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CEA board to decide renewable energy plan options

The CEA
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’s board of directors will consider an array of renewable energy options for customers, including a temporary program aimed at low-income residents and small businesses.

Residences and businesses in Del Mar, Solana Beach and Carlsbad will begin receiving energy from the CEA in May, when the new agency will replace San Diego Gas & Electric as the primary energy provider for those three cities. Customers can also opt out and remain with SDG&E.

During their Jan. 21 meeting, CEA’s three board members discussed the possibility of a program that will be more appealing to low-income residents and small businesses, potentially keeping them from opting out of CEA.

Given the financial hardships many low-income households and small businesses are facing, Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kristi Becker, who chairs the CEA board, said during the meeting that “there’s a balance here.” The agency and its member cities want to offer plans to customers that include higher percentages of renewable energy, but they don’t want customers to opt out because they’re concerned about higher rates with CEA, compared to their current SDG&E bills.

“We don’t want people opting out,” Becker said. “If we let them opt out here in the beginning, we’re never getting them back.”

The board’s next step is to review financial projections based on plans that would offer 50% renewable energy, 50% renewable energy that is 75% greenhouse gas free, and 100% renewable. A 50% tier would be the default plan, and CEA officials have hoped it would lead to a slight rate discount compared to a similar SDG&E plan. But the CEA faces expenses such as increased exit fees charged by SDG&E that make the differences in the rates less certain, with more specific projections to come.

For low-income and small business customers, the board wants to consider a program that would last one to two years that could entice them to stick with CEA. Over the past few weeks, CEA interim CEO Barbara Boswell made presentations to the city councils of all three member cities about a possible 36% renewable energy plan for qualified low-income customers and small businesses.

The Carlsbad City Council voted 3-2 against recommending that option, while the Del Mar and Solana Beach councils were more ambivalent. The final decision will be up to the CEA board of directors

Del Mar City Councilman Dave Druker, who represents the city on the CEA board, said he expects residents to decide whether to stay with CEA based on any changes to their bills.

“Most of the people in Del Mar are going to look at this as a fiscal choice,” he said.


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