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Community Choice Aggregation Critics Want San Diego To Slow Down

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.
Community Choice Aggregation Critics Want San Diego To Slow Down
Community Choice Aggregation Critics Want San Diego To Slow Down GUESTS: Ruben Barrales, president, Latino Leadership & Policy Forum Lani Lutar, president, Responsible Solutions

There are two supporters it is a question of local control and lower costs and for critics it is a question of financial risk and government control. Late last week the critics of San Diego's moved to our community choice energy took center stage by forming a coalition. A question whether allowing San Diego's municipal government to acquire powers separately from San Diego electric would benefit consumers. San Diego recently released a result of a feasibility study which found it was possible for the city to reach its ambitious climate action goals by switching to community choice energy plan 20 Mayor to members of the newly formed Clear the air coalition, ribbon paralysis president of Latino and policy form, welcome, and Lonnie Lutar is past president of the San Diego County taxpayers Association, welcome. Thank you. Besides the two of you other members of the clear the air coalition include Jerry Sanders of the Sandia Chamber of Commerce, Frank Ertesin so Ruben what is the goal of the clear the air coalition? The goal is to help the city to get to its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in San Diego and they are ambitiously looking at 100% goal. The challenges are that we don't want to put taxpayers at risk financially and end up with another issue like we had with the pension crisis in San Diego. We are concerned about the risk this particular plan has in mind so I want to make their we all want to achieve 100% renewable energy sources but it is a question of how you get there without risking San Diego taxpayers potentially billions of dollars. Lonnie the city released a report this summer showing that community choice aggregation to help the city meet its climate action plan goals. Using the report got it wrong? The city looked at three scenarios and two of them do not get to 100%, the third one claims to get to 100% but in the cities reported also says that the eco-choice program which is 100% renewable program would be cheaper. It begs the question of if you're going have the city opt all of its residents into a program and you have an offering of a cheaper alternative you can bet on the fact that people will go back to us TG any which no longer makes this a viable option. A lot of these are moving targets at this point. In the press release you talked about the risk of exit fees and that is how much utilities would charge San Diego if we got out of our contract by energy from them and switch to community choice energy instead. It is being recalculated by state regulators now and this is what climate action campaign Executive Director Nicole Ritz said. The reality about the exit fee is it is always being recalculated. That is a, proceeding and approach the happens at the state level. That is not stopping any other community from watching and you have LA County, of the city of San Jose, you have Riverside County, and so on, all of these other agencies and regions are moving forward at the same time as these proceedings and this is just another business expense you calculate and your business plan. It is not a reason to delay moving forward. You found that amusing Ruben so tell us why. Again San Diego has a unique history, again look at the pension crisis which was considered just another business decision, that really labeled San Diego as Enron by the sea. We've learned something by that. The challenge here is recalculation could cost billions of dollars to these municipalities and it is not something to be taken lightly. A challenge is it is well-intentioned but not necessarily well thought out and it could leave us with my more expensive energy bill and less green which is a whole other topic in terms of whether or not this approach gets is closer to 100% renewable energy. Lonnie the city of San Diego has not committed to committee choice aggregation and is planning a second phase of evaluation beginning in January. Does your group oppose moving forward even on that further study? Again, the clear the air coalition is not opposed to CCA but what we do feel is absolutely critical is before we spend additional taxpayer funds on this issue we ought to have all the facts right now the cost are unknown. The city's own study shows taxpayers could be on the hook by $2.8 million. Let me repeat, 2.8 $2.8 billion if things do not go as planned with the costs involved in government controlled energy. This is why we think that we need to just pause and make sure what the cost will be in there should not be secret modeling being used by the city's consultants, that should be transparent and there should be accountability over what went into the study. And once we have all the facts it would be appropriate to move forward because Ruben and I and all the members of the coalition care about San Diego and we care about the environment, this is not about being opposed to CCA but about making sure we do it right. But apparently you are to opposed to further study? We are opposed in moving forward without having costs be known and have the be clear. And to further address one of the points Ruben was making about the exit fee issue, in other jurisdictions, yes the costs are evaluated on an annual basis, at PG&E this as if he's went up 400% in the past five years alone and meanwhile where the city study that looks at these cost going up on an annual basis of 10%. At that 10% estimate they are saying that taxpayers would be on the hook to point to $.8 billion. The reality is we could be looking at a figure that is much greater in terms of where this could but the city. That is what we are concerned about. Once the costs are known we think it would be appropriate for our mayor and the city Council to make a decision. Now SEMPRA as part of this and is involved with almost all members of the clear the air coalition and is that a problem for the integrity? I don't think so because this is the same coalition were many got together to help with the Sunrise PowerLink Transmission line which was bringing renewable energy to San Diego. Basically we want to see more renewable energy we want to reach an attainable goal of 100% renewable energy for San Diego. We want to make sure it is done in a way that does not end up costing San Diego and millions of dollars potentially and risking that for taxpayers. I have been speaking with Lonnie the president of the public relations firm responsible solutions and Ruben Barela's president of policy and form, thank you both. Thank you.

Critics of San Diego's move toward community choice aggregation have formed a coalition questioning a potential plan to let the city buy power separately from San Diego Gas & Electric.

The Clear the Air Coalition includes Ruben Barrales, president of the Latino Leadership & Policy Forum, Frank Urtasun, vice president of the lobbying arm of SDG&E’s parent company Sempra Energy, former Mayor Jerry Sanders, currently head of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and Lani Lutar, former President and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association who now heads the public relations firm, Responsible Solutions.

San Diego released the results of a feasibility study in July, which found it is possible for the city to reach its ambitious climate action goals by switching to a community choice energy plan.

RELATED: Local Businesses, Civic Leaders Form Group In Opposition Of Community Choice Energy

But the Clean the Air Coalition argues that because getting 100 percent renewable energy through community choice would be more expensive than SDG&E's plan, there would be “mass flight” from the CCA plan. Committee members are concerned the city will create a plan that ends up costing taxpayers more than the current system. They are asking the city council not to advance the next stage of the proposal in January: developing a business plan.

“Most customers aren’t going to pay more for energy they can get for less, so nothing modeled achieves the city’s Climate Action Plan goal of 100% renewable energy,” Coalition spokesman Tony Manolatos said.

Nicole Capretz, executive director of the Climate Action Campaign and supporter of CCA, said the coalition is merely trying to delay the city’s decision.

"Why would the city stop studying an opportunity to lower rates and increase clean energy and local jobs for San Diego families when the initial findings are so popular?," Capretz wrote in an email to KPBS.

Barralles and fellow coalition member Lutar join KPBS Midday with more on their skepticism about community choice aggregation.

Corrected:
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article said the coalition opposes CCA, they do not.