Clean Energy Alliance approves MOU that would include service to Carlsbad Desalination Plant

The Clean Energy Alliance
The Clean Energy Alliance is a community choice energy program that includes the cities of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Carlsbad.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

The Clean Energy Alliance Board of Directors approved a memorandum of understanding on July 27 that would bring the largest consumer of electricity within Carlsbad into the fold.

The San Diego County Water Authority and Channelside, the company that owns the Carlsbad Desalination Plant, have an agreement that allows the water authority decision-making power on an electricity provider, according to a CEA staff report. The MOU, which is pending final approval later this year, would make the Clean Energy Alliance that provider.

“It is a significant energy user in the city of Carlsbad, and by the account being served by Clean Energy Alliance, it increases the amount of renewable energy being procured to serve the load and reduces the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to that large load,” said Barbara Boswell, CEO of the Clean Energy Alliance. “It also provides a predictable revenue stream to Clean Energy Alliance through the whole market access tariff.”

The Carlsbad Desalination Plant is the largest in the United States, and has the capacity to produce 50 million gallons of water per day, according to its website.

In 2021, as the Clean Energy Alliance began serving residential and business customers in Del Mar, Solana Beach and Carlsbad, CEA and San Diego County Water Authority officials held discussions about the CEA serving the Channelside account, according to the CEA staff report. But the water authority elected to opt out of service from the CEA, which is an option for all customers within the agency’s member cities.

The Channelside account was also risky for the CEA because it would’ve represented a disproportionately high amount of usage by one account. But since CEA has grown from three member cities to seven, the usage by that one account represents a more manageable percentage of energy usage, relative to the energy supplied to all member cities.

The terms of the MOU include the CEA managing an energy portfolio specifically for Channelside’s load, developing a strategy to mitigate the financial risks to the CEA, and having the CEA draft the terms of enrollment. Those terms would include an enrollment date no earlier than January 2025.

Del Mar City Councilmember Dave Druker, the chair of the CEA Board of Directors, asked if the potential cost savings over the last two years was a factor in Channelside’s decision.

Boswell said she didn’t want to speculate about their reasoning for wanting to join CEA now, but added: “Had they enrolled (in 2021), they would have had cost savings as a result of being with Clean Energy Alliance,”