One of the new community choice aggregation energy programs in the San Diego region has received its official certification from state regulators.
The Clean Energy Alliance, which is scheduled to begin operations next year, will offer the North County cities of Carlsbad, Del Mar and Solana Beach an alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric when it comes to purchasing clean sources of energy.
The California Public Utilities Commission gave the official thumbs-up to the Clean Energy Alliance in mid-March.
“We’re on track to provide competitive, clean energy choices” for as many as 58,000 customers in Carlsbad, Del Mar and Solana Beach, said Cori Schumacher, Carlsbad city council member and CEA’s chair.
The alliance is slated to begin operations in May 2021 and expects to offer a baseline product of 50 percent renewable energy at a rate 2 percent cheaper than SDG&E’s. Like many community choice aggregation (CCA) energy programs, the alliance also plans to offer customers a more expensive option featuring energy from 100 percent renewable sources.
Schumacher said the alliance board will discuss more specifics at its next meeting on April 16. Due to restrictions put into place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the board will hold a virtual meeting. More details can be found at the Clean Energy Alliance website, www.thecleanenergyalliance.org.
Under the CCA model, local governments can form entities that assume an important function that has always been reserved for investor-owned utilities — what sources of power to buy. The traditional utilities do not go away because they still perform all their other functions, such as transmission and distribution of energy, as well as customer billing and services.
CCAs commonly hire outside businesses to handle turn-key responsibilities, such as negotiating and purchasing energy contracts. But as per state regulation, final decisions are made by a CCA board made up of government officials.
The Clean Energy Alliance has already hired an interim CEO and has lined up River City Bank to handle its finances, Pacific Energy Advisors to provide technical services, and Calpine Energy Solutions to take care of data management and call center services.
In June 2018, Solana Beach became the first city in the San Diego area to launch a CCA. The stand-alone entry will eventually dissolve when Solana Beach joins up with Carlsbad and Del Mar.
In the meantime, the already existing Solana Beach CCA is considering tweaking its rates from being 3 percent less expensive than SDG&E to 1 percent cheaper or zero because of an anticipated cash shortfall. Schumacher said she is not worried that such a move may indicate that someday Clean Energy Alliance might have to adjust its rates upward as well.
“Our projections are more conservative than Solana Beach (2 percent cheaper than SDG&E, instead of 3 percent) and we’re learning from the experiences that Solana Beach has gone through and continues to go through and we’re benefiting from that with them as we move forward,” Schumacher said.
When communities form a CCA, according to California regulations, the energy customers in those areas are automatically enrolled in the program. However, if customers want to remain with the traditional power company, they can opt out.
Another CCA in the San Diego area is preparing to launch by next year, but it is much larger than the Clean Energy Alliance.
San Diego Community Power — consisting of the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, La Mesa, Encinitas and Imperial Beach — is expected to serve about 920,000 customers. It plans to begin to phase in commercial customers in March 2021 and hopes to migrate all of its residential customers by November 2021.
-- Rob Nikolweski is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune