Taxpayer Group Seeks 'Community Choice' Data (Most Is Already Public)
The head of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association on Wednesday said he was seeking data relating to a city-commissioned study on community choice energy. Almost all the data used in the study is already public and in the study itself.
Haney Hong, SDCTA president and CEO, released a statement saying his organization supports the city's goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, and that community choice was one option to get there.
"We recently sent a letter to Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Council President (Myrtle) Cole requesting staff release their assumptions and modeling strategies for the draft feasibility study, so the public can accurately assess its findings," the statement read. "A cornerstone of this evaluation is transparency."
Fifty-five pages of the city's community choice feasibility study, released in July, are dedicated to its methodology and assumptions. They contain an exhaustive analysis of historical load and price data from SDG&E and explanations for how that data was used to forecast future demand. It also details many of the assumptions made based on data from some of the state's existing community choice programs.
Community choice programs allow cities and counties to purchase energy for homes and businesses directly from energy producers. Utilities still deliver the electricity to customers, and make money off of that delivery, through the existing grid. Customers can also opt out of the program and continue to receive electricity bought by the utility.
The city's feasibility study found that community choice could eventually offer ratepayers in the city cheaper and cleaner energy than SDG&E, and could invest more money in the local economy. Some variables could make the program more expensive, however, and the taxpayers association has highlighted the study's worst-case scenario in its communications on the study.
In an email, SDCTA policy analyst Cameron Gyorffy clarified the group was seeking a customized Microsoft Excel spreadsheet used by the study's authors to estimate future electricity costs.
"We feel that this spreadsheet is crucial to understanding the results of the feasibility study," he said. "Without this data, it is hard to test the report's assumptions to ensure they are consistent and applied in a generally accepted manner."
The Excel spreadsheet is proprietary and belongs to the consulting group that authored the study, Willdan Financial Services. It also contains customer data that SDG&E required the study's authors to keep secret.
Nicole Capretz, executive director of the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign, said the taxpayers association was trying to sow doubt in the study.
"The feasibility study done by the city was rigorous, used extremely conservative assumptions and was peer-reviewed by independent experts," she said. "The city followed the protocol used by every local government considering community choice."
Hong said he was not trying to sow doubt but rather wanted to work with city staffers to better understand the study's assumptions.
"If there's stuff that's, for instance, in the feasibility study that's already there, well then let's draw that out of the study," he said.
San Diego is considering adopting community choice as part of its 2015 Climate Action Plan, which binds the city to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. SDG&E's parent company, Sempra Energy, formed a group to lobby on the program.
Both SDG&E and Sempra Energy have seats on the taxpayers association board of directors.