Recommendations from an advisory board to San Diego's city council and Mayor Kevin Faulconer that a clean energy plan from San Diego Gas & Electric be rejected could clear the way for the city to form its own utility to compete with the energy giant.
"The Sustainable Energy Advisory Board for the City of San Diego cannot support SDG&E’s proposal for a 100% Renewable Energy Program as presented at this time," reads a decision from the board issued last week.
In late 2015, the city adopted a climate action plan calling for 100% of San Diego's energy consumption to be sourced from renewable sources by 2035.
According to the board, SDG&E has been aware of criteria needed to meet this goal for "nearly three years," but its proposals have been light on details. Last month, the board sent its latest request to the utility to respond to questions, including ratepayer fees to fund the transition to renewables or to allow them to opt out of utility service.
The latter option would be available should San Diego turn to community choice energy, a system under which SDG&E would retain ownership and maintenance responsibility for power infrastructure, but the electricity flowing through the lines would be purchased by a non-profit entity and then sold to ratepayers. Similar programs in Northern California have resulted in lower rates for customers.
A feasibility study completed last July and approved by the board in November found that community choice would be a viable option for the city, providing ratepayer savings even if the cost of wholesale solar power doubles as compared to current market rates.
"As noted in the Peer Review, 'the main challenge associated with SDG&E’s proposal is the requirement to obtain [California Public Utilities Commission] approval for any program…other challenges include how SDG&E would address potential cost shifts to non-City customers,'" notes the board report's conclusion.