San Diego County Administration Center
The historic San Diego County Administration Center on the waterfront in downtown San Diego. Courtesy County News Center

Supervisors Tuesday directed a top county official to begin negotiations on a community energy choice agreement.

After a lengthy presentation and feedback from people on both sides of the issue, the board voted 3-2. Supervisors Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar cast the no votes.

Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer will negotiate a Joint Powers Authority with several cities as a result. They include Carlsbad, Del Mar and Solana Beach.

If negotiations succeed, Robbins-Meyer will return to the board on Oct. 15 with an ordinance to formally establish a program.

Along with directing Robbins-Meyer to begin negotiations, the board also approved a feasibility study.

Community choice energy programs, also known as CCEs, give residents and businesses more options for purchasing electricity.

There are 19 operating CCEs in the state, representing 20% of California’s energy load.

According to a study by EES Consulting, a successful CCE could bring about $12 million in annual savings. It could also allow for renewable sources to provide 90% of power by 2030.

The findings also showed that a CCE would create 145 new local jobs, and result in $17.4 million in GDP growth.

Gary Saleba, president of the consulting firm, told the board that the primary risks to a successful community choice plan would come from state regulations and legislation.

Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said residents should have a say in their energy provider.

Jacob said the county has been “hitting the pause button for far too long on this issue.”

She acknowledged there are risks involved, but said the county has a solid record of fiscal discipline.

Gaspar said that having studied the CCE concept for 10 years, she “can’t assume this will all just pan out.

“This county should not be the canary in the coal mine,” she continued. “There’s no compelling reason to me to justify (a CCE) at this point “I don’t think that we need to add an energy business to our plate.”

Desmond said based on the study, consumers aren’t saving very much under a CCE plan. He proposed a motion that would allow the county to produce its own energy supply, but none of his colleagues agreed.

Supervisor Greg Cox said he was willing to support negotiations for now, but agreed with Desmond on the lack of savings to consumers.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said moving forward on energy choice “is not is a decision to be taken lightly.” He later added that he is “eager to see efforts that can achieve regional consumer choice, cost savings, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

– City News Service