Our Power, Our Choice

Mayor Blakespear's Thoughts on Community Choice Energy

By Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear; originally posted as a segment of her weekly newsletter of March 12, 2017

Our city’s environmental goals depend upon reducing the amount of carbon produced in Encinitas, both from the private and public sectors. For most cities, the fastest way to reduce the amount of carbon produced is to switch the type of energy they use from fossil fuels to renewables. On Friday, I attended a one-day forum on Community Choice Energy (CCE), which would allow residents to buy power generated exclusively from renewable sources, like wind or solar.

Running our own power company is not something the City of Encinitas would do alone. Even if we teamed up with other cities, it would still be a major undertaking. It's like figuring out how to structure and run a waste water district, fire department, or a school district.

This chart from the CCE forum shows that most of the carbon reduction in the City of San Mateo came from using renewable energy sources like solar and wind power from the CCE and not from things like composting, or using mass transit instead of cars.

Progress is incremental. The subcommitee of Councilmember Tasha Boerner Horvath and me, together with Environmental Commissioners Jim Wang and Leah Bissonette, are in the early stages of organizing with other potentially interested cities (namely Del Mar, Solana Beach, Carlsbad and Oceanside) to see what the economics for consumers and the city would be. Nearly all the speakers reported that consumers and cities save money when the power system involves competition. The take-away for me was that consumers don’t get the best price when a monopoly controls the power (the system we currently have). And giving residents options results in more renewables being used by both the utility and the alternate energy providers.

Some California cities and counties have been using community choice energy for years, but it’s still a new idea for the cities in San Diego County. County supervisors recently voted not to pursue it at all, which means we unfortunately won’t be seeing leadership at the county level. Our supervisor, Kristin Gaspar, wouldn't even support a feasibility study on the idea, according to this Union-Tribune article. This is a disappointment because it would be preferable to evaluate this concept as an entire region, similar to the transportation planning we do through the county agency of SANDAG.

In other counties, the cost savings and green benefits associated with community choice energy have generated bipartisan support. Like all changes to the status quo, there are fits and starts. I believe that continued passionate advocacy from a broad base will eventually turn the tide on this in our county.