San Diego has ambitious plans to fight climate change. The plan depends on getting all electricity from renewable resources.
That could set up a showdown between the city and Sempra Energy, the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric. SDG&E gets most of its electricity by burning natural gas.
Unless the company stops selling gas-fired power within city limits, the city could begin buying power for its 1.4 million residents from someone else. In doing so, the city would become a community choice aggregator, or CCA.
That dumb, confusing name masks a simple concept and a big debate: The city government and a Fortune 500 company are on a collision course. The cost, reliability and environmental consequences of everyone’s electricity is on the line.
Here’s an FAQ to get you caught up.
Why does the city care about electricity anyway?
State and local governments are trying to fight climate change, even if the federal government won’t. Since fossil fuel-fired electricity is a major source of greenhouse gases, these governments all seek to curb the use of coal and gas.
Support Independent Journalism Today
Terrible idea. Puts cities at risk of bankruptcy , adds another layer of bureaucracy and pays millions to administrators who will do what SDGE already does. SDGE still does all the work of delivering energy, delivering & collecting bills , CCA just acts as a financial broker ...remember ENRON? If this was really a good idea they would put it to a vote instead of forcing people to join against their will.
This is such a bad idea its scary its even being considered.
This city is incapable of managing street lights at this juncture .
Buying and selling power is a fast paced and complex business. We are being asked to trust a city government that can't even keep the roads paved, pay for the pensions it promised, and agreed to a ticket guarantee for the Chargers???? I was born at night, but it wasn't last night. No Thank you.
There's one other big reason Sempra doesn't like this. SDG&E makes money by building things (energy generating structures, delivery lines, etc.) It gets a guaranteed rate of return on construction and maintenance thereof. This is one reason SDG&E loves to build new plants and why their assertions that those plants are needed must be evaluated in context of their inherent conflict of interest in saying so. All SDG&E has to do is convince the Public Utility Commission that the plant, for example, is needed, and SDG&E can then build it and bill ratepayers with a guaranteed profit built in. As we have seen, the PUC is not always on the side of ratepayers. Community choice would potentially end any further need for SDG&E to build new plants or other infrastructure, and thus create new revenue sources. They would be guaranteed a profit on delivering electricity and on what they've already built, but future growth would essentially be curtailed. Fortune 500 companies hate the concept of a o growth model that only provides income (even guaranteed income) at a fixed level. That's the big reason, in my view, that Sempra is fighting this.
This will most likely lead to an electricity crisis like the deregulation of 1999 - 2000 .. you can't defeat the physics of electricity by any laws .. there is no technology today that can replace conventional baseload generation.
Is there any plan to allow individual neighborhoods to setup their own microgrids? Then if an Arizona electrical worker knocks out power to southern California again, neighborhoods with solar panels and grid-tie batteries could quickly turn their own power back on instead of waiting hours for SDG&E to do it.
"...Around this argument is an air of concern that the city might not know what it is doing."
That summarizes my concern. When I look back at some of the fiascos in recent memory and consider the city cannot seem to get on top of such seemingly straightforward problems as filling potholes and getting it's police staffing anywhere near it's authorized level, you really have to wonder.
A "Climate Action Plan" which sets a target of 100% of electricity coming from renewables 18 years from now is harmless political posturing by people who will be long gone when the goal is supposed to be met, but now it appears we need to take steps pretty soon to start implementing this scheme. Uh oh!