SDUT Op-ed: Why Community Choice Energy is a win for San Diego families

July 17 – SDUT Editorial – Eddie Price and Matthew Vasilakis – Electricity in San Diego is about to become more clean, affordable and community-driven as cities across our region get ready to launch Community Choice Energy (CCE) to supply our energy needs.

After years of study and careful deliberation, along with extensive public outreach, cities are in the process of taking back control of our energy destiny. By going from a for-profit corporate monopoly to a local, nonprofit public agency, San Diego will finally join over 10 million other Californians who already enjoy energy freedom and receive the benefits of public power.

And it’s about time.

CCE (also known as CCA) programs have been successfully operating across the state for nearly a decade, giving families the freedom of choice in who supplies their electricity. Under a CCE program, the CCE purchases the power, while the utility maintains and operates the grid. Families can choose to stay with their utility or join the CCE program. Revenues generated by CCE programs are reinvested back into the community, rather than going to pay outrageous executive salaries or line the pockets of corporate shareholders.

Here in our own backyard we have a proven CCE model in Solana Beach. The Solana Energy Alliance offers lower rates, more clean power, gives customers greater value for their roof-top solar than SDG&E — all while operating with a revenue surplus.

CCEs are leading California’s clean energy revolution, developing and contracting thousands of megawatts of new renewable energy, including in battery storage. Between 2017 and 2018, CCEs doubled their long-term contracts with new renewable energy facilities from 1,000 to more than 2,000 megawatts, reflecting the commitment by CCEs to provide more clean energy and economic development, and reach the state’s ambitious climate action goals. Additionally, CCEs plan to make more than 10,000 megawatts of clean energy commitments by 2030, while investor-owned utilities plan to invest in less than one-tenth of that, combined.

These massive green investments by CCEs are also uplifting long-neglected communities of concern. CCEs are installing solar systems, making homes energy efficient, offering rebates for used electric vehicles, as well as providing good, middle class jobs and life-long careers.

Marin Clean Energy in northern California established the RichmondBUILD Academy, a green jobs program to build its 10.5 megawatt Solar One project. RichmondBUILD develops talent from communities of concern in high-wage construction and green energy jobs, supporting over 300 green energy jobs at Solar One, and demonstrating how we can make the green economy work for all.

Additionally, many community choice programs work hard to ensure that these workers are protected, paid prevailing wage, and have a voice through strong unions under project labor Agreements.

The success of CCEs is rooted in their local control and ability to adapt quickly to the community’s needs. As a result, customer opt-out rates are low, banks and power developers are clamoring to invest as financial agencies such as Moody’s rate some CCEs positively, and many communities across California are moving quickly to start their own programs.

With success comes change. San Diego Gas & Electric and the other utilities, beholden to their shareholders, are trying to become competitive for the first time. Choice is forcing them to adapt and respond in ways unimaginable before CCE.

The appeal of community-driven CCE programs is much more than just offering competitive or even lower rates. Families want an energy system that is accessible, transparent, values-driven and committed to tackling the climate crisis in a way utilities owned by Wall Street investors never will.

Locally, cities across our region have gone through an exhaustive process to come to the same conclusion: Community Choice is a win for families. Our region, long-suffering from the highest electricity rates in California, has a unique opportunity to move lockstep toward lower rates, more renewables and aggressive climate action by creating a regional CCE program under a public, nonprofit Joint Powers Authority (JPA). The JPA model is used throughout our region for many government functions and provides financial protection, economies of scale, and regional unity.

With a regional CCE program, we can plan and invest in an inclusive green energy future. Sunny San Diego is ready for a full build-out of solar, as well as battery and electric vehicle infrastructure and energy-efficient homes.

It is beyond time to say yes to CCE. San Diego families deserve the freedom of energy choice. San Diegans will finally get to decide how they can keep more money in their wallets, how they want to invest in their communities, how they develop their clean energy system and how they will act to stop the climate crisis.

Price is co-chair, San Diego Urban Sustainability Coalition. Vasilakis is climate justice advocate, Climate Action Campaign.

Click here to read the op-ed at the SDUT.