County Supervisors to Vote on Community Choice Energy and Kill SDG&E’s Monopoly

By Tyson Siegle, SanDiego350

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press on 2/13/2017

On February 15th, San Diegans will have an opportunity to take a huge step forward on clean energy. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors will vote on implementation for some or all of the San Diego County Comprehensive Renewable Energy Plan (CREP). Many of the steps outlined in the plan save the county money and promote a healthier environment, but one particular piece of the plan could do more to promote clean energy and lower costs than all the rest combined: Community Choice Energy (CCE). If you already know about CCE programs and want to know what you can do to make sure the County Supervisors fund a CCE feasibility study, scroll down to San Diego County CCE Advocacy. For those of you interested in learning about Community Choice Energy and the impressive features of the newest program, read on.

What is Community Choice Energy?

Community Choice Energy, also referred to as Community Choice Aggregation, gives a city or county the power to decide where its electricity comes from, how much it will cost, and the sources used to generate that power. A CCE does not eliminate the utility option. It simply provides customers the additional option of Community Choice Energy. For the CCE option the local community takes over the power purchasing decisions from the utility company.

CCE vs IOU

CCE/CCA program model. Source LEAN Energy US

Cost control, location, and generation type each deserve further discussion.

Affordable Energy from CCE programs

Community Choice Energy offers an alternative that competes with the local utility. Instead of simply swapping one provider for another, choice programs introduce competition into an inefficient monopoly system. Each person has the choice of either staying with utility-sourced power or using power purchased through the choice program. However, all California CCEs are beating their utility competitors on power generation costs making it unlikely for consumers to select utility sourced power. Additionally, Community Choice Energy programs have no built in bias for fossil fuels. SDG&E’s parent company makes hundreds of millions of dollars annually from fossil fuels. That might not sound like a big deal, but for a few years now, wind and solar have been the two cheapest forms of new electricity generation, even without subsidies. By not needing to anchor to fossil fuels, community programs can contract for the cheapest, cleanest power available.

Clean Energy and CCE programs

Each new CCE program started in California raises the bar for clean energy generation. Silicon Valley Clean Energy, a CCE starting up in April of this year, takes that challenge to a new level. Silicon Valley set the percentage of greenhouse gas free electricity at 100% for the consumer default option. Being that it is Silicon Valley, one might think, “That’s okay for rich people, but I can’t afford it.” It is a knee jerk reaction and completely understandable. However, like most knee jerk reactions, it misses a crucial piece of information. The 100% GHG free option costs less than standard utility rates, even after factoring in the power charge indifference adjustment. From the third quarter of 2015 to the same quarter of 2016, the cost to install utility solar generation dropped more than 20%. Prices for wind power plants continue falling as well. It should not surprise us then that new CCEs routinely embarrass the investor owned utilities on price and clean energy content, but what about local jobs?

Local Economy Benefits from CCE programs

U.S. employment in solar grew 12 times faster than U.S. jobs as a whole. Headlines over the course of the last year proclaim “Solar Employs More People In U.S. Electricity Generation Than Oil, Coal And Gas Combined.” The clean energy industry is booming. Community Choice Energy allows local control over electricity purchasing to bring more and more of that strong job growth into the local cities and towns. Here in Southern California, our solar resources rival the best in the country. We can produce 100% of our energy locally and spend less money doing it, stimulating the economy in two ways at once. Community Choice benefits the entire region, making it an easy decision, but how does one go about getting it?

San Diego County Seal

San Diego County Seal. Source – San Diego County

 

San Diego County CCE Advocacy

Starting a Community Choice program in California requires local officials to enact it with a simple majority vote. Before that happens, regions typically commission a feasibility study for a CCE specific to the area to avoid any potential missteps. That is where the County of San Diego currently finds itself. On February 15th, the County Board of Supervisors will vote on the Comprehensive Renewable Energy Plan. Arguably the most important part of the CREP will be moving forward with the CCE feasibility study. The longer the county puts off the study, the longer it will be before the start of a Community Choice program and all the benefits it entails. If cheap energy, clean energy, and a stronger local economy are important to you, call or email your county supervisor. Let them know that the Comprehensive Renewable Energy Plan and specifically Community Choice Energy makes San Diego a better place for all of us.

San Diego County’s seal states “The noblest motive is the public good.” By that definition, the noblest motive is Community Choice Energy!

Contact by Phone:

District 1 — Greg Cox — 619-531-5511

District 2 — Dianne Jacob, Chair — 619-531-5522

District 3 — Kristin Gaspar — 619-531-5533

District 4 — Ron Roberts — 619-531-5544

District 5 — Bill Horn — 619-531-5555

Contacting your representative by phone and sharing your thoughts with the staff member who answers usually has a much bigger impact than sending an email. If you only want to email, or better yet, you choose to do both, email addresses are listed below. Recommended approach to email is to email the Chair and CC the rest of the supervisors.

Contact by Email:

District 1 – Greg Cox greg.cox@sdcounty.ca.gov

District 2 – Dianne Jacob dianne.jacob@sdcounty.ca.gov CHAIR

District 3 – Kristin Gaspar kristin.gaspar@sdcounty.ca.gov VICE-CHAIR

District 4 – Ron Roberts ron-roberts@sdcounty.ca.gov

District 5 – Bill Horn bill.horn@sdcounty.ca.gov

 

Tyson Siegele, a SanDiego350 member, is an architect who works to promote sustainable design and clean energy. Recently he created ButItJustMightWork.com, a residential clean energy handbook, to chronicle things to do as well as things to avoid on one’s path to zero emissions.

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