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The Energy Democracy Movement Is Surging Forward In SD

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

Last month, the cities of Oceanside and Vista voted to join the Clean Energy Alliance, one of the San Diego region’s Community Choice Energy programs. With these votes, 13 of 18 cities and the unincorporated communities in San Diego County will now have access to cleaner, community-driven, and cost-competitive energy.

Our communities have been locked into buying electricity from our anti-climate utility for over a century. We finally have a real choice in our electricity provider through our region’s two Community Choice Energy programs: San Diego Community Power and the Clean Energy Alliance. Keep reading to learn more!

The Problem: Investor-Owned Utilities Care About Their Profits, Not Our People & Planet

In the United States, electricity is the second largest source of climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions. Most families rely on fossil fuel electricity from Wall Street utilities and are vulnerable to their mission to maximize profits over what is best for our public health, environment, and community.

These corporations—like San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E)—have invested billions of dollars into expanding fossil fuel infrastructure and sowing misinformation about climate science so they can continue to profit off climate destruction. Because of this, they are standing in the way of what science says is necessary: transitioning from polluting fossil fuels to a local, clean energy system.

In San Diego, providing energy to families is a big business. SDG&E makes over $1 million in net profits daily from residents of the City of San Diego alone. That money gives them colossal power to undermine our climate, equity, and community goals. Between runaway bill increases, attempts to price families and small businesses out of rooftop solar, expanding fossil fuel infrastructure, and more, San Diego families are fed up.

At CAC, we believe households and businesses deserve a real choice in their electricity provider, which is why we worked to build the public support and pressure needed to bring energy democracy to our region. This strategy has resulted in two Community Choice Energy programs for San Diegans.

Community Choice Energy, A Proven Path To Clean Electricity:

Community Choice Energy (CCE) is any city’s fastest path to 100% clean electricity and provides a proven, non-profit, community-led alternative to investor-owned utilities. It is also the only path where our money is reinvested back into our neighborhoods instead of lining the pockets of shareholders and utility executives.

Today, CCE programs serve more than 11 million California customers, providing countless benefits to those communities, including 10 times more renewable electricity than investor-owned utilities. According to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the state will not meet its clean energy goals without CCE.

San Diego Gas & Electric has been given monopoly status in San Diego County for over a century with the understanding that they would provide reliable, affordable energy to everyone, but they have not kept their end of the bargain.

SDG&E has increased rates for San Diego families by 78% since 2010, with more rate hikes planned.

Above: "Panel One: Can We Afford the Future?" from California Public Utilities Public Advocates Office

How CCE Programs Work:

When a CCE program is formed, communities join together to leverage their purchasing power to offer cleaner energy for residents at competitive rates. The CCE program sources electricity, which is then delivered to homes and businesses through the lines and poles maintained by the monopoly utility.

Credit: CalCCA

The revenue generated by CCE programs is reinvested locally into programs that benefit communities, not executives and shareholders. After buying power and covering their administrative expenses, the net revenue from CCE programs can be used to help stabilize and lower electricity prices, provide additional incentives for rooftop solar and storage, support energy efficiency programs, and develop more local renewable energy sources. These projects and programs will help keep San Diego safe and resilient during extreme heat, wildfires, and droughts.

Because these programs are locally controlled with citizen oversight boards in their community—as opposed to state regulatory agencies in Sacramento—they give residents greater opportunity to influence energy decisions. By putting these decisions in the hands of community leaders, instead of corporate executives or obscure state agencies, families finally get a seat at the table.

How This Is Changing The Game:

It’s hard to overstate how significant CCE will be for our climate and community goals in the coming years. For years, San Diegans have paid the highest energy rates in the continental United States for dirty energy. Now, they finally have affordable and sustainable alternatives to SDG&E.

You can count on us to watchdog both programs. We’ll keep pushing them to develop programs that increase our resiliency in the face of the climate crisis, including local, clean energy projects that create good, union jobs.

Are you a Solana Beach, Del Mar, Carlsbad, San Marcos, Vista, Escondido, or Oceanside resident who wants to learn more about the Clean Energy Alliance? Click here!

Are you a Chula Vista, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, San Diego, National City, or unincorporated San Diego County resident who wants to learn more about San Diego Community Power? Click here.

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