North County cities partnering for Community Choice Energy program

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

The Del Mar City Council voted to begin the process of joining a Community Choice Energy Authority Joint Powers Agreement with Solana Beach, Carlsbad and possibly other cities in the region.

“I’m looking forward to playing a leadership role and drawing other cities in as well,” Del Mar Deputy Mayor Ellie Haviland said at the council’s Sept. 9 meeting.

Community Choice Energy programs allow local communities to band together to provide residents and businesses with an alternative to their traditional utility, such as San Diego Gas & Electric. SDG&E would still deliver the energy to local customers in a CCE program, which typically provides a higher percentage of clean and renewable energy.

State law began allowing Community Choice Energy programs in 2002. According to the nonprofit Center for Climate Connection, there are 19 Community Choice Energy programs in California.

Pending approval from potential member cities, the new CCE with Del Mar, Solana Beach and other North County partners would launch in 2021, and provide at least 50% renewable energy at slightly lower rates than SDG&E provides.

“As long as we’re not more expensive, I think that’s out initial goal,” Del Mar Mayor Dave Druker said.

Customers have the option of remaining with their existing provider or getting their energy from a local CCE. The city of Del Mar would be responsible for up to $416,500 of the $1.25 million in startup costs, according to a city staff report.

As city staff moves forward with negotiations, City Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland said she wants to have the Finance Committee evaluate the numbers.

“We’ve got to look at the worst case scenario financially,” she said.

The Del Mar City Council was also considering joining a different CCE program headed by the city of San Diego. But council members said they wanted to join their North County neighbors in the smaller one, in part because the city would have a greater say. The member cities of San Diego’s regional CCE program have weighted votes, reducing the influence of small cities like Del Mar. In the Joint Powers Agreement with Del Mar, Solana Beach, Carlsbad and any future member cities, everyone would have an equal vote.

“We think it’s important that each city has a full and equal say,” said Solana Beach Councilwoman Kelly Harless, addressing the council during public comment.

Solana Beach has an already established Community Choice Energy program that allows city customers to select plans that provide up to 100% renewable energy. Solana Beach council members will discuss the JPA at their next meeting.

“It’s just another step in the green energy future for the county,” said Solana Beach City Manager Greg Wade, who was also in attendance.