By John Garcia / SD350.org
During the past year, the San Diego North County Coastal cities have taken steps forward in implementing their Climate Action Plans (CAP) and studying Community Choice Energy (CCE) initiatives, which will enhance their ability to significantly increase their use of Clean Energy in the future.
Three of the cities – Encinitas, Carlsbad, and Del Mar – have formally approved their Climate Action Plans. The Encinitas Climate Action Plan was approved in March 2011. It was not tied to a General Plan and therefore had purely voluntary measures. This month however, the Encinitas City Council voted to draft a new, enforceable Climate Action Plan as mitigation for the housing element of their General Plan and to allocate $100,000 towards its development.
The Carlsbad Plan was approved in October 2015. Del Mar’s recently-approved Climate Plan included the goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2035, thereby following the example put forward by the City of San Diego CAP last year. Solana Beach has recently formed a Climate Action Commission to develop their Climate Action Plan, and Oceanside has also recently started to develop their Climate Plan as well. Having these Climate Action Plan documents approved and in process is a good indication that the five North County cities will all have strong climate action goals to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
Many of the efforts to support and review the Climate Action Plans and to promote Community Choice Energy have been supported by local environmental groups, including SanDiego350 (SD350), the San Diego Sierra Club, Climate Action Campaign and others. SD350 conducted a North County Climate Action Plan Workshop in May 2015, and staff and volunteers from each of these groups have held meetings with various North County officials to support their CAPs and future use of CCE – community choice energy.
Community Choice Energy is the process whereby one or more cities or counties form a non-profit company that will provide their citizens with energy choices that reflect local priorities, such as using local power sources or a higher percentage of clean energy than what is currently provided by their local electricity provider. The local CCE company procures the energy and provides it to the local electric utility company which continues to distribute the energy to individual homes and businesses.
The Community Choice Energy alternative was authorized by California State Assembly Bill 117 in 2002. Currently there are three areas, Sonoma County, Marin County and the City of Lancaster, that have successfully implemented CCE systems for their residents. The City of San Francisco launched its CCE in January and began providing service to customers last month and San Mateo County is planning to have their CCE on line later this year.
These CCE systems are implemented according to state guidelines. Each CCE operator provides its customers with two or three options for the amount of clean energy that customer wants to purchase, with the options generally ranging from 35% to 100% clean energy. Thus, even the baseline offering provides a higher percentage of clean energy than the utility is currently providing, at rates equal to or lower than the baseline utility offering (for example, see Sonoma Clean Power’s rates). One of the key guidelines with CCE is that anyone who does not want to procure their energy from the CCE provider can elect to remain with their current energy provider, which is SDG&E in our county. This increases competition, providing retail electricity customers with a choice of providers and plans.
Recently the City of Encinitas has begun organizing a North County working group, including the five coastal cities and four inland North County cities, to investigate the potential of forming a collaborative effort to implement CCE for the San Diego North County cities. Meetings of the North County Community Choice group of city representatives will continue to be held throughout the year. If there is enough interest and commitment to implement CCE by the respective City Councils from some of these nine cities, then an agreement would be signed between those city representatives to solicit formal proposals for a CCE implementation study, in the late 2016 / early 2017 timeframe.
After receiving the North County CCE implementation study proposals, they will be evaluated by the city representatives who will select the approach best suited to the involved North County cities. Those cities would then most likely form a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) CCE company. That Community Choice JPA’s city representatives would develop and issue a formal Request for Proposal, probably around the fall of 2017, for implementing CCE program for the participating North County cities, with an award to the CCE contractor in the early-to-mid 2018 timeframe.
It should be noted that the City of Solana Beach already contracted with a company to conduct a CCE study for Solana Beach, and they are currently evaluating that study, which may provide some good lessons learned for the overall North County CCE effort.
Implementing Community Choice will significantly reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for those participating cities and help them to meet their Climate Action Plan GHG emission reduction goals. The City of San Diego is also in the process of contracting for a CCE study. A cloud on the horizon for CCE is a preliminary decision by the California Public Utilities Commission this week which, if adopted, would allow SDG&E to lobby against community choice in San Diego County. Apparently SDG&E sees CCE as a threat to their monopoly, for-profit corporation business model. A final decision is expected in July.
By taking the above steps to implement aggressive Climate Action Plans as well as trying to move forward on implementing CCE, the San Diego North Coastal counties are doing their part to fight the future environmental effects of climate change on their cities. There are many opportunities for volunteers to assist in making these climate action plans stronger and supporting community choice energy programs. If you are interested in supporting these efforts, contact the organizations listed above to get involved in these important efforts to reduce our carbon footprint and transition to a clean energy future.
John G. Garcia has been a resident of San Diego County for the past 49 years, and has lived the past 13 years in Carlsbad. John worked for General Dynamics and SAIC supporting US military training and testing systems until he retired 2 years ago. John is now engaged in supporting Climate Change and Environmental issues with both SanDiego350 and the San Diego Sierra Club.