City moves closer to increasing use of renewable energy

SOLANA BEACH — The city moved one step closer to increasing its use of renewable energy after council members at the May 11 meeting took several actions in response to a Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, technical analysis report.

They agreed to send the item to the Climate Action Commission for input and have staff prepare a draft request for proposals to find a partner that can gather data, provide the necessary renewable energy and address economic concerns.

They also directed staff to provide options with how a joint powers authority, or JPA, and private partnership model would work, including potential regional collative efforts and how a transition from a public-private partnership to a JPA would work.

They also asked for a community outreach plan to inform residents and for information on what a startup scenario would look like.

CCA is a state law that allows cities to aggregate electricity demand to buy or generate alternative energy supplies while maintaining the existing power provider for transmission and distribution services.

The goal is to provide a higher percentage of renewable energy at competitive and potentially cheaper rates while giving customers local choices and promoting the development of renewable power sources.

Last year, after the city agreed to study the feasibility of forming a CCA, California Clean Power offered to conduct a free technical analysis report.

According to the report a CCA is feasible in Solana Beach and could benefit rate payers, create revenue and increase the use of renewable energy.

There are currently three operating CCAs in the state. Like them, a Solana Beach CCA would be responsible for procuring electricity and implementing programs while San Diego Gas & Electric would continue to deliver power, send bills and maintain the local electric infrastructure.

The CCA could select the energy sources and establish programs and services that benefit the city and rate payers.

There are a few CAA models cities can use. They can establish their own CCA, join neighboring cities to form a JPA or create a public-private partnership.

Lancaster, with a population of 160,000, is the first city in California to establish its own CCA, allowing complete control over program decisions. This option is not recommended for Solana Beach based on its population of about 13,000 because the startup costs could be as high as $2 million.

The city would likely form a JPA with nearby cities such as Encinitas, Del Mar, Carlsbad and Oceanside that are all meeting to discuss CCAs.

Solana Beach is also considering a public-private partnership, which doesn’t preclude it from joining a JPA later.

According to the report, the city has the ability to develop a CCA that is “economically competitive and environmentally superior to the service currently provided by SDG&E.”

Within five years the city could potentially save $8.5 million.

“This is a watershed day in the history of energy, not just for Solana Beach but for the San Diego region, state of California, the United States and for the world because this is a movement and the movement is local control,” resident Lane Charmin said.

“Local control gives people such as ourselves the opportunity to have choice and competition,” he added. “It also gives us the opportunity to really foresee a future in which we decarbonize the energy supply.”

Although most council members were impressed by the report they said they have some concerns about the startup costs and discrepancies in the potential savings.

“This is an amazing moment,” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said. “But I do have concerns. … I’m positive but cautious about a path forward.”

“This has been a long time coming,” Councilman Peter Zahn said. “It’s something that we’ve been very concerned about as a city in terms of how we can really accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions but do it in an economically effective way for our residents and others.

“The idea of really having rates that are less than SDG&E is key,” he added.

Councilwoman Ginger Marshall voted against moving forward, saying there was no information provided about the downsides of forming a CCA. She said she would like to hear input from SDG&E.

City Manager Greg Wade said the energy company is not allowed to comment on a CCA at this point other than by answering questions submitted in writing.

If a CCA is created residents would have an opt-out option.

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