Solana Beach OKs 2nd phase of community energy

Solana Beach took another step Wednesday, Oct. 11, toward becoming the first city in San Diego County to provide its residents with a renewable alternative to electricity provided by San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

City Council members agreed to enter the second of three phases that would lead to the creation and operation of a community choice aggregation, or CCA, as early as next year through a partnership with two private companies that would oversee its maintenance and operation. Other cities would be welcome to join the partnership, they said.

“This is the right move for the utility consumers of Solana Beach,” said Councilman Dave Zito. “It provides some real benefits to ratepayers.”

The vote was 4-1 with Councilwoman Ginger Marshall opposed, saying she had reservations about the possible costs. Most of about a dozen speakers urged approval of the partnership, which would purchase power from renewable sources and deliver it on SDG&E lines.

“Delay is the currency of the oil and gas industries,” said Nicole Capretz of the Climate Action Campaign. “It’s why we’re in the mess we are in today. We are witnessing climate change now.”

Several other North County cities, including Carlsbad, Encinitas and Del Mar, agreed earlier this year to share the expense of a year-long regional study expected to cost about $100,000 that will look at the feasibility of forming a joint powers authority to operate a CCA. So far there are 13 CCAs in California, most in Northern California and nearly all formed since 2010.

In May, Solana Beach signed contracts with two private companies — The Energy Authority (TEA) and Calpine Energy Solutions — to set up and operate the partnership. TEA will focus on operations, while Calpine’s responsibility will be primarily data management. The City Council would oversee the partnership, even setting rates based on information provided by staff members

Unlike the first phase, which included no financial commitment, the second phase will cost the city $156,000 if the city chooses to discontinue the program. The second phase, expected to take six months to a year, includes setting rates, procuring power sources and implementing the plan.

SDG&E is already an industry leader in renewable energy, with 43 percent of its power coming from renewable sources — the largest share among any utility in the western United States.

-- Phil Diehl is a writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune