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The Clean Energy Alliance consists of the cities of Carlsbad, Solana Beach and Del Mar, with a target goal of 100% clean and renewable energy by 2035. File photo
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Carlsbad denies CEA financing; project labor agreement raises concerns

REGION — Two spirited, and at times, heated debates broke out on July 23 and July 28 regarding the Clean Energy Alliance, its financing and proposed project labor agreement.

During its July 23 meeting, the board of newly formed CEA, a Community Choice Aggregation program, saw Vice Chairwoman Kristi Becker of Solana Beach push back on a proposal submitted by a labor union presented by Chairwoman Cori Schumacher to secure a PLA for CEA projects.

During the July 28 city of Carlsbad council meeting, the body denied a $4.45 million guaranty to secure financing the energy service provider. CEA consists of the cities of Carlsbad, Solana Beach and Del Mar, with a target goal of 100% clean and renewable energy by 2035.

“When you bring things up at the meeting that the public hasn’t had time to weigh in on, staff hasn’t had time to weigh in on, that doesn’t work,” Becker said of the additions to the PLA language in the workforce policy.

Altshuler Berzpn, a law firm in San Francisco, submitted a letter on behalf of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 569 on July 21 to the Clean Energy Alliance board.

The letter from the IDEW labor union was in regard to the CEA’s Inclusive and Sustainable Workforce Policy and includes language for a PLA and other edits from the original draft policy.

It took the CEA board by surprise during as the CEA has been in discussions with numerous municipalities about joining the CEA, according to Becker, CEA’s vice-chair. In fact, San Diego County and the city of Santee helped draft the joint powers agreement last year with an eye on joining CEA in the next several months or next year.

CEA has also been in discussions with other cities in North County and the potential population for the agency is more than 1 million. Becker said the policy including the PLA would sabotage CEA before it even launched, which is expected in May 2021.

She also said the reach of CEA could extend into Orange County, thus bringing on more ratepayers.

“If we want to grow and make sure we’re viable, there’s no reason to adopt this inflexible policy,” Becker said. “It was negotiated by the County and Santee they wanted certain language. We know for a fact they are not going to be interested. The 78 corridor — the same thing. I would like to have any one of those cities. The more cities come on board, the more clean energy jobs. If we’re limiting ourselves today, so I don’t know why you’d do that.”

Schumacher said the workforce policy is to ensure high standards and pay are met. She said also railed against the county and Santee as they have not committed to CEA saying, “they left us high and dry.” Schumacher asked to review the policy to find common ground, which the board will do in August.

She also took issue with the CEA staff and their recommendations for the board. Schumacher said staff is being biased with its recommendations and board members should be the ones to bring recommendations.

“Legal analysis should end at legal analysis and not come with additional recommendations,” she added. “It’s something I don’t find to be helpful. This is a pure policy decision. Unsolicited advice is not welcome in a forum where the public cannot weigh in.”

As for the Carlsbad City Council, Mayor Matt Hall and Councilman Keith Blackburn said the CEA’s failings in its business plan this early, lack of a certain launch date and that the city has never made a loan to another entity, are several reasons they didn’t support the guaranty of $2.45 million. Additionally, Hall didn’t feel the CEA guaranteed a 2% rate, another reason for his opposition to the proposal.

“We’ve guaranteed a 2% rate savings and I can’t look anyone in the eye and say we’ll meet that,” he added. “I can only look at Solana Beach’s example and what they’ve been through the last two years and continue to struggle.”

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