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County Board Of Supervisors Votes To Explore Getting Into The Energy Business

The San Diego County Supervisors pose for a photo after the swearing in new s...

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: The San Diego County Supervisors pose for a photo after the swearing in new supervisors Jim Desmond and Nathan Fletcher, Jan. 7,2019.

SDG&E is the only utility that provides electricity in unincorporated San Diego County. Tuesday, the county board of supervisors voted to look into the idea of creating its own community choice energy program, which could offer competition.

"It allows communities to band together to buy and sell electricity and opens the door to competition," said San Diego County Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob.

The approved proposal was not the one the board started with. Jacob and Supervisor Nathan Fletcher originally proposed developing a community choice energy program by October, then looking at steps for implementing it. But Supervisors Greg Cox, Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar expressed opposition to creating and implementing an energy program without first seeing results of a feasibility study.

"I’m not really excited about getting into a new line of business that we don’t know anything about," Cox said.

Desmond said he is in favor of cheaper electricity but wants to see all the costs of creating a community choice energy program.

"I like all the outcomes that everyone is talking about — but in the process, we don’t have anyone on staff that’s an energy guru," Desmond said. "We’d have to have — I’m not sure how many people we’d have to hire and how many people would be coming in and the costs of that implementation."

Gaspar wanted to see a business plan first.

"I’d hate to see us spend resources on something before we’ve come up with a business plan and before we’ve done a complete and thorough feasibility study," Gaspar said.

RELATED: City Council Moves To Establish Public-Sector Energy Provider

Jacob changed her proposal to developing “options” for a community choice energy program, got rid of the implementation part and included bringing back a business plan to the board by October. That version passed unanimously.

In the past, Jacob has proposed looking into a community choice energy program but was unable to get support from other supervisors. Now, Jacob said, "I think it is a possibility. The fact that we got a unanimous vote today, where two years ago my motion went nowhere."

The feasibility study will cost an estimated $125,000.

Jacob said a community choice energy program for the unincorporated county could offer lower prices than SDG&E.

"This is a good thing for consumers," Jacob said. "Competition — choice — that’s what it’s all about. And we think we can offer competitive if not lower prices."

The board will know for sure when the feasibility study is completed by October. Part of the action Tuesday also authorized county staff to speak with other cities that are looking at creating community choice energy programs to see if partnerships could be formed.

The board voted to look into creating a community choice energy program which would allow the county to buy its own electricity and decide where it comes from — which could lead to lower costs for ratepayers.

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