Del Mar to join Clean Energy Alliance with North County neighbors

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

The Del Mar City Council voted 4-1 Monday, Oct. 7 to join a Community Choice Energy program with the cities of Solana Beach, Carlsbad, Santee and San Diego County.

Del Mar and a few of its North County neighbors have been thinking about whether to form a Joint Powers Agreement to start a smaller North County CCE, in which member cities would have an equal vote, or another one spearheaded by the city of San Diego, in which a weighted voting structure could diminish the influence of the smaller cities. Encinitas council members recently voted to join the larger, city of San Diego-led CCE.

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.

Solana Beach has already established the Solana Energy Alliance, which serves local residents and businesses. The North County CCE, to be called the Clean Energy Alliance, will launch in 2021. It is projected to deliver a 50% renewable energy option at a 2% reduced cost, relative to SDG&E’s base rates. Customers can also choose how much renewable energy they want to receive for their homes or businesses, with higher percentages of renewable typically resulting in a higher cost than what customers already pay.

City Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland was the lone vote against the proposal. She said she supports bringing a Community Choice Energy program to Del Mar, but wanted the financial risks to be studied further before the council moved forward. Her concerns were echoed by Tom McGreal, a member of the city’s finance committee.

“It appears to us that the projections are a best-case scenario without showing the full impacts and the potential downsides of risks in the energy purchase market and potential higher costs of operations,” McGreal said during public comment.

The council discussed the possibility of waiting one year before committing to the CCE, which would mean Del Mar would have to be voted in by the other member cities.

“I think that would be a huge mistake,” said Don Mosier, a former Del Mar councilman and current member of the 22nd Agricultural District’s board of directors. “Climate change is the existential challenge of this generation. If we don’t take quick action, it’s going to be irreversible.”

Ann Feeney, a member of Del Mar’s Sustainability Advisory Board, said the current CCEs throughout the state have operated successfully, and that the CCE is a key part of the city’s Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Everybody has really been digging into this for months and months and months,” she said. “I don’t feel this is something we’re racing into quickly.”

Deputy Mayor Ellie Haviland added that the North County CCE is a “well-discussed, well-researched,” and waiting a year wouldn’t be worth sacrificing the chance to be a founding member city. Haviland was selected by the council to be the city’s representative on the Clean Energy Alliance’s board of directors. City Councilman Dwight Worden will be the alternate.

In response to a changing energy landscape, including the rise of CCEs throughout California, SDG&E is developing plans to discontinue energy procurement and instead focus on delivering energy to customers.

“At some point, Del Mar has to figure out how to get power to residents,” Del Mar Mayor Dave Druker said in response to public speakers who wanted the council to postpone its decision.

Carlsbad City Councilwoman Cori Schumacher and Solana Beach City Manager Greg Wade spoke in support of the CCE.

“We look forward to joining a partnership with our coastal neighbors,” Wade said.