San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer Thursday announced the city’s plan to create a city government-controlled energy provider to compete with San Diego Gas and Electric.
Faulconer formally announced the city’s plan to offer utility services at a news conference to release the city’s annual report on the progress of its Climate Action Plan. The report includes data showing that the city is ahead of schedule toward the CAP’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2035.
According to the mayor’s office, providing utility services would reduce energy costs by at least 5 percent and help the city attain its goal of 100 percent renewable energy use by 2035.
“I want San Diego to lead this region into a cleaner future,” Faulconer said. “This gives consumers a real choice, lowers energy costs for all San Diegans and keeps our city on the cutting edge of environmental protection.”
The mayor’s office will send the proposal to the San Diego City Council, seeking a resolution of intent to create a utility-providing entity that allows other cities in the county to join. According to the mayor’s office, several cities in the county have expressed interest in joining a joint- power energy-providing authority. On the city’s current timeline, the energy authority would begin service in 2021.
“This is a win-win-win — it creates jobs for workers, seeks to stabilize green energy costs for families and generates clean energy that preserves our environment,” the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council said in a statement. “In San Diego, we must continue to build and produce renewable power to grow green jobs and ensure the environment is truly protected.”
SDG&E said in a statement that it respects the city’s right to look for other energy providers and does not anticipate any financial impact from the decision in the immediate future.
“SDG&E has a long history of partnership with the city, and is committed to continuing a productive, cooperative relationship,” the investor-owned company said. “As the city charts this new course for purchasing electricity, SDG&E will help enable the transition.”
Consumers would be able to buy power through the new city utility, but would have to pay an “exit fee” to SDG&E, which would still deliver the power over it’s lines.
Environmental activists have asked the city for more than a year to provide utility services in some way, often referred to as community choice energy. According to the San Diego Community Choice Alliance, a coalition of multiple organizations, businesses and politicians that support community choice energy, SDG&E charges some of the highest energy rates in the state and the country.
“Today, families in San Diego can breathe a little easier because we are finally on a path to enjoying energy choice and giving our families relief in their electricity bills,” said Nicole Capretz, the executive director of the SDCCA-member Climate Action Campaign. “We ask our coalition and supporters to be ready to promote a Community Choice program that serves all San Diegans, prioritizes local control, local clean energy with high quality jobs, helps clean our air, and offers affordable rates and a path 100 percent renewable energy.”
Joining Faulconer at the announcement were Assemblyman Todd Gloria, City Councilwomen Georgette Gomez and Lorie Zapf and Cody Hooven, the city’s chief sustainability officer. Gloria originally helped draft the Climate Action Plan in 2013 when he was a City Councilman.
“Community choice is the only pathway to achieve 100 percent renewable energy, a cornerstone of our Climate Action Plan, and ultimately puts the community in charge of our climate destiny. San Diegans deserve consumer choice,” Gloria said.
The Clear the Air Coalition, while supportive of the community choice energy concept, was more measured in its response to the city’s announcement. The coalition expressed concern about what happens if the plan fails and whether a community choice energy project should even be a priority considering the city’s current issues with homelessness and high housing costs.
“If the city decides to form a (community choice energy provider), an important question to ask is: would it actually help San Diego reach its clean air goals faster and cheaper than current state laws require?” said Clear the Air Coalition Co-Chair Ruben Barrales.
Updated at 4:40 p.m. Oct. 25, 2018
–City News Service