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The Oceanside and Del Mar city councils will hear their respective presentations next week. Courtesy photo
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Higher exit fees ‘not a fatal blow’ to alternative energy providers

REGION — A recent ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission levies higher exit fees for those using or wanting to join Community Choice Alternative energy providers.

Mayors and political leaders throughout the state condemned the approval, which was brought by Commissioner Carla Peterman, seeing the commission as being too cozy with utilities and their lobbying efforts.

Exit fees, otherwise known as the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment, will rise from 2.5 cents per kilowatt per hour to 4.25 cents per kw/hour. The beneficiaries, according to media reports, are San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Energy in Northern California.

Nicole Capretz, executive director of the Climate Action Campaign, said the ruling is not a big blow to ratepayers in San Diego County. Her organization is pushing cities to join CCA, noting Solana Beach was the first city in the county to do so earlier this year.

“For San Diego Gas & Electric, because they have these outlandish rates, that are completely out of step with the norm, the exit fee is not a fatal blow,” Capretz said. “We can move forward finally and join the rest of the state and offer this incredible opportunity.”

Carlsbad, Oceanside, Encinitas and Del Mar have all joined to finance a study about bringing a CCA through a joint powers agreement. In addition, the city of San Diego could be part of the JPA, Capretz said. The report is expected to be released in the next several months, according to Jason Haber, assistant to the city manager in Carlsbad.

Solana Energy Alliance is now the default energy provider in Solana Beach, which hopes to offer more consumer control and choice. Courtesy photo

Haber also said the four cities are recalculating some of the numbers due to the recent ruling by the California Public Utilities Commission. The feasibility study, he added, is just the first step in what is expected to be a long process to determine whether a CCA for an individual city such as Carlsbad, or through a JPA, would be worth the cost, among other aspects.

Currently, 160 municipalities in the state have a CCA, otherwise known as Community Choice Energy, serving 6 million residents. Capretz said the benefits are lower rates due to competition

“The fight’s not over,” she added. “Other Community Choice programs … have been very clear that they are just gearing up. They believe this was an unfair decision in favor of utilities.”

Capretz said the difference is those programs have launched, while much of San Diego County has not. She railed against the commission’s relationship with industry lobbyists.

“We deserve consumer choice,” she added. “I just think that is a fundamental economic principle that is in the DNA of all Americans. And there is the opportunity to shape and design our energy future.”

In Solana Beach, Assistant City Manager Dan King said the city was disappointed with the commission’s ruling. The higher exit fees will delay some long-term goals for Solana Energy Alliance, he said, although the 50 percent renewable and 74 percent carbon-free base package will still be available in addition to the 3 percent (discount) energy generation program.

As for the revenue, King did not comment as the city is readjusting those projections based on the ruling. However, they are expected to be lower, which will affect the long-term goal of introducing additional energy efficiency programs.

King said the exit fee increases are expected to go into effect on Jan. 1.

“Our program is still shown to be a viable program,” King said. “Being a small CCA, we weren’t planning on rolling out some of those programs for a few years. It’s going to take us a little bit longer to build up some of that revenue to roll out those programs.”