County Supervisor and LAFCO member Dianne Jacob
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob renewed her call for the program in her State of the County speech early this year. Photo by Ken Stone

Joining San Diego and cities around the region, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to establish a community choice energy program in the county’s unincorporated areas.

“This is a huge victory for consumers who are sick and tired of getting ripped off by SDG&E and are hungry for an alternative,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, board chairwoman. “Ratepayers will finally have the freedom to choose where they get their energy.”

Supervisors Greg Cox and Nathan Fletcher joined Jacob in favoring the program, while conservative colleagues Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar were opposed.

County leaders said the initiative would bolster the use of renewable energy and cited a recent study estimating it would save 179,000 residential and business ratepayers $12 million a year.

The county is looking at a 2022 launch date and is talking with officials in Carlsbad, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Santee and other local governments about a possible joint choice initiative.

The program includes a key environmental goal: By 2030, at least 90% of the energy provided is expected to come from solar and other sources of renewable power.

A recent study done by a consultant for the county predicted that utility rates for those tapping into the program would be at least 2% lower than what SDG&E is expected to charge.

The study estimates the program will save ratepayers $12 million annually during the first decade of operation.

The county’s unincorporated area covers more than 3,500 square miles and includes Spring Valley, Alpine, Borrego Springs, Fallbrook, Campo, Lakeside and Julian.

About 20 community choice programs exist in California. San Diego, Chula Vista and several other local cities are preparing to launch their own initiatives.

Currently, Solana Beach is the only operating CCE in the county but it is working with the cities of Carlsbad, Del Mar and Santee to form a Joint Powers of Agreement for a new CCE program. County staff has negotiated with those cities on joining the JPA and has the option to join before Oct. 1, 2020.

A second reading for the ordinance is scheduled for Oct. 29.

Jacob, a longtime supporter of community choice, renewed her call for it in her State of the County speech early this year. She also announced that Fletcher was joining her in the effort.