San Diego

Alternative to SDG&E Could Lower Utility Bills for San Diego Residents

Non-profit, community-based programs also champion locally-produced clean energy

Thousands of San Diego residents are getting “sticker shock” as they open the utility bill, and see how much they’re paying to stay cool, this sweltering summer.

In response, a local advocacy group says it has a proven strategy that will reduce the cost of electricity for your home and office.

It’s called “community choice energy”, and it’s an alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric and other investor-owned utility companies.

Also called “community choice aggregation”, these non-profit programs use the buying power to individual customers to purchase alternative energy supplies, including locally-produced solar and alternative energy.

“It’s a huge opportunity to not only tackle climate change, to not only reduce our costs but to also accelerate clean energy,” said Nicole Capretz, founder of the local Climate Action Campaign.

The Campaign hosted a Community Choice Forum Friday at UC San Diego, attended by more than 100 advocates for consumer-directed energy programs.

Capretz said more than 140 cities and counties in California are using community choice energy programs to reduce the cost of electricity and promote the use of cleaner, locally-sourced supplies.

“What we have is a model that’s been proven, so it’s tried and true, and we get to take all the best practices from those existing models and implement them here in San Diego,” she said.

Energy consultant Jay Powell said a community choice program would spur the growth of roof-top and parking structure solar units, which can feed surplus energy to the grid and reduce or eliminate the need for imported energy.

Powell said similar programs in other cities have reduced the cost of energy for their customers.

“And if it doesn’t, who you get to talk to about your bill will change,” Powell said. “Because the decision making is going to be on a local level. And the decision makers will be accountable directly to their constituents.”

The San Diego City Council is scheduled to discuss the issue in the fall.

Under the community choice aggregation plan, the existing utility company, (in San Diego, it’s SDG&E), would continue to transport the electricity through its grid. SDG&E would also continue to bill consumers monthly for their gas and electricity. What changes is the source, type and cost of the electricity that SDG&E transmits.

An SDG&E spokeswoman told NBC 7 that the utility "respects our customers’ right to choose an energy provider or program that best fits their needs. … (and will) continue to operate a safe and reliable grid to deliver the energy mix the municipality chooses."

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