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Carlsbad To Share Cost Of Community Choice Energy Study

Carlsbad City Hall, Aug. 25, 2015.
Alison St John
Carlsbad City Hall, Aug. 25, 2015.
Carlsbad To Share Cost Of Community Choice Energy Study
Carlsbad To Share Cost Of Community Choice Energy Study GUEST: Alison St John, North County reporter, KPBS

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh for more than two years the city of San Diego has been considering switching at their way to buy energy. Tomorrow is the big day in that process. Is that he will come out showing if it is feasible. The study is expected to show if it would be cheaper or expensive or cost about the same. Claire explains what that means. Every day multiple times a day you may turn on a lamp or the TV or perhaps run your vacuum. We probably don't give any thought to where the electricity comes from. Travels your house from a series of power lines but what about before that question mark where does it originate? The answer could soon change for many in San Diego county. That is because of a very bulky term community choice aggregation. There's a big political battle brewing over it which we will get two. First what does it mean? Right now the gas and electric provides power through the system of lines and wires to every city in San Diego. They buy the electricity from a variety of sources including natural gas plants, and farms. Community choice aggregation is a different kind of program. If the city goes with coming to choice power would still go through the SDG&E grid in your electric bill would still come from SDG&E. The differences the city would make the decisions on where to buy the energy from instead of SDG&E. This allows it is to have more control over how much of the energy comes from your bull sources, which would help them reach a goal of using 1% renewable energy. Several cities have also consider moving forward with coming to choice. Solana Beach decided to try out the program. San Diego is ahead of the curve trying to reach the long-term goal of 100% renewable energy. We are excited for this. Nicole has been working on community choice aggregation for a long time. She runs the advocacy group. This is probably back in 2013 when I first heard community choice emerging as one of these climate change solutions that everyone was talking about. They wrote the original version of the climate action plan and included community choice. She's been waiting for the results of this study for a long time. The city contracted and paid for. We expect to have confirmed that community choice is a viable and visible program model for the city of San Diego that will save all customers rates and that will allow us to have local control. They declined to be interviewed about the study until it comes out. They say once the results are public she expects to spend the next four months battling with the utility to convince them committee choice is a way to go. In our mind, our utility has decided to fight the cities decision to potentially move forward with an alternative energy program model. At the same time the city is considering other options for how to reach the 100% goal. There is no silver bullet. She is the manager who's in charge of making sure that the city reaches that goal. It's going to take creativity and a lot of being open to new ideas. The city will get alternative proposals this month and review them. They will hold workshops to inform residents about potential energy changes in the city Council will vote on whether to go with community choice this January. While we await the city of San Diego's feasibility study on community choice aggregation, cities and North County are considering sharing the cost of one feasibility study. Last night the city of Carlsbad voted for the plant. Joining me as Alison St John. I to be here. Why one regional study instead of separate city studies in the North County? A sickly it is a cost-sharing to save the city money. The cost has come down in recent months from over 200,000 to probably about 100,000. These are fairly small cities. They are deciding to split the cost between them. What happened at the meeting last night? There was no opposition at all. The item came up at the end of a long meeting and everybody that were in favor stayed to the end. The people said we are probably all going to vote for this. So at 11:00 tonight one stood up and said I represent 600 residents and 70 businesses who are in favor of this idea. The board proceeded to go ahead and vote in favor of the plan. When the county Board of Supervisors rejected the idea of financing, the same study to find out if it was a cost-effective to buy its own sustainable energy. Many people pointed to law bring for -- pointed to lobbying. We know that SDG&E has lobbied very successfully to stop previous efforts. Some years ago they are always going to be a big contributor to anyone's political campaign and there are people in North County who are running for -- we have supervisors place coming up next year. So we have politicians running for that and they are bound to be looking to SDG&E for some support. It is not a SDG&E interest for this to happen because it's competition for them . However, Carlsbad did make a point that they wanted to work in collaboration with SDG&E if they decide to put this in the place. Carlsbad voted yes to join this multicity effort for community choice aggregation study. Solana Beach has voted to finance its own feasibility study. Is there any chance that it may be able to pull out of that agreement get on board with the study? I think at this point they are so much ahead of the game and completed the study and decided it is a good idea. They signed contracts with two contractors to start getting it set up. It could start operation in the next year or so. Solana Beach is very environmentally ahead of the game. They were the first cities and send Eagle County to ban plastic bags and others have followed. They are now off and running with community choice energy. I think a lot of people are watching to see how it works. They could eventually decide to merge with the other cities as it turns out that they could all save money that way. At the moment they seem to be finding a way to do it on their own. Can you tell us -- I know you mentioned about which cities have now agreed to work together on this study? So Del Mar voted first and then Encinitas and then now Carlsbad. I think Carlsbad boat was significant because that is a tipping point like three cities have said yes we are going for this. The fourth as Oceanside, which has not yet scheduled of both. Their political situation is tricky at the moment because of the mayor. He is indisposed and not able to vote for the next month or two. Is unclear whether the three votes are in Oceanside. Even without Oceanside Carlsbad decided to go ahead of saying we will only go ahead if we have to pay $30,000 and that would involve a commitment from Oceanside but said they said we will go ahead even if Oceanside does not get on board, we will pay up to $60,000 for the study. As we just heard there are other cities in California that have established community choice aggregation energy programs. Any idea if there are regional programs like the kind that could be set up in the North County? I have not heard of any. There are nine other cities San Jose is on board. This could be a bit of a breaking of the mold in smaller cities discovering a new way of working together to cut their own cost. You need to have enough customers to make this thing worth it and if any opt out, that could undermine the cost-effectiveness of the whole plan. Do you recall North County cities ever collaborating on any kind of issue like this before? It is interesting. We've seen the 78 cities Vista, Escondido, Oceanside come together on innovate 78. I think this is indicative of the fact that people are realizing the numbers in smaller cities are seeing the benefit of coming together. The coastal cities are different from that 78 cities. They are more liberal environmentally in the fact that they are looking at cooperating on community choice imaging is an indication of a different approach that the coastal cities and North County have from the cities along the 70 quarter. I've been speaking with Alison St John. Thank you. My pleasure.

Carlsbad is the fourth North County city to agree to consider the feasibility of Community Choice Energy.

Carlsbad City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to join other North County coastal cities and start exploring the feasibility of buying energy from cleaner sources of power.

Community Choice Energy, or Community Choice Aggregation as it is sometimes called, would give cities more choice of how the energy they buy is generated, though SDG&E transmission lines would continue to bring that energy to homes and businesses.


The Carlsbad council voted unanimously to pay a maximum of $60,000 as its share of a $100,000 technical study into whether Community Choice Energy would be cheaper and use cleaner energy. The decision is significant because it means Carlsbad is willing to take part, even if neighboring Oceanside does not vote to contribute to the study.

RELATED: Battle Over San Diego’s Energy Future Will Heat Up Soon

The Sierra Club mobilized support for the measure: more than 600 Carlsbad residents and 70 businesses signed on in favor of exploring the options.

The cities of Del Mar and Encinitas have already voted to share the cost of a feasibility study. Encinitas has agreed to look for contractors to do perform the study.

Solana Beach has already completed a study and hired contractors last May to start setting up a Community Choice program.


Ryan Jubela owns Masters Kitchen, a restaurant in Oceanside. He supports studying whether community choice energy could benefit businesses like his.

“It definitely could help with the fossil fuels being burned, it also helps with costs with me doing business,” he said. “I just think all around it’s a good idea to check and see if it actually can work, and if it’s something that the community can move forward with.”

Oceanside City Councilman Jerry Kern said he has serious questions about whether a Community Choice energy contract would be in the long-term best interests of the city, since ratepayers will be on the hook to pay for natural gas power plants SDG&E has committed to, whether they use the energy or not. Kern said he would be in favor of finding out more information about Community Choice Energy, before making any commitments.

Oceanside has already collected some of the data from SDG&E necessary to conduct a feasibility study.

The earliest Oceanside City Council could vote on the issue is August.

The results of the city of San Diego's feasibility study are due out Wednesday.

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