by Tom Frew
Businesses, schools, and residents of San Diego County are locked into paying too much on their monthly electric bills. SDG&E ratepayers are being charged $2.09 billion for the shutdown of San Onofre, plus a share of the unnecessary new construction of billion-dollar fossil fuel plants in Carlsbad and Otay Mesa. The Sierra Club points out that SDG&E has refused to consider proposals for cleaner and less expensive solar power systems capable of meeting the county’s energy needs. On top of these expenses, SDG&E is phasing in a new two tier rate structure to compel people who are conserving energy to pay more.
There is an alternative to paying increasingly higher rates for fossil fuel electrical power that depresses the local economy and damages our environment. California law permits a city or county to create their own nonprofit utility district to pool (aggregate) the electricity load in order to purchase or develop energy on behalf of their customers. This is called Community Choice Aggregation (CCA).
CCA can challenge SDG&E’s monopoly by allowing a community to operate their own utility and investing revenues into less expensive sustainable energy. Consumers would have the choice to stay with SDG&E or to purchase power from the local CCA which emphasizes solar and other forms of clean energy at a lower monthly cost.
CCA districts have already been formed in Marin County, Sonoma County, and the City of Lancaster. The cities of San Diego and Encinitas are currently performing feasibility studies to create a CCA and switch to cleaner power.
North County communities have the option and should actively explore forming a CCA utility district that will invest in cheaper, cleaner energy by pooling the power of the increasing number of solar panels going up around us.
Tom Frew is a writer and retired aerospace engineer active with the North County Climate Change Alliance. He lives in Fallbrook with his wife, Joy.