November 20 – San Diego Union Tribune – Joshua Emerson Smith reports – The government-run alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric, known as community choice aggregation, is getting some competition from the investor-owned utility. To reach its goal of using 100 percent green energy by 2035, the city of San Diego has been looking at establishing a community choice program for more than a year.
Now Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office has said it will also study a plan submitted by SDG&E for going all green within the next two decades. “We’re excited to transition San Diego to 100 percent renewable energy, and research done this year identified two programs that could help us get there,” said city spokesman Greg Block.
Under community choice, SDG&E would continue to operate the electrical grid and charge for deliver power, but elected officials would assume control of the buying and selling of that electricity from power plants to city customers.
Ratepayers can opt out of the government-run program if they prefer the utility’s rates, potentially creating competition between the two entities. The utility’s counter proposal to community choice is expected to be released to the public in the next two weeks.
“Selecting a renewable power program is a major decision that could fundamentally shift how San Diegans receive and pay for energy, so the Mayor has directed staff to further analyze these two options concurrently so the City Council can make an informed decision,” Block said.
A feasibility study of community choice completed this summer found that the program has the potential to deliver cheaper rates than SDG&E’s current service, while providing as much as 50 percent renewable energy by 2023 and 80 percent by 2027. The city said that it will do a similar cost-benefit analysis for the utility’s proposal.
At the same time, Faulconer’s office said the city will outline a draft business plan for moving ahead with community choice, as well as a similar blueprint for SDG&E’s plan if it proves economically viable.
This pleased environmental groups that have been pushing for the publicly run alternative as a way to meet the city’s goals outlined in its Climate Action Plan.
“This is an exciting step forward for consumer choice, and we applaud the mayor’s leadership in moving us closer to joining the rest of California in this tried-and-true program for cleaner energy at lower cost,” said Nicole Capretz, executive director of the San Diego-based Climate Action Campaign.
A coalition including SDG&E’s parent company, Sempra Energy, as well as the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Downtown San Diego Partnership and San Diego County Taxpayers Association have asked the city to put on hold efforts to adopt community choice.
The city is expected to make a decision on which alternative to go with by 2020, when Faulconer leaves office.
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