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San Diego to Create Public Power Provider, Set 2035 Deadline for 100% RE

San Diego will cut electricity rates by up to 5% and achieve 100% clean power generation by 2035, a decade before California hits the same target, if its city council adopts a publicly-owned, community choice energy program to compete with private utility San Diego Gas & Electric.

“This is not a partisan issue. It’s a ‘right thing to do’ issue,” said Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a local Republican. “And we’re actually going to save dollars by doing it.”

The city’s electricity customers will be automatically enrolled in the program when it starts up in 2022, Greentech Media reports, although they’ll have the option of staying with SDG&E. The announcement comes in spite of a state Public Utilities Commission vote to increase the “exit fees” assessed on “community choice aggregators”—a move that was expected to discourage the model and burden communities.

“There are Republicans out there who are smart and are going in the right direction, and they don’t see [climate action] as a divided issue or a partisan issue,” said former California governator Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hosted the event at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator where Faulconer made his announcement. “They see it as a people’s issue.”

The San Diego plan is based on a sound business model and has backing from both environmental and business leaders,” Greentech writes, citing Faulconer. “San Diego has been weighing a move to a CCA model for several years as a way to meet its Climate Action Plan targets. SDG&E has been working with city officials on a counterproposal that would allow San Diego to contract for increasing amounts of renewables without moving to a CCA model. But on Tuesday, the utility withdrew from those negotiations,” telling municipal officials it saw “no clear scenario” for a 100% RE scenario that would free the city from legal and financial liabilities for existing procurement contracts.

Even so, “SDG&E and the City of San Diego will have to continue working together closely when the CCA takes effect in 2022, assuming the plan doesn’t somehow get derailed along the way,” Greentech notes. Faulconer said the existing working relationship is “a big part of what we’re doing in terms of making that infrastructure, SDG&E, available for the electrification of transportation,” which is a key element of the city’s decarbonization plan.