego as members — over Clean Energy Alliance, which lists Carlsbad, Del Mar and Solana Beach as members.

Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs are local nonprofit, public agencies that provide electricity service to residents and businesses. Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said that ultimately, a CCE gives residents a choice, and those who wish to stay with their existing provider may do so.

“We have a climate challenge, and we have an obligation to get our energy sources in a more renewable format, in a more sustainable way,” Fletcher said before casting his vote. 

Fletcher joined Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas in citing SDCP’s broader reach and stronger renewable programs. They also said a CCE will result in good, union-paying jobs.

“Frankly, community choice energy is actually a no-brainer in my opinion,” Lawson-Remer said. 

“It is providing choice and competition in the energy space,” said Cody Hooven, the chief operating officer for San Diego Community Power

Hooven told News 8 that this choice provides benefits to consumers. 

“What we are providing is a higher renewable energy content for customers at the same price: actually a little bit cheaper,” she added. 

Currently, the cost is about one to two percent cheaper. San Diego Community Power’s small staff, at the moment only 12 people, and strong renewable programs allow them to offer more value, Hooven added.

“We’re trying to be lean and provide a good service to our customers,” she said. 

While customers will be automatically enrolled into San Diego Community Power, they can opt-out if they choose simply by going online.

San Diego Community Power pointed out that its customers can also “opt up”: instead of the agency’s standard 50% renewable energy, customers can choose to receive energy from 100% renewable sources.

“For a typical household for just a few dollars more a month, you can opt up and be fully renewable,” Hooven said.

While San Diego Community Power is in charge of purchasing power, SDG&E, which supports the county’s move to choose a community choice energy provider, will still be in charge of other areas, like transmission, power distribution and customer billing.

The additional 180,000 customers in unincorporated San Diego County acquired through the county’s recent vote will start receiving electricity from San Diego Community Power in the spring of 2023

At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, representatives from environmental groups and labor unions had urged the Board to select SDCP as the CCE provider.

Matthew Vasilakis, policy co-director of Climate Action Campaign, said that SDCP provides members a sustainable pathway to a clean-energy future and is devoted to lifting up communities of color.

“We need to work together in partnership … to save the people and places we love from the climate crisis,” Vasilakis said.

Rick Bates, a researcher with Unite Here Local 30, said SDCP will benefit residents living in neighborhoods more impacted by a changing climate.

In October 2019, the Board voted to establish a Community Choice Energy program for unincorporated areas, including a goal of 90% renewables by 2030. The board’s earlier actions also included forming a joint powers authority with the CCE provider.

In April, the Board directed staff to explore options for renewable energy projects. County staffers then worked on a feasibility study and held five public workshops.

Fletcher said the county researched joining a CCE for two and half years, involving “robust and diligent work to get where we are today.” He added, “It makes all the sense in the world to move forward.” He said the county still has work to do on the program, which won’t be in place until 2023.

Supervisors Joel Anderson and Jim Desmond were the no votes. Anderson said the unincorporated communities should be better represented on an advisory board, which would feature Lawson-Remer as the county’s representative and Vargas as an alternate.

He praised Lawson-Remer and Vargas for participating on the advisory board, but said that not featuring the unincorporated region is a “disservice.”

Desmond, who has previously opposed the county joining a CCE, said he preferred Clean Energy Alliance as a partner because the county would be “big fish” in that group.

He said that when it comes to energy project jobs, it was important to allow competition, which is good for the county and for innovation.