DEL MAR — The county’s smallest city is hopping on the Community Choice Energy bandwagon, taking the early steps to push forward a potential program in North County.
Community Choice Energy (CCE) is a means by which cities can procure energy on behalf of their residents, while maintaining local control over energy consumption. It often also allows cities to pursue more greenhouse gas free and renewable energy options.
Del Mar, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside turned to EES Consulting, Inc. in early 2018 to draft a technical study to determine the feasibility of establishing a CCE (interchangeably referred to as Community Choice Aggregation) in North County. Del Mar is the latest city to take up the recently released draft study as an item at its City Council meeting on March 4.
The main takeaway from the study? A CCE is feasible among the four cities, and projected to yield sizable benefits.
The council directed staff to continue their active participation in the CCE discussion, by participating in a public workshop in coordination with the other potential partner cities, soliciting community feedback and returning to City Council with the final study.
Gary Saleba, the president/CEO of EES Consulting, anticipated the four cities would have to contribute between $500,000 and $1 million up front in start-up costs and $14 million to $15 million in cash working capital in order to get a joint CCE started.
Del Mar would have to contribute 2 percent of those start-up costs, in proportion with its energy consumption. In 2017, Del Mar consumed about 30 Gigawatt hours (GWh), while all four cities consumed a total of 1,731 GWh.
The study posits that the cities could pay up their initial costs within two to three years.
The study stated that it would be “likely infeasible” for Del Mar to form a CCE on its own. It was concluded that if Del Mar were to offer a 1 percent discount to San Diego Gas & Electric rates, it “would not be able to collect sufficient reserves.”
Don Mosier, a Climate Action Plan volunteer facilitator and former Del Mar City Council member, said Del Mar likely couldn’t tackle a CCE alone due to the low number of energy meters in the city.
As a director on the 22nd District Agricultural Association Board that operates the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Mosier also pointed to the possibility of the fairgrounds joining in on a North County CCE. Although the Del Mar Fairgrounds falls within Del Mar’s jurisdiction, it currently procures its energy independently of the city.
In a phone call with The Coast News, Mosier said the fair board would have to vote on such an item at which time the fairground’s current Direct Access contract expires.
“It’s not going to be ready to roll out for the fair board to consider for at least a couple of years,” he said.
Del Mar has been considering a CCE at least as far back as June of 2016, when the city adopted its current Climate Action Plan (CAP). The plan lists one of its priorities as exploring the possibility of a CCE, with the ultimate aim to increase its renewable energy use to 100 percent by 2035.
Ann Feehey, chair of the city’s sustainability advisory board, spoke in support of CCEs at the meeting.
“(A CCE) is the single most important thing that we can do to reduce our greenhouse gas inventory and try to achieve our CAP goals,” she said.
In addition to pushing more public outreach efforts through the sustainability advisory board, the city will also be moving forward with a joint evaluation of potential CCE governance options, with Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside.
Many cities in San Diego County are engaged in discussions regarding a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) — a governing structure that would allow participating cities to push down some of the costs through scale and control the CCE jointly.
Mayor Dave Druker said he would hesitate to join a JPA with the city of San Diego or the county at large. He warned the council against increasing a CCE’s scale to the point where “we lose our voice.”
“I would strongly suggest we figure out a middle path here if possible,” he said.
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.