The Coast News Group
The program aims to help the state meet its climate goals. Courtesy photo
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Clean Energy Alliance launches May 1

REGION — On May 1, a new energy service launches for residents of Carlsbad, Del Mar and Solana Beach.

Residents in each city are automatically enrolled in the Clean Energy Alliance, although most customers, including most businesses, will not start their service until after their May billing cycle with San Diego Gas & Electric, according to Barbara Boswell, interim executive director of the CEA.

CEA is a Community Choice Aggregation program designed to bring renewable and clean energy to help the state meet its climate goals.

“When a customer switches from SDG&E to CEA, there is no change to them in their electricity,” Boswell said. “Their energy is coming from what we’ve procured and their billing will be at our rates.”

All three cities approved the Clean Impact Plus product, a 50% renewable energy and 75% carbon-free product, which will save customers 0.9% compared to SDG&E for 2021, Boswell said. CEA will save customers 2% on generation costs compared to SDG&E.

Customers can also opt up, down or out of the CEA altogether. Opting down to the Clean Impact product (50% renewable energy) will save 0.6%, while opting up to the Green Impact program (100% renewable) will cost more than SDG&E, which caused debate among the Carlsbad City Council several weeks ago for not hitting a 2% total bill savings.

Additionally, Boswell said customers with solar panels will still be able to participate in the net energy metering (NEM) program through CEA. She said most the NEM customers will enroll in May with the remaining coming on in June.

Also, rebates and incentives for electric vehicles and medical baseline discounts are still available with CEA, Boswell said.

As far as opting out, customers have 60 days after the May 1 launch to do so without penalty, she added. According to Sara Prince, communications manager for SDG&E, those who opt out after 60 days would incur a cost of $1.12 per account.

She said customers returning to SDG&E after 60 days must give a six-month notice to SDG&E, although a customer can apply for a waiver for an immediate return. If granted, they must stay with SDG&E for six months in its transitional bundle package, which provides market-rate energy costs, and then are committed to an additional six months of service from SDG&E, Prince said.

“Customers should contact their CCA directly for any particulars of CCA service,” Prince said. “The opt out procedure is not SDG&E’s process.”

CEA Chairwoman Kristi Becker of Solana Beach, said the agency will bring cleaner energy and choice to Carlsbad and Del Mar, while continuing the same cleaner energy mix for Solana Beach. She said the Solana Energy Alliance, the region’s first CCA and launched in 2018, was able to avoid 10,500 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions its first year and accomplish 100% carbon free energy in 2019.

As for the budget, the CEA is projecting at $12.2 million with an expected $1.9 million net surplus.

The CEA board and Boswell have detailed a plan to slowly build its reserve account as the business stabilizes. Becker said once CEA is steady, it can then invest in the development of programs such as community solar, feed-in-tariffs and energy efficiency.

Becker also championed the board’s autonomy from SDG&E, although CEA is not required to submit rate increases through the California Public Utilities Commission. The CEA board can increase or decrease rates on its own, according to the board governance.

“If customers are not happy with CEA, they can speak to the board, made up of their elected officials, bringing more accountability in power supply and rates through local control while reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Becker said.

Meanwhile, customers currently enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy, which is for low-income customers and provides a 30% to 35% discount for electricity, can participate in the CEA, Boswell said.