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    The City Council is taking a vote Thursday to tell Mayor Kevin Faulconer it really, really wants him to get cracking on passing the Climate Action Plan.

    The plan is basically a bundle of policies meant to get the city to cut 49 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. It was aggressively pushed by Council President Todd Gloria when he served as interim mayor, and the Council is holding a vote to reiterate that it likes the plan and wants to see it approved. Soon.

    Faulconer’s staff has responded by matter-of-factly saying: Yeah, relax, we’re working on it.

    “(The mayor) has taken multiple steps to make sure it reaches a public hearing in spring of 2015, which is the same timeframe that was expected under the prior, interim administration,” said Mike Hansen, Faulconer’s head staffer on land use and environmental policy, at a July 23 committee hearing.

    The plan would, among other things, set up steps to get the city to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, with an emphasis on local sources.

    Meeting that goal requires something called Community Choice Aggregation. Advocates consider it the plan’s most important and essential element.

    It’s also pretty complicated. Here are some basics.

    What Is It?

    Community Choice Aggregation is meant to give residents a chance to use more renewable energy in their homes, rather than just having to use whatever type of energy San Diego Gas & Electric gives them.

    Under a 2002 state law, cities and counties are allowed to form organizations called Community Choice Aggregators, or CCAs, that are technically independent entities but have a board of directors often composed of the City Council members or county supervisors in the jurisdiction it covers.

    Those organizations then go out into the energy market and buy enough energy from companies that sell it to provide for all their residents.

    Then residents can choose from a few energy packages based on price and the share of renewable sources within it. Someone to whom the environment is very important could opt for all renewable energy. A similar person on a tighter budget could choose a package with 50 percent renewable energy.  They could also opt out of the CCA and stay with the previous utility provider.

    Energy delivery would still be handled by San Diego Gas & Electric. The energy would still run through their existing distribution system, they’d still handle billing and they’d still respond to outages.

    The idea is that by taking the buying power of 1.3 million people, the city can negotiate really low rates with an electricity company that would like to get a piece of all those customers.

    And, it can do so while giving those residents a choice to use cleaner energy sources.

    State law says SDG&E needs to provide 33 percent of its power through renewable energy by 2020, which it’s on track to do.

    But the Climate Action Plan sets a goal of 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. And since the city can’t dictate to SDG&E what type of energy it uses, it says it needs to take the job over for itself.

    Where Else Is This Happening?

    There are CCAs in Sonoma and Marin Counties already, and the city of Richmond joined Marin’s CCA after it was up and running. That could happen here too: once set up, Lemon Grove, Coronado or some other city could decide to join.

    Six states have authorized CCAs or something similar, including Illinois, where Chicago has had one in place since 2012.

    What’s Next?

    There’s a feasibility study going on right now that would look into basic stuff, like making sure setting up a CCA can actually save money and provide for a more diverse mix of energy sources. That’s a necessary step before the city can establish a CCA at all. The goal in the Climate Action Plan is to have one set up by 2020.

    The feasibility study is being done by a private group, but the city could sign on to it or pay for one of its own.

    The entire Climate Action Plan itself still needs to go through environmental review before it’s eligible for a City Council vote. The mayor’s office says it intends to hire a consultant to run the environmental review this fall so it can have a public vote by spring, but the Council is getting antsy and wants evidence the process is moving.

    Meanwhile, there’s a bill in Sacramento that could weaken the whole thing. Right now, state law says when a new CCA is set up, residents of the jurisdiction are automatically part of it, unless they opt out. A law working its way through the state house pushed by Democrats in the Assembly would have flipped that, and make it so you have to opt in to the program.

    Since that would have required an extra level of participation, it would have meant CCAs losing one of their primary strengths: the huge buying power that comes with having so many customers.

    That part of the bill has been removed, however, and now it’s focused on increasing the amount of disclosure CCAs need to make about their energy sources.

    San Diego’s Toni Atkins, speaker of the Assembly, favors the legislation, and says it will force CCAs into being more transparent.

    “California CCAs could legally tell their customers that they are providing green power when in fact most of the energy could be from non-(renewable sources),” she wrote in a letter to CCA-supporting constituents.

    Advocates are still concerned, however, saying the bill would now force CCAs to provide customers who ask with specific rate quotes for five years, while normal utilities could provide projections.

    But for now, the City Council is here to publicly remind you that it would really like to get this show on the road.

    Correction: This post initially misstated the current state of AB 2145, the state law that could add new regulations on CCAs.

      This article relates to: City Council, Climate Action Plan, Corrections, News, Share

      Written by Andrew Keatts

      I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

      25 comments
      BruceW
      BruceW subscriber

      AB2145 was DEFEATED on August 30th in the CA Senate when it couldn't find a presenter because all Senators knew it was a very bad bill that would hurt you, the ratepayers.

      You guys assume you know what is going on but you don't. Its typical when you sense some kind of government encroachment thinking you'll get taxed to death. With SDG&E you are and completely. All this fear mongering is quite tiresome and useless.

      CCA is a good thing.

      First of all, the private utilities will never give you a choice so just get that out of your heads. Its not like the cable companies because private utilities just want to control it all because they know the day will come where local (solar/wind on your home) and public (municipal) energy generation projects will happen providing local consumption instead of larger grid consumption.

      Second, just read the law that created CCA and stop making assumptions.

      Third, CCAs primary mission and purpose is completely opposite of the private monopolistic utities. CCA seeks to provide you with stable, cheaper and cleaner rates obtaining the same electriciry from the same suppliers that SDG&E gets theirs from. Plus, municipalities can also choose other alternative sources like geothermal, wave/tidal, solar and wind.

      Instead of making these bonehead assumptions just to try changing public opinion try thinking about how much you pay SDG&E over the past decade and how they get to adjust your rates 2-3 times per month and you'll never know it happening under your nose.

      Also, did you know that PG&E tried to get its ratepayers to foot the bill to fix the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion disaster that destroyed an entire neighborhood?

      Also, did you know PG&E on behalf of SDG&E and SoCal Edison foisted Proposition 16 in 2010 and spent $46million, the largest most expensive campaign in CA history, and then went to the CA PUC to raise rates to get reimburses for that campaign?

      C'mon guys, get your heads out of the sand and feet back onto earthly reality.

      CCA will not just help save our air and atmosphere but also reduce your electric bill and leave you with some extra bucks at the end of every month.

      CCA is a good thing.

      Mark Giffin
      Mark Giffin subscribermember

      Government being in the business of purchasing energy especially "green energy" is not necessarily a good thing especially since its tied to a climate action plan.

      Does anyone care that this will likely make consumer energy costs go up significantly? 

      Does anyone question the wisdom of having amateurs buying contracts in the energy markets?

      Is anyone concerned about government supplying energy with an objective that does not include value to the consumer?

      This whole climate action plan, particularly the property mandates, is a further creep into the rights and liberties of the taxpayers and consumers.

      Obviously the democrats on the council do not have much regard for rights and liberties in this regard. They seem perfectly comfortable walking into ones front door with mandates.


      Matty Azure
      Matty Azure subscriber

      Ha, ha.  Good luck.

      Signed,

      SDGE

      Mike
      Mike subscriber

      Upstate NY has a program like this where National Grid (the local power company) would allow every resident a choice on default power, half renewable power, or full renewable power. The rates are different for each. You check a box and that's it. Everything is still delivered the same way. There's no need to change anything on the house. All the billling remains exactly the same way. Super easy and convenient. On top of all that the price difference was insignificant on my monthly power bill. I really liked it. Most of the NY renewables were hydro with some wind and a tiny bit solar. CA may have a different mix and different costs.

      Daria Flores
      Daria Flores subscribermember

      AB2145 is clearly an attempt to undermine competition for the utility companies. Our State Assembly members should have figured this out and defeated the bill.Instead, they all (except Shirley Weber who abstained) voted for its passage.


      The obvious question is what was really behind their votes for AB2145 when this legislation would clearly be at the expense of  the environmental goals of San Diego as well as those of the state?  Hopefully when San Diego's State Senators vote, their votes will be more representative of our interests.


      Masada Disenhouse
      Masada Disenhouse subscriber

      Thank you VOSD for explaining about community choice energy and how it could benefit San Diegans. Seems like a no-brainer for San Diego to adopt this system which has provided cities across the country with a higher percentage of clean energy  while keeping rates constant for residents and businesses.... hope they move forward with this quickly. 

      Lane Sharman
      Lane Sharman subscriber

      Good article ... AB 2145 is bad law because it places a local community-based energy district on the same regulatory footing as an Investor-Owned Utility. It would be like having to go before the CPUC to file a complaint against your local water district or school. Further, CCAs are regulated by the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act. All transactions within a CCA are public, unlike the IOUs who can hide specifics as they do regularly with their power transactions.


      As a founder of the San Diego Energy District Foundation, I applaud all San Diegans who take stock in their energy future. It is a tale of two cities. On the one hand, there is SDG&E. On the other, there is the power of, by and for the people. If you are part of this group, the time is now to make your voice heard in every city hall: it is time for energy choice and competition leading to a better future for all. Ask for CCA to be placed on a fast-track.

      Mark Giffin
      Mark Giffin subscribermember

      Andrew.

      "The feasibility study is being done by a private group, but the city could sign on to it or pay for one of its own."

      Any idea who the private group is?

      Diane Lesher
      Diane Lesher subscriber

      Excellent article. We need more information on climate change, how it's impacting us right now, and what the city of San Diego is doing to address it. We have to move away from fossil fuels and utilities that still use them, as quickly as possible. Implementing a CCA will bring more jobs, a cleaner environment, and as the residents of Marin and Sonoma have discovered, a drop in their electricity rates. What could ever be wrong with this picture?


      Also, to give an update, the opt-in portion of AB 2145 was dropped from the bill. Please call and write to your State representatives and tell them to vote NO on this bill. There's no reason for it except to keep the current utilities in charge and reaping in their millions; And what utility customer wants that?

      Simon Mayeski
      Simon Mayeski subscribermember

      A very important topic and one well described - thanks Andrew and VOSD.


      A San Diego CCA is a  very important part of our next Climate Action Plan, one of several pieces that together help us get to a clean energy future. Why California state legislators and Democrats in particular are trying to gum up the works and make an already-existing good piece of law weaker, more complicated and less effective (see AB2145) are mysteries to me. (Campaign contributions and making a few more fossil-fuel, monopoly-energy-company plants' jobs available to labor come to mind, though, as possible reasons. Also, the author of the bill AB2145 IS a former executive at Southern California Edison. Hmmm.)  And Joan Raphael is correct; if transparency is what we want, that can be a much smaller and easier bill to pass without the additional hoops this bill tries to tack on to the existing CCA-empowering law.  There is a LOT more here than "transparency" being added to the mix.


      Long term - forget long term, we are seeing the effects of climate change here and now, today - we ALL have to live in the climate we CHOOSE, and Community CHOICE Aggregation is something that should appeal to citizens of ALL political stripes. San Diego needs a Climate Action Plan with some teeth.  We have that on the table right now, and we hope that VOSD stays in focus on this Plan as it moves through the City Council and Mayor's office.

      Joan Raphael
      Joan Raphael subscriber

      Thank you Andrew for writing about this important topic! I don't agree with Toni Atkins on the legislation. We can get the transparency she is after without making it an opt in system. Opt out is much less work for busy people and will automatically encourage people to join the CCA. 


      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      Why do conservatives nearly always ignore the external costs of energy consumption?

      Mike
      Mike subscriber

      I kinda agree with Mark Griffin here. Why can't I just choose, for myself, what type of energy to buy? Why do I have to go along with the whole city? I can imagine a system where SDG&E acts like the cable company. I pick which channels to watch and it serves it up. I just pay for whatever I'm subscribing to. If SDG&E can use its power purchasing prowess to set up such a system, then each household can vote with their own wallet on what kind of power to buy. Other cities have already been using such systems. This is not an earth shattering new concept.

      Mark Giffin
      Mark Giffin subscribermember

      @Derek Hofmann 

      Derek. You wish to pay a premium then do so.

      I prefer relative value and The entity I purchase it from to have a clear objective of cost.

      My concern is my direct cost.

      What concerns me about this whole climate action plan is there does not seem to be any concern about cost. Just power, control and agenda.

      I would think that would be a concern for all energy consumers.

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @Mark Giffin "My concern is my direct cost."

      It's natural to want to ignore any costs you impose on others against their will, such as pollution. But besides being unjust, not recovering these costs makes the market inefficient, just like monopolies, information asymmetries, and other market failures.

      Mark Giffin
      Mark Giffin subscribermember

      @Derek Hofmann @Mark Giffin 

      " It's natural to want to ignore any costs you impose on others"

      ROFL Derek.

      Obviously its my fault.

      Sorry. I don't buy into this collective guilt like these measures will amount to anything but a nat on a elephants butt. The likes of Gloria use it to pass these measures that have more to do with power and control than any practical effect on "global warming".

      No one argues about the importance of being good stewards of the environment but cutting ones foot off because of a sore toe is ridiculous.


      Mark Giffin
      Mark Giffin subscribermember

      @Derek Hofmann @Mark Giffin 

      I don't believe in taxes for a cause that have little to no affect except increase taxes.

      Paying increased energy costs or giving up my property rights that accomplish little or nothing is a fools game. Plenty of fools buy the argument.

      I don't.

      Cap and trade is a perfect example. 

      Funds going to actually go towards the goal of reducing emissions or simply be a slush fund for pet projects?

      Or to balance the state budget? Brown did that one first year.

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @Mark Giffin "taxes for a cause that have little to no affect"

      Do you have any proof to support your claim that demand for energy is perfectly inelastic? You might discuss your theory with someone who understands supply and demand well enough to read a demand curve.


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