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Politics

SDG&E Gets OK To Market On Alternative Energy Program

A sign on SDG&E's headquarters appears in this undated photo.
Nicholas McVicker
A sign on SDG&E's headquarters appears in this undated photo.

SDG&E Gets OK To Market On Alternative Energy Program
The decision by state utility regulators means San Diego Gas & Electric could soon begin marketing for or against San Diego's plans to form an alternative energy program called "community choice aggregation."

By next month, San Diego Gas & Electric could begin lobbying and marketing for or against the city of San Diego's plan to create alternative energy programs called "community choice aggregation" and similar plans by other cities in the county.

Under state law, the utility is prohibited from lobbying or marketing on community choice unless it forms an independent district that's funded by shareholders, not ratepayers. Late last year SDG&E became the first utility in the state to take that step, requesting the California Public Utilities Commission approve its plans to form an independent marketing district.

The request was suspended in December, but then was recommended for approval this week.

SDG&E spokeswoman Amber Albrecht said the company is looking over the CPUC's decision approving the plan for the independent district to make sure it "meets the purpose" of the plan "to support a more robust conversation about the region’s energy future.”

“The CPUC rules limit the ability for policymakers and customers to be able to consider all views and all options, as well as the potential implications as these important and far-reaching issues are considered," she said. "The compliance plan will support the inclusion of more stakeholders to ensure a more robust and well-informed discussion in the future.”

Nicole Capretz, director of the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign, has been lobbying for San Diego to adopt community choice.

"SDG&E has decided to fight against the city of San Diego and their 100 percent clean energy goal. They've decided to fight against the community, and they've decided to fight against families and their ability to have choice," Capretz said.

Community choice would allow residents to have a say in "who supplies their electricity and have local control, and have lower rates and have more clean energy," she said.

San Diego is considering switching to community choice as a way of using only renewable energy by 2035, a goal in Mayor Kevin Faulconer's Climate Action Plan, which the City Council adopted.

Currently, SDG&E purchases energy for all the residents and businesses in San Diego. Under community choice, the city would make those purchasing decisions and set rates, giving it control over where the energy comes from and how much it costs.

SDG&E recently announced that 35 percent of its energy came from renewable sources last year.

Local cities and elected officials, including Del Mar, Solana Beach and San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, sent letters to the CPUC protesting SDG&E's request to form the independent district.

Del Mar recently approved a climate plan that includes community choice, and Solana Beach plans this month to begin studying whether it wants to use community choice.

Jacob wrote she believes community choice "provides the best prospect for keeping energy costs down," and that SDG&E's independent district "is an obvious and clear way to skirt state law just as (community choice aggregation) is gaining momentum throughout the state."

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