Del Mar, Solana Beach deliberate on CEA renewable energy options

The CEA, which is one of the newest Community Choice Energy programs in the state, is scheduled to begin generating revenue in May 2021.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

The Clean Energy Alliance is thinking about offering a plan aimed at low-income residents and small businesses, although it would provide a smaller percentage of renewable energy.

As one of the newest Community Choice Energy programs, which offer residences and businesses more clean energy at slight discounts compared to their traditional utility providers, the CEA is scheduled to begin serving customers in May in its three member cities of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Carlsbad.

In addition to providing customers with the long-planned 50% and 100% renewable energy option, the CEA is also considering a 36% option for low-income customers and small businesses who are especially wary of their expenses due to the pandemic.

On Jan. 12, the Carlsbad City Council voted 3-2 against supporting a 36% renewable energy tier. The “no” votes were cast by City Councilwoman Cori Schumacher, who is now an outgoing CEA board member, and Mayor Matt Hall, now an outgoing alternate CEA board member.

During a Jan. 13 meeting, the Solana Beach City Council decided to leave open the possibility of an option for customers to receive 36% renewable energy in their new plans, in addition to the 50% and 100% options. The higher the percentage of clean energy a customer selects, the more their bills will be.

Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kristi Becker, who represents the city on the Clean Energy Alliance Board of Directors, said a 36% option could be helpful given the financial difficulties many residents and businesses are facing.

“We are in the middle of a raging pandemic, which has caused severe economic recession,” she said during last week’s meeting. “Many of our residents and businesses are struggling to survive.”

She continued, “I think we have to balance our ambitious climate action goals with the reality of today’s world.”

Other council members feel it’s a difficult decision because their primary objective in the CEA is to encourage more renewable energy usage, and a 36% option would scale that goal back.

“This is a different time,” City Councilwoman Kelly Harless said. “I am struggling with (whether to support a 36% option).”

Clean Energy Alliance Interim CEO Barbara Boswell, who made presentations to the city councils of all three member agencies over the last few weeks, said that exit fees charged by SDG&E will also have an impact on CEA customer rates. Specific projections will be presented by the CEA in the coming months.

Customers will be automatically enrolled in the CEA when it begins delivering energy, but they can opt out and remain with SDG&E if they want.

During a Jan. 19 special meeting, the Del Mar City Council was noncommittal on adding a 36% clean energy tier. City Councilman Dwight Worden said he would be open to it if other member cities wanted it, but that the CEA could focus on building up its reserves and developing plans to support customers.

“We can look at ways to deliver programs at a local level,” said Worden, an alternate to City Councilman Dave Druker on the CEA board.