Our Power, Our Choice

Solana Beach Is First in County with Community Choice Energy

Excerpted and edited from the Coast News, March 9, 2018, by Bianca Kaplanek; and the San Diego Union Tribune, March 11, 2018; by Phil Diehl

On June 1, Solana Beach will become the first city in San Diego County to offer its residents the chance to buy electricity from someone other than San Diego Gas & Electric. One might think that a mighty feat for the next-to-smallest city in San Diego County, with a population of about 13,400 people. Yet the coastal community often takes the lead on environmental issues, and has been among the first in the county and the state to ban polystyrene take-out food containers, single-use plastic grocery bags, and smoking in public places and on the beach.

No matter where you live, you can thank the Solana Beach Councilmembers who supported this bold step towards 100% clean energy with a congratulatory email:
David Zito: [email protected]
Judy Hegenauer: [email protected]
Jewel Edson: [email protected]

Renewable energy is another area where the city wants to take the lead by establishing a not- for-profit alternative to the investor-owned utility that has heretofore had a monopoly market. Council members have said they intend to procure lower rates—about 3 percent lower than comparable SDG&E rates—for residents and businesses, contribute to a cleaner environment, and set an example for other communities in the region with its June 1st launch of their Community Choice Energy program.

Council members at the February 28 and March 14 meetings authorized several actions, including launching the alternative energy program, approving its name, product names and procurement strategy, and setting rates. Solana Energy Alliance, or SEA, is the name chosen for the new CCE. The base energy will be called SEA Choice, providing 50% renewable energy, compared to SDG&E’s base program of 43% renewable. Customers can upgrade to a 100% renewable energy program called SEA Green. Solar panel owners can join the SEA NEM program to get credit for electricity their systems return to the grid through a net metering program that will pay customers $0.06 per kilowatt-hour for the excess energy they generate, compared to SDG&E's payback of $0.029 per kilowatt-hour.

The adopted rate schedule can be found here. Using a typical customer usage of 450 kilowatt-hours per month, Solana Energy Alliance rates for generation costs are 3% less than for SDG&E’s comparable programs (generation costs are roughly half of the typical electricity bill; all customers pay the same rate to SDG&E for transmission/distribution, the other half of the bill).

A risk management team will be created to oversee the day-to-day management of the program and ensure it is staying on track with its goals and objectives. Solana Beach utility customers can expect to receive enrollment notices in April and May, at which time they can opt out if they prefer SDG&E to purchase electricity for them instead of SEA.

The Union Tribune article noted that “SDG&E officials did not return a call for comments on the Solana Beach project. In the past, the utility company has been less than enthusiastic about forming public utility districts.” As we have noted here and here, SDG&E’s parent company, Sempra Energy, launched a subsidiary, Sempra Services, specifically to lobby against local cities and the county forming CCEs. Some Solana Beach residents have received letters from Sempra Services stating the need for more research and discussion before proceeding with the plan, but the council and residents dismissed those suggestions, saying more than ample work has been done.