Momentum for delaying CEA launch falters in Del Mar

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Momentum to delay the Clean Energy Alliance’s launch date stalled during the Del Mar City Council’s May 4 meeting.

Deputy Mayor Terry Gaasterland and City Councilman Dave Druker wanted to discuss the possibility of moving the CEA’s launch to early 2022 instead of May 2021 because of the economic uncertainties created by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The future of many things is unknown right now,” said Druker, adding that it would be “wise to slow down implementation of the (community choice energy program).”

Both council members said they support community choice energy, but thought it might be a good idea for the city to bide its time until the economy rebounds from its coronavirus-induced recession.

“This is something I want to see happen, but I want to see it happen in a fiscally prudent way,” Gaasterland said.

They also mentioned uncertainty involved with renewable energy suppliers and whether they will enter into contract discussions with the CEA before the economy picks up again.

A final decision to change the CEA’s May 2021 launch date would have to be made by the agency’s three-member board of directors, consisting of Del Mar Mayor Ellie Haviland, Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kristi Becker and Carlsbad City Councilwoman Cori Schumacher.

Had a majority of Del Mar council members supported a delayed launch, Haviland would have had to bring the idea to the CEA and win the support from at least one other board member.

Haviland said that so far, the CEA board members and staff do not think there are any risks that could be averted by delaying the launch date, but will continue monitoring economic and energy factors. She said that tying Del Mar’s budgetary constraints to the CEA is “not a valid concern.” In a worst case scenario, the three cities involved in the CEA would not be liable for any more CEA expenditures than they’ve already agreed to.

“I’m a little perplexed about why we keep coming back to the same questions,” she said.

Updated projections presented last month said CEA still will be profitable in the years following 2021, when residential and commercial customers will begin receiving energy from the new community choice energy program. They also still project that the CEA will be able to offer a 1% to 2% rate discount, relative to San Diego Gas & Electric’s standard product.

During public comments that were read into the record by the city clerk, former councilman and current fairgrounds board member Don Mosier also emphasized that there will be a “financial firewall” between the city and the JPA formed by the three member cities.

Overall, public comments submitted to the Del Mar City Council over the last month about the CEA have been mixed.

Terry Sinnott, a former councilman, was among the residents urging the city to rethink its participation in the community choice energy program. On April 16, council members voted to affirm the city’s commitment to the CEA.

The Clean Energy Alliance’s board of directors will hold a virtual meeting on May 7 to discuss their five-year plan.