CARLSBAD — A regional Community Choice Aggregation program has cleared a critical hurdle paving the way to begin providing alternative energy services to residents of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Carlsbad as early as next spring.
The Clean Energy Alliance’s implementation plan, which establishes the organization’s key functions, including rates and power sourcing, was recently certified by the California Public Utilities Commission and announced on April 1.
The three North County cities entered into a joint powers agreement last year to split the start-up costs evenly. The program is a pathway to a 100% renewable energy supply by 2035, although the program will begin with 50% renewable and clean energy sources.
CEA Chairwoman and Carlsbad Councilwoman Cori Schumacher said the board will also discuss at its April 16 meeting and the following two potential programs, energy phase-in along with budgeting and staffing expectations.
With the three cities, 58,000 residents will be automatically enrolled into the new program. Those who do not want to participate can opt-out and stay with San Diego Gas & Electric.
“For us, we’re going to be transitioning the 58,000 potential customers in one phase, whereas the other JPA is, I think, three phases,” Schumacher said. “Over the next three meetings, we’re going to be talking programs, the types of options above and beyond the 50% renewable energy baseline and setting the tone for the next five years.”
The CEA board, which consists of Schumacher, Del Mar Mayor Ellie Haviland and Solana Beach Councilwoman Kristi Becker, have also approved a number of positions for the CEA, including naming Barbara Boswell of Bayshore Consulting Group as chief executive officer until June; River City Bank for banking services; Pacific Energy Advisors for technical consulting; and Calpine Energy Solutions for data management and call center services.
The budget for Fiscal Year 2019-20 is projected at $450,000 and jumps to nearly $4 million for 2020-21. And while cities are taking a big financial hit due to the pandemic, Haviland said the startup funds have already been secured.
Rates from CEA, though, are expected to come in about 2% lower than SDG&E, according to the plan.
Schumacher, though, said the long-term benefits of the CCAs are important to tackle climate change and the impending global recession.
With finite financial resources, or inaction, by federal or state leaders, she said local municipalities will be on the front lines of pulling the country out of the recession.
Haviland and Schumacher both said it is important to push forward, as the CEA will be an economic engine for the three cities.
“This is a really tough time for all the cities,” Haviland said. “The Clean Energy Alliance is even more important now. This is an opportunity to provide funding down the road for these clean energy projects and it’s a source of funding not dependent on TOT (transient occupancy tax) or sales tax.”
To date, nearly every city in San Diego County has joined a CCA program or conducted (or is conducting) a feasibility study. Oceanside and Encinitas joined Carlsbad and Del Mar in their study; although Oceanside has not joined a CCA and Encinitas joined the San Diego Community Power JPA with the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and La Mesa.
San Diego County has also decided to move forward, along with Santee, although those municipalities have not joined a JPA. Escondido, San Marcos and Vista are currently finalizing their study, but the COVID-19 pandemic and financial fallout may push back their entry into any JPA, Schumacher said.
Note: The CEA is at 2 p.m. April 16 and plans to stream the meeting in progress.