Solana Beach to enter negotiations for North County Community Choice Energy program

Solana Beach City Hall
(Sebastian Montes)

The Solana Beach City Council voted unanimously on Sept. 16 to begin the process of entering into a Community Choice Energy Joint Powers Agreement with Carlsbad, Del Mar and other potential partners throughout the region.

The partnership could help bring more renewable energy to homes and businesses throughout North County, at slightly lower rates compared to San Diego Gas & Electric. It would launch in 2021.

As part of the Climate Action Plan adopted by the City Council in 2017, Solana Beach has already established its own Community Choice Energy program with a default option that provides 50% renewable and 75% greenhouse gas-free energy.

“You really did take up the yoke and pull it along and show the rest of the region what could be done,” said Carlsbad City Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, addressing the council during public comment at this week’s meeting.

The city councils in Carlsbad and Del Mar have already voted to begin negotiations to form the North County CCE Joint Powers Agreement. The Encinitas City Council voted last week to join a larger regional CCE program partnership headed by the city of San Diego.

The CCE programs are overseen by a board of representatives from each member city or agency. Council members in Del Mar and Solana Beach mentioned the one city, one vote policy for the North County CCE program as a key advantage. The city of San Diego-led CCE program would include a weighted voting structure that could minimize the influence of the smaller cities involved.

“It’s really important that each city has an equal say,” Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kelly Harless said.

Deputy Mayor Jewel Edson added that a larger CCE could become “just another monopoly.”

According to the nonprofit Center for Climate Connection, there are 19 Community Choice Energy programs in California that have been established since 2002, when state law began allowing them.

Through their local CCEs, customers typically have the option to receive 50%, 75% or 100% renewable energy, delivered with existing infrastructure from SDG&E. Customers can also remain with their traditional provider, such as SDG&E. The increase in renewable energy provided by a CCE can lower customers’ rates, although 100% renewable energy could cost more than the default rate from SDG&E.

Los Angeles County’s newly formed Community Choice Energy program, for example, projects a 7-9% rate increase compared to Southern California Edison’s default rate for customers who take the 100% renewable energy option.

Del Mar and Solana Beach each have goals to reach 100% renewable energy by 2035.

“I think we should feel very proud that we led the way,” Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kristi Becker said.