Letters to the Editor: Sept. 29 issue

Guest editorial:

The facts about the Solana Beach City Council and CCAs

BY LESA HEEBNER, Solana Beach council member

There is a lot of misinformation being spread around town that the Solana Beach City Council is forcing a “CCA,” or Community Choice Aggregation entity, upon the community without any public input. I assure you that this is categorically false. While the Council is exploring this fiscally smart alternative to SDG&E-sourced energy, the Council has made no decisions and will not make any decisions about it without extensive public input. We are and have been on a slow, responsible path of discovery. The concept was initially brought to Council by residents in October 2011, five years ago.

While Council discussions on CCAs since then have offered the opportunity for the public to speak, the question being contemplated was not whether to pull the trigger on a CCA, but whether to explore a CCA. All who spoke encouraged the continued cautious exploration of this concept. Many articles were written by this paper and the U-T on the interest in, and exploration of, CCAs by Solana Beach and other cities in the region. This is not a new, sudden, secret idea.

Numerous cities and counties in California and other states have enacted their own CCAs. Right now, 70 percent of California’s energy load is either in a CCA or in some phase or another of considering one. This isn’t a fly-by-night concept.

Many institutions or large businesses participate in a similar model as “Direct Access Customers,” (we have a handful in Solana Beach). Universities, water districts and large corporations have employed this cost-saving option for years.

A CCA can provide energy at lower rates from cleaner sources. They partner with SDG&E because a CCA’s energy is still transmitted through SDG&E’s wires, and SDG&E will continue to send out the bills (which we anticipate will be lower) and SDG&E will remain responsible for all infrastructure and maintenance. If the Solana Beach City Council determines this is a smart path to take, no one will be forced to be part of it. They can opt out.

In May 2016, Solana Beach had a Technical Study done (at no cost) that shows a CCA in Solana Beach is feasible, and would provide our residents and businesses lower rates with 50 percent and 75 percent California-sourced renewable energy sources vs SDGE’s approximately 35 percent.

The next logical step in exploring this concept is to find experts to determine if this study is accurate and that there are no hidden traps or pitfalls. The council issued a Request for Qualifications/Proposals to do just this. In our RFQ/P, we told responders that a potential CCA should not involve any outlay of city funds or put the city’s General Fund at risk, and that it should include an extensive community outreach program, the potential for adding in other local cities (as most cities in the region are formally interested), legal, regulatory and billing expertise and services, and a risk analysis.

We received three responses. Staff has hired (our only financial outlay) third party, experienced and non-vested professionals in this field to assist with review of the responses. Out of this effort will come a staff recommendation for council to consider contracting with one of the three consultants. This will come to us in late October at the earliest and, of course, the public is encouraged to weigh in. Should the council vote to hire one of the consultants, even this step will not commit the city to doing a CCA. Signing a contract with them (which will not entail any cost) is not a commitment to doing a CCA. It is the next step in the exploration process, and is akin to giving a listing to a broker.

Should the council choose to bring a consultant on board, this will be the time for extensive community outreach because at that time we will have a vetted, analyzed and specific proposal for a Solana Beach CCA with experts on board to answer questions of council and the community.

Every single city on the coast is interested in either doing their own CCA, forming a Joint CCA, or joining a potential Solana Beach CCA. Planning for that possibility was a mandate in our RFP/Q. Deputy Mayor Peter Zahn and I have attended regional meetings of council members from cities throughout the county whose purpose is to share information on CCAs and explore the viability of the concept. Each city has residents who are professionals in the energy field who attend these meetings and weigh in on this idea. They are not all cheerleaders. They are critical, cautious professionals working in the energy market right now who are willing to lend their expertise to their communities on this topic. Our proposal will most certainly be vetted and questioned by each of them. All eyes are on us, and we will benefit greatly from that.

Don’t believe the hype that this decision is imminent. We will take the necessary time for full community participation. This is a long, slow road that we are traveling upon, and we are traveling it because it would be fiscally irresponsible to not do so.

A Del Mar Trifecta?

There has been a lot of talk lately about the crackdown on people crossing the train tracks to access Del Mar’s beaches, and a lot of ideas offered to find a solution. But one idea seems to be missing: move the tracks!

In their dreams, our regional planners at SANDAG want to do just that, but in the exact wrong way: they want to dig double tunnels under Del Mar’s main street – Camino del Mar. But that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and likely so disrupt commerce in Del Mar that sales and property taxes and ticket revenues will plummet and remain deeply depressed for many years. It is not beyond imagination that Del Mar could face bankruptcy, or have to levy onerous special taxes on homeowners to cover the losses caused by the tunneling.

What if we had a better vision, one that not only solves the immediate track-crossing problem, but also envisions a better way to move the tracks? What if that vision could save taxpayers a billion dollars or more? And what if that vision included converting the old railroad right-of-way into a signature regional asset – a Pacific Coast Bikeway?

It’s a big vision, but one with only winners: bicyclists (who would enjoy a miles-long, safe, sublimely beautiful bikeway by the sea), motorists (who would benefit from de-conflicting bikes from cars), taxpayers (who would save a billion dollars by moving the tracks to the I-5 instead of digging city-busting tunnels), and commuters (who, instead of paying a couple of billion dollars to build a couple of carpool lanes on the I-5 from La Jolla to Oceanside - SANDAG’s plan, would spend that same money to run tracks there, offering a real transit solution).

So, let’s use this current controversy to think big, save money, create a better rail solution, and build perhaps the greatest showcase for San Diego ever – a grand Pacific Coast Bikeway that will attract international attention for all the right reasons.

In this year of divisive politics, it is a vision that can bring us all together.

Don Billings

Solana Beach

Chicken Little

Solana Beach residents should beware of the phony hype about the Solana Beach City Council’s decision to study the possibility of an independent electricity provider to compete with SDG&E’s monopoly in our city. If you read the letters recently from Gary Garber and Louise Abbott, you would incorrectly think the sky is falling. The truth is the council is moving cautiously to investigate the opportunity to bring lower electric rates to residents. Much like other California cities, including San Francisco.

Both Garber’s and Abbott’s letters are littered with false and misleading statements, and the issues and facts are twisted and dramatized to mislead the public. This misinformation was echoed by Councilmember Ginger Marshall at the last council meeting.

Garber claims the “Council will soon decide who purchases your power.” False. If an independent provider is approved, customers will have a choice to buy electricity from SDG&E or the other provider. Garber calls it an “energy grab from SDG&E.” False. He complains that “no one knows” the costs associated with an independent power provider. False. That is precisely what the council decided to investigate at its Sept. 14 meeting when they voted to retain a consultant and use a separate monitor to check the accuracy of the consultant’s work. Louise Abbott falsely claims that this program “essentially turns our city into a utility provider for all the citizens.” False. She also claims that the city will be “replacing SDG&E.” Again, false.

Contrary to the phony claims, the council has been working on this matter for a considerable time. The documentation is clear: the city will not be in the power business, nor will residents be required to purchase their electricity from an independent provider. The CCA provides competition to SDG&E’s monopoly. Remember, competition is good. It would be a voluntary program that gives consumers a choice, including remaining with SDG&E. It would be irresponsible for the city to fail to analyze this opportunity for our citizens to save money on electricity. At its Sept. 14 meeting the council made it clear: there will be plenty of public meetings before the council ever gets to the point of taking a vote.

This is a fake issue that Garber, Abbott, Marshall and their allies created to give the false impression that the council is doing something nefarious. It simply is not true. Don’t fall for it. Read the Solana Beach City Council staff reports or contact city staff to get accurate and honest information. The sky isn’t falling. The council is acting responsibly. That’s what we elected them to do.

Gary Coad

Solana Beach

Environmental experiment?

The two letters to the editor on Sept. 15 are the first I’d heard of a “Community Choice Aggregation,” aka taxpayer-funded energy.

A bit of general knowledge, and a quick review of the 81-page city document, raise bright red flags.

1. Government can’t create wealth, only confiscate it, spend it and redistribute it. A claim that with the added expenses of politicians and bureaucrats, the city can provide energy cheaper than a stockholder-owned company, is ludicrous on its face.

2. CCA’s are described as “market action — competition.” Imagine any one of us starting a company, with products and/or services that every resident in Solana Beach is forced to to purchase, until they go through a well-disguised and arduous process to decline, with the taxpayers bearing all of the risk. And tax breaks on top of that! Market action? Competition? By what definition?

3. There is an opt-in requirement. From page 66 of the city’s own “Technical Analysis” “Proposition 16, which would have required a 2/3 community vote before a CCA could be established, and AB 2145 which would have required consumers to “opt-in” to a CCA program, would have both been lethal to CCA formation.” Clearly, those promoting a CCA know full well that unless people are forced to join, a CCA will fail.

Instead of protecting our freedom to make and live by our own individual choices, the Solana Beach City Council is working to use force to run roughshod over our individual rights as they impose their agendas onto all of us.

I predict significantly higher energy costs, and brown outs.

Catherine Dickerson

Solana Beach

SB fortunate to have a proactive council

As a 30-year resident of Solana Beach, I appreciate living in a community that tackles issues pro-actively. California law mandates that communities reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and a recent update requires we further reduce emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

To meet those goals, and offer residents the opportunity to save on their SDG&E bills, one option that our city government has been studying for a long time is forming an energy district, or CCA. CCA stands for Community Choice Aggregation. CCA’s have been established in other communities with success. Several of them exist in California, saving residents money and giving a choice other than the monopoly utility company.

If it goes forward in Solana Beach, each resident will have the option to receive lower cost energy, with a larger mix of clean energy. Or residents can choose to stay with SDG&E as their electricity supplier. To me, this plan sounded interesting but complicated at first glance. I decided to learn more by asking city officials and reading public documents on the Solana Beach website. This is what I discovered:

Solana Beach City Council has had CCA’s in its public work plan, which is reviewed in regular public meetings, since 2012. Further public discussion has occurred in our Climate Action Commission, formed 10 months ago.

What a CCA does: provides a way for interested residents to purchase electricity for less than SDG&E, and lower their non-renewable energy use to the new CA legal limits.

A community-wide vote isn’t needed on this issue since users can opt out of the CCA at any time at no extra charge. No one would be forced to take part.

There would be no extra cost to any consumer; for those who choose to participate, most energy bills would decrease.

Whether or not people participate in the CCA, they would continue to get electricity through current lines and equipment.

SDGE would not be able to penalize customers for their energy choices.

SDGE would continue to provide free furnace checks regardless of whether a home had opted in or out of the CCA.

Residents and small businesses who for whatever reason aren’t able to put solar panels on their roof would still be able to get energy from renewable sources through the CCA.

Those who already have solar panels could opt out of the energy collective.

This will be a long process; the Council needs to first decide on which turnkey supplier would set up the CCA and operate it. Then we would have a ways to go before the final decision is made. Nothing will be decided tomorrow.

All over CA, communities are going to have to make changes to reach required emission levels. I think we’re lucky to have a city council and climate action commission who are investigating long-range options, with time to consider them carefully. But they need our help and feedback to make the best choice. Each of us has an important role: to learn the facts and make our voices heard at public meetings and City Council sessions. I look forward to the process, and to seeing you there.

Andi MacLeod

Solana Beach

Kudos to KAABOO

Congratulations to KAABOO for putting on an excellent concert! I thought KAABOO did an excellent job at managing the entire festival. The sound levels were more than acceptable and I live right across the street. The music was amazing and the crowd was very organized and friendly. I was in the line for Ludacris when the crowd overflowed and the concert should not be tarnished by a few people when the rest of the crowd was acting appropriately.

I heard there were some issues getting cars out of the parking lot, but that happens with any large event. So I just want to add my voice to the positive view of KAABOO and say I am looking forward to next year!

Dr. Kevin Grold

Del Mar

Do statistics predict the future?

I read an article in the Sept. 22 issue of this paper that the police had to use pepper spray on an unruly crowd at KAABOO. Is the crowd to be frightened and censured for unruliness or should the blame be placed on KAABOO for scheduling two venues to end at the same time with only one venue for them to empty into?

Quite apart from this article but in the same paper was the Del Mar police report for Sept. 16 to 18. It didn’t mention the fairgrounds as the location but only 2200 Jimmy Durante Blvd. For this period I counted one incident of resisting arrest, six incidents of grand theft or pickpocketing, and 10 incidents of arrest for use of controlled substances or being drunk in public.

The festival will return for at least four more years with up to five one-year extensions. Do these statistics represent what should be expected during the festivals?

Arlene Lighthall

Del Mar