The City of San Clemente, California, recently joined the wave with other Orange County cities in deciding to purchase its own energy, giving residents an alternative to Southern California Edison or San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). However, San Clemente opted to go with a different program than what other Orange County cities have been joining.
Community Choice Energy (CCE) allows a city to buy and sell energy, with the intent of purchasing more renewable energy and saving money in the process. However, critics of CCE’s believe these goals are not guaranteed and could be more costly than traditional energy providers.
Earlier this year, Orange County’s first CCE was created, known as the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA), which seeks to provide more renewable energy to homes and businesses.
The OCPA started with Irvine, though a number of cities have opted to join on, including Huntington Beach, Fullerton, and Buena Park.
The two most viable options for San Clemente to choose from included the OCPA and the Clean Energy Alliance, due to its geographical proximity to the city, according to a city report.
After listening to a presentation from an energy consultant hired by the city during their Oct. 19 council meeting, the councilmembers seemed impressed with Clean Energy Alliance, a CCE that serves about 800,000 residents in San Diego between Carlsbad, Solana Beach, and Del Mar.
“It’s an absolute no-brainer for our community to obviously do Community Choice Energy … having participated in a presentation by Clean Energy Alliance myself, I was absolutely blown away. They completely have it together,” Councilman Chris Duncan said during the council meeting.
“There’s no need to continue to study,” he said. “We know where the trend is. Everybody’s going to be on renewable energy soon and the sooner you get in the better. We have a great opportunity with very similar cities dealing with a lot of the same exact issues.”
Mayor Pro Tem Gene James expressed his disinterest in entering into a deal with the Orange County Power Authority.
“I have no interest in going North and dealing with that Irvine crowd,” he said. “But I am interested in dealing with the North County San Diego group and we have the commonality of SDG&E with that group. I think for me, it boils down to the word choice. It gives our residents a choice.”
Councilman Steve Knoblock expressed his concerns over joining a CCE due to concerns about how much money it will really save residents by removing SDG&E from the mix.
According to the presentation given to the council, residents will only save up to 2 percent a year, with some years saving no money, or even potentially paying higher rates.
“The motivation for doing this is to reduce costs and the environmental concerns,” Knoblock said. “But in reading this report, and looking at the history of the other cities, there’s no guarantee at all that we’re going to have a cost or even a significant cost. And there could be not only a savings, but an additional cost, which concerns me a little bit.”
The council voted unanimously to begin discussions with Clean Energy Alliance and establish a subcommittee with Councilman Duncan and Mayor Pro Tem James to be engaged with the process and report to the council in future meetings.