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Carlsbad joins Clean Energy Alliance, county’s newest CCE

CARLSBAD — A new energy provider is coming to the city.

By a unanimous vote during its Oct. 8 meeting, Carlsbad officially joined the Clean Energy Alliance, making it the second city to do so after Del Mar approved joining the Community Choice Aggregation, also known as Community Choice Energy, joint powers agreement.

In addition, Councilwoman Cori Schumacher and Mayor Matt Hall will serve on the JPA board as the primary and alternate, respectively. The two also made up the council’s ad hoc committee to further study the issue over the past several months.

“This has been an absolutely amazing process to go through,” Schumacher said. “All along the way it was complex and interesting. This whole journey has been a real delight to be a part of.”

Carlsbad spearheaded the JPA after it and three other North County cities — Encinitas, Del Mar and Oceanside — joined in a feasibility study in 2017. This year, however, Carlsbad worked fast to hammered out the details and discuss its JPA with other entities around the county.

As such, Solana Beach and its Solana Energy Alliance, which has been vocal about joining with its North County brethren, and the city of Santee, voted on joining CEA on Oct. 9, while the county of San Diego will discuss and possible vote on its admission during its Oct. 15 meeting.

The JPA will start with procuring at least 50% renewable and clean energy once it launches, which is expected in April 2021. The end goal is 100% renewable energy by 2035.

However, the CEA board must also submit an implementation plan before Jan. 1, 2020, to the California Public Utilities Commission to ensure its launch in 2021.

As for rates, the JPA aims to provide customers with a 2% lower overall bill, although other programs currently offered by SDG&E will be considered once the full board is seated in December.

“The JPA agreement establishes a liability firewall that provides that any of debts, liabilities and obligations would stay with the JPA and would not pass through to the member agencies unless you’re governing body agree to take on that liability,” said Jason Haber, Carlsbad’s assistant to the city manager.

Haber, who ran point on much of the work to establish the JPA and many other details, said one focus of the JPA is to provide its members flexibility and allow cities and others to engage in programs best for them instead of a one-for-all mentality.

There is also a second JPA coming to the county led by the city of San Diego, which has joined by Encinitas, Chula Vista and National City so far. One of the main differences, though, is the voting structure for the two boards.

CEA will have a one-city, one-vote model, while San Diego’s will incorporate a weighted voting system, where cities are given a percentage of a vote based on population, such as how the San Diego Association of Governments operates currently.

Many have feared it will give San Diego total control over its JPA over the objections of its smaller members. With CEA, however, most votes will require a simple majority with some exceptions, such as a unanimous vote to allow SEA to join.

CEA is an opt-out JPA, meaning resident must request to stay with San Diego Gas & Electric. However, SDG&E is lobbying to get out of power procurement, but would remain the distributor, a fact which convinced Hall to become more open to the idea.

“Once I felt they were serious about that, it really changed my whole perspective and how to move forward,” Hall said of SDG&E. “I think our plan is really well thought out and it’s not about control, it’s about how we work together. How we can personally customize each city to what their personal values and climate action plans are.”

As for the cost, Haber said CEA requires $1.25 million from its founding members, who will be reimbursed by revenues from the JPA within the first several years. And while three other cities are currently voting on the issue, he said Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido are other potential founding members.

Vista, San Marcos and Escondido are currently undergoing a feasibility study, and if it reports CCA bears no risk to CEA, then it is possible the CEA board will extend an invitation to join.

CEA is allowing until October 2020 for those municipalities to join, and if so, the startup costs would be re-calculated and distributed evenly, Haber added. If not, then the costs would range from $250,000 for five founding members, $312,500 for four and $416,600 for three, he said.

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