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A divided County Board of Supervisors moves ahead on community choice energy

Source: 
San Diego Union-Tribune

Sep. 10--A divided San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to pursue a community choice energy program that would offer an alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric when it comes to purchasing power contracts -- but the board also voted to come back on Oct. 15 to determine what kind of governance model it should operate under.

"We're moving forward and it's long overdue," said supervisor Dianne Jacob, who joined Nathan Fletcher and Greg Cox in voting to establish community choice aggregation, or CCA. "The bottom line is we're providing individuals and businesses choices where they buy their electricity."

The EES Consulting group from the Seattle area has estimated a CCA would lead to customers in the county's unincorporated areas seeing electricity rates about 2 percent lower than SDG&E's.

But Supervisors Kristin Gaspar and Jim Desmond questioned the wisdom of joining a growing number of CCAs that have sprung up across California.

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"As a small business owner and fiscal steward of this country, I can't simply assume that this will all pan out like all these other jurisdictions are doing," Gaspar said. "We've seen big promises like this before." She cited the costly ticket guarantee the city of San Diego entered into with the Chargers back in 1997 and the California energy crisis of 2000-2001.

Despite voting in favor of the motion, Cox expressed reservations.

"I think we should make haste slowly, he said.

The supervisors directed county staff members to come back before the Oct. 15 hearing with more details about how the program would be implemented.

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Under the CCA model, communities take on the responsibility of buying the source of electricity (solar, wind, natural gas, etc.) for a given jurisdiction. The incumbent utility still assumes all other duties, such as distributing the power and handling customer service and billing.

The state's first CCA was formed in Marin County, and in the space of nine years, 19 CCAs have come online, boasting they can supply cleaner sources of power at an equal or lower price than traditional power companies.

When it comes to their governance, CCAs commonly partner with jurisdictions in other cities and form a joint powers authority, or JPA, that oversees the energy choice program.

The city of San Diego has invited the county and eight other cities to join a regional JPA, with San Diego taking the lead. As an enticement, San Diego has offered to oversee initial startup costs for a CCA that would be up and running by 2021.

The city councils in La Mesa and Chula Vista have taken San Diego up on its offer, directing their staffs to take steps to finalize agreements with the city.

But the proposed San Diego plan would include a weighted vote option for the board that governs the CCA. Since San Diego's share of the electricity load is so large, it would have the largest percentage in cases when a weighted vote is called for.

San Diego has vowed to cap its weighted vote at 49 percent but the county Board of Supervisors balked, fearing San Diego would have too much influence.

"It's out because of the weighted vote," Jacob said. "That was a deal breaker. One jurisdiction, one vote is a counting that we feel is fair."

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An equal vote structure is a feature of a fledgling JPA being pushed by Carlsbad and Solana Beach. By all indications, supervisors responded favorably to joining the more North County-centric JPA that also estimates it can be operational by 2021 and deliver a 2 percent savings on SDG&E's rates.

"I think it's a more equitable way going forward," Cox said.

Before Tuesday's vote, members of the Strategic Roundtable, a local business group critical of CCAs, called on the board to pause before moving forward. "The first question should be, does a $2-a-month reduction per household that is estimated by county staff justify rushing into a new, complex and volatile non-core business for the county," asked Julie Meier Wright, a former president of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.

The county has put into place a Climate Action Plan that calls for 90 percent renewable sources by 2035. Supporters of CCAs said adopting community choice energy is critical to meeting that goal.

"Our planet is burning up, literally," said Joy Frew of the Fallbrook Climate Action Team. "It's because of the carbon we're putting in the air ... We don't have time to wait."

On Monday night, the Del Mar City Council also tackled the CCA question.

The council passed on joining the city of San Diego-led regional JPA and voted 5-0 to initiate negotiations to form a joint powers agreement with Carlsbad, Solana Beach and other potential jurisdictions.

Council members said they liked a number of elements of San Diego's proposal but, like the county supervisors, expressed reservations about San Diego's weighed vote option.

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"I feel comfortable that our long-term interests are better aligned with Carlsbad and Solana Beach than with the city of San Diego," said council member Dwight Worden.

Solana Beach has already formed its own standalone CCA that has been up and running for one year but has expressed strong interest in partnering with some of its North County neighbors to form a multi-jurisdictional JPA.

Del Mar Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland described Solana Beach's experience in the CCA as "essential" for Del Mar to move forward. "If we partner with Solana Beach and Carlsbad, we are not too small and we have like-minded neighbors," she said.

Mayor David Druker said, "Any time anybody says we're going to save costs, I always hold my wallet. if we save costs, that's great. As long as we are not more expensive (than SDG&E's rates), I think that's gotta be the initial goal. The other goal is we need to be able to get back our return on investment. Whatever type money we put in, we need to be able to get that back."

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(c)2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune

Visit The San Diego Union-Tribune at www.sandiegouniontribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Discussions

Rick Chalker's picture
Rick Chalker on Sep 12, 2019 5:43 pm GMT

"Our planet is burning up, literally," said Joy Frew of the Fallbrook Climate Action Team. "It's because of the carbon we're putting in the air ... We don't have time to wait."

Do these individuals ever read about the history of climate change or do they simply sit in a room and see who can come up with the most outrageous comments about climate change. The earth has been undergoing climate change since before man came into existence. Evidence shows there have been at least five major ice ages on Planet Earth. One of the most well-documented and largest, occurred from 850 to 630 million years ago, and is called the Cryogenian period. Glacial ice sheets likely reached all the way the equator producing a "Snowball Earth." Scientists believe that this massive ice age ended due to increased underground volcanic activity and, perhaps, a much warmer solar cycle.

Scientists discovered at least three to six times more heat-spewing thermal vents along the seafloors where tectonic plates are pulling apart. In 2003, at least nine hydrothermal vents along the Gakkel Ridge in the Arctic Ocean were found. Arctic ice has been melting at a steady pace in recent years and may be due to the warmer than normal ocean waters. In April 2015, an underwater volcano known as the Axial Seamount, about 300 miles off the coast of Oregon, erupted for a month and added 88 billion gallons of molten rock to the ocean floor.

The Arctic ice melt, glaciers have been thickening in Antarctica's eastern interior. That portion of the continent was experiencing increased snowfall and had a gain of about 100 billion tons of ice per year from 1991 to 2008. But, there has been loss of glacier mass in Antarctica's western region. One of the most recent cold periods was "The Little Ice Age," a 500-Year plus span that extended from the early 1300s to the mid 1800s. During that time, there was little solar activity, or solar storms, which scientists refer to as the “Maunder Minimum.” There were also numerous volcanic eruptions in the 1800s like Krakatoa and Mt. Tambora. In 1815, Mt. Tambora has a major eruption which was the largest recorded one in human history. The explosion sent thousands of tons of ash and dust into the atmosphere resulting in the lowering of Earth's temperature by several degrees and numerous extremes. The event also led to a "year without a summer" in 1816 across parts of northern Europe and U.S. as snow was reported in each month of the year, including the summer season.

In 2016 alone, data from NOAA shows that over 200,000 heat, cold and precipitation records were broken across the globe. Nearly 60 percent of the records were warm, about 28 percent were precipitation and snow and the rest were cold. However, in early 2017, some of the coldest weather in recorded history was seen across northern U.S., Europe, Asia and Siberia in Russia where one station in early January 2017 went to -81 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Much of this data was based upon thousands of hours of research done by Dr. Raymond H. Wheeler and his associates during the 1930s and 1940s at the University of Kansas. Dr. Wheeler was well-known for his discovery of various climate cycles, including his highly-regarded "510-Year Drought Clock" that he detailed at the end of the "Dust Bowl" era in the late 1930s. 

Dr. Wheeler also discovered that approximately every 102 years, a much warmer and drier climatic cycle affects our planet. The last such "warm and dry" peak occurred in 1936, at the end of the infamous "Dust Bowl" period. During that time, extreme heat and dryness, combined with a multitude of problems during the "Great Depression," made living conditions practically intolerable.

Assuming we get a new and very strong cooler La Nina sea-surface temperature pattern along with extremely low solar activity, we may see a brief cool down of the Earth's temperature around the early 2020s. The next “warm and dry” climatic phase is scheduled to arrive in the early 2030s, probably peaking around 2038. It's quite possible we could see an average global temperature near 60 degrees, assuming there isn't a major volcanic eruption to disrupt this cycle.

Based on current data, this new warmer cycle could produce even hotter and drier weather patterns than we saw during the late 1990s and early 2000s. We also believe that our prolonged cycle of wide weather “extremes,” the worst in at least 1,000 years, will continue and perhaps become more severe in the years to come.

We should remember, that the Earth's coldest periods have usually followed excessive warmth. Such was the case when our planet moved from the Medieval Warm Period between 900 and 1300 A.D. to the sudden “Little Ice Age,” which peaked in the 17th Century. Since 2,500 B.C., there have been at least 78 major climate changes worldwide, including two major changes in just the past 40 years. In terms of upcoming cooling and warming periods, only time will tell.

This data attributed to: Global Temperature Trends From 2500 B.C. To 2040 A.D. By Climatologist Cliff Harris and Meteorologist Randy Mann.

Over the last 400,000 years the natural upper limit of atmospheric CO2 concentrations is assumed from the ice core data to be about 300 ppm. Other studies using proxy such as plant stomata, however, indicate this may closer to the average value, at least over the last 15,000 years. Today, CO2 concentrations worldwide average about 380 ppm. Compared to former geologic periods, concentrations of CO2 in our atmosphere are still very small and may not have a statistically measurable effect on global temperatures. For example, during the Ordovician Period 460 million years ago CO2 concentrations were 4400 ppm while temperatures then were about the same as they are today.

Do rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations cause increasing global temperatures, or could it be the other way around? This is one of the questions being debated today. Interestingly, CO2 lags an average of about 800 years behind the temperature changes-- confirming that CO2 is not the cause of the temperature increases. One thing is certain-- earth's climate has been warming and cooling on it's own for at least the last 400,000 years, as the data below show. At year 18,000 and counting in our current interglacial vacation from the Ice Age, we may be due-- some say overdue-- for return to another icehouse.

climate! https://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/last_400k_yrs.html

The histeria and knee jerk reactions by a few very vocal groups are taking away from the real problems our country faces. California cannot blame climate change for the many thousands of homeless people living on the streets and deficating on the sidewalks. When their electric costs go up again they only have themselves to blame. What did deregulation do for electric rates in California and other places? Oh yeah, prices went up because government bureaucrats didn't really understand what was going on, and as usual, were listening to the wrong "experts". 

Any Climate Action Plan that calls for 90 percent renewable sources by 2035 is monetarily foolish. If we are headed into a period of even warmer temperatures the winds are generally weaker and thus turbines may not be as productive. Conitinue adding "billions" of solar panels that absorbs sunlight to make electricity but also reflects a great deal of sunlight back into the atmosphere which exacerbates warming due to the CO2.

News media loves to show nuclear plants spewing smoke into the air because it looks really cool. People don't understand that what they are seeing is water vapor and few pollutants (and less as nuclear companies continue to reduce the rate of harmful pollutants being exhausted with new technologies). You just don't build nuclear plants over fault zones as California did. Nuclear is safe, reliable and and could be cost competitive if "govenment regulation" changes are made. The goal of 90 percent renewables will simply add to the unreliabilty of the electric grid. Distributed solar on houses is a gimmick that will, in the coming years, be found to be another losing proposition. 

If "Our planet is burning up, literally", it is more from the snake oil salespeople pushing renewables at any cost and the government bureaucrats that buy the oil. We must have a sensible and economical mix of renewables along with nuclear and clean natural gas to keep costs reasonable and energy supply sustainable.

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