Encinitas to join San Diego on innovative energy strategy

Encinitas City Council members voted 5-0 Wednesday, Aug. 21, to participate in San Diego’s Community Choice Energy program.
Encinitas City Council members voted 5-0 Wednesday, Aug. 21, to participate in San Diego’s Community Choice Energy program.

In a potentially trend-setting move for North County, Encinitas will join a regional approach spearheaded by the city of San Diego to buy renewable energy.

Encinitas City Council members voted 5-0 Wednesday, Aug. 21, to participate in San Diego’s Community Choice Energy program, while urging other North County cities to follow suit.

In making the decision, the council chose San Diego over the options of Encinitas creating its own program; partnering with Solana Beach; or forming a coalition with Carlsbad and Del Mar.

“I think it would be really great if the other North County cities that we’ve been in a really close partnership with joined with us in joining the regional JPA,” Mayor Catherine Blakespear said. “I would love to have Carlsbad, Solana Beach and Del Mar seriously consider that because I think it is a great option that would accomplish the goal and has a lot of value.”

Fellow council members said they believed the city will be able to meet its climate action targets more quickly by cooperating with the county’s largest city and will be less vulnerable to risk.

“I’m so excited because I feel like we get to jump on this train that’s already in motion and there’s already such momentum,” Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze said toward the end of a two-hour hearing over the issue of how to proceed with a Community Choice Energy program.

State Assembly Bill 117, passed by the Legislature in 2002, allows local governments to pool their resources to buy electrical power on behalf of residents, businesses and institutions.

As a result, government agencies and their constituents can reduce their reliance on traditional regional utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison that have primarily used fossil fuels to produce electricity.

California mandates that cities and counties must reduce greenhouse gas emissions drastically by 2030 and beyond to combat global warming.

The mandates as well as growing public awareness of the environmental threat of global warming have spurred California municipalities increasingly to pursue the Community Choice Energy option.

Though widely accepted by scientific researchers, the concepts of climate change and global warming remain disputed by some authorities.

Over the last few years, Encinitas and other North County coastal cities have been working both separately and together on potential approaches to Community Choice Energy.

San Diego, by far the county’s largest city, has been aggressively working up a program that would unite jurisdictions in a regional coalition.

Proponents of the San Diego group told Encinitas’ council that compared to smaller models, it would reduce members’ costs, maximize rate savings to customers, bring in more revenues, reduce liability risks and enable them to meet a year-end deadline for participating.

“Our fates are tied together, period . ... We are all affected by any climate disaster in our region and we all want to be there to help, and we need to pool resources,” said Executive Director Nicole Capretz of the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign.

She asked the Encinitas council to reject the North County alternatives in favor of the San Diego regional option.

“In our opinion, it is moving in the wrong direction,” she said of the smaller approaches. “We need to join hands. We need to learn that we’re all one region. ... We all need to be in this together.”

Solana Beach, Encinitas’ smaller neighbor to the south, boldly embarked on its own community choice program — Solana Energy Alliance — the only one now operating so far in the county.

Encinitas, Carlsbad and Del Mar officials have been discussing creating their own coalition, and Carlsbad’s council voted Tuesday, Aug. 20, to endorse that option, with the possibility of other North County cities joining.

Encinitas’ consultant Gary Saleba advised the Encinitas council that each of the four options was viable, though going with Solana Beach would offer less benefits.

Momentum for the San Diego option came from the recommendation of a council committee consisting of Blakespear and Councilman Joe Mosca that was charged with reviewing the options.

Among 13 residents who spoke to the council, several with ties to the San Diego plan urged the panel to go in that direction, while others said the council should act on any one of the options.

“This is an amazingly heroic moment for all of us, and for you in particular, in making this decision,” Lane Sharman of the San Diego Energy District told the council.

He emphasized the need to act, as the potential for crises such as floods, drought and fires grows.

“We want decarbonization to happen now at a greater rate than what we’re talking about,” he said.