San Diego has reached a major milestone in clean energy in 2021. Thanks to Community Choice Energy legislation, for the first time ever, San Diegans—not SDG&E—have control over where their energy comes from.
That means a change to cleaner energy choices. A shift to reasonably priced electricity that’s managed by the people who use it. And, the implementation of programs that benefit people in San Diego of every age and culture.
San Diego Community Power, our region’s Community Choice Energy program, rolled out to municipalities on March 1. And on June 1, it will roll out to businesses!
Here is everything that local business owners need to know about how San Diego Community Power works, what it costs, and what to expect when it rolls out in just a couple of weeks.
What is Community Choice Energy?
Community Choice Energy programs are locally run, not-for-profit agencies that operate in communities all across California. Stemming from the power deregulation era of the early 2000s, CCEs were enabled by California state legislation to allow communities to take control of purchasing their electricity.
San Diego Community Power is our region’s joint power authority and includes five cities: Chula Vista, Encinitas, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, and San Diego. These cities have banded together to delegate the purchasing of all their electricity to SDCP.
When cities and municipalities have the power to decide on the procurement of the energy that’s delivered to their residents, renewable energy becomes way more widespread and prevalent throughout our state.
“For the first time ever, folks have a choice in an electricity provider,” said Cody Hooven, Chief Operating Officer of SDCP. “Currently, we all get our power from SDG&E, and that’s that. But SDCP offers competition and choice in electricity, the best part being that it’s a clean energy alternative. It’s a total gamechanger.”
How does San Diego Community Power work?
San Diego Community Power focuses on people rather than profits. Its mission is to provide local control of energy choices and a proven path to cost-competitive, 100% renewable energy.
Here’s how it works: SDG&E retains control of all the power infrastructure in San Diego—the transmission and distribution of energy, the power lines, and the grid itself.
SDCP, however, is now in charge of all the energy procurement. They purchase affordable, locally sourced, renewable energy and feed it into the electricity grid, cleaning up the power supply for everyone.
“Essentially, SDCP makes the purchasing decisions about the quality and source of our region’s energy,” Cody said. “We aim to buy clean energy that is as local as possible.”
SDCP believes that buying renewable energy from local sources creates more local jobs, helps build out new power sources, and incentivizes smaller distributed-generation sites to develop. In short, it helps bolster our local economy while rapidly advancing us toward California’s goal of Net Zero by 2030.
With a publicly structured organization like SDCP, San Diegans also get the added benefit of transparency. We know exactly where our energy is coming from, how much it costs to procure, and what decisions are being made.
This is a big departure from how things are currently done at SDG&E, which operates like a standard for-profit corporation. Their board meetings are private, and all decisions are made behind closed doors without public input.
“All of our meetings are held in public and our meeting notes are public,” Cody said. “Also, our board members are City Council members from each of the five cities we represent, so residents have access to them and to submitting comments.”
Who gets enrolled in San Diego Community Power?
By Spring 2022, all customers in the five cities for which SDCP purchases energy will be automatically defaulted into the SDCP program. For now, it’s only municipalities and businesses in those cities that are enrolled in SDCP.
“We wanted to start the rollout slowly, in phases, so that we could test out all the systems,” Cody said. “There’s a ton of synchronization that has to happen with SDG&E for billing, and then on the back end with us to check all the data and make sure the systems are working.”
Municipalities were the first to be enrolled in the SDCP program, which started March 1. All commercial and industrial customers are part of the next SDCP rollout phase that begins June 1. Residential customers can expect to begin service in February 2022.
“Even though all customers will be automatically enrolled in SDCP, they can choose to opt-out if they prefer,” Cody said. “But honestly, there is very little benefit to doing this because our rates are almost exactly the same as SDG&E’s, and our energy is clean.”
What are the San Diego Community Power rate plans and how do they compare to SDG&E?
No one has any objection to using clean, renewable energy based solely on principle. But the cost is a real concern, especially for underrepresented businesses and residents in San Diego.
Fortunately, SDCP’s rates are seriously competitive with SDG&E’s. So close, in fact, that the difference is almost negligible. Take a look at the two SDCP plans:
Power On Plan (Base Product)
- All customers in the five cities that SDCP services will be automatically enrolled in this basic plan.
- 1% cheaper than SDG&E: Rates are 1% cheaper than SDG&E’s rates
- 20% more renewable energy than SDG&E: On this plan, 50% of your energy comes from renewable sources, compared to 31% of SDG&E’s sources
Power 100 Plan (Fully Renewable Product)
- Customers can choose to “opt up” to this fully renewable plan, where 100% of their energy comes from clean sources
- Cost is just ¾ of one cent more than the Power On Plan rates
- For a residential account, this translates to about $2.40 per month more in your bill
- Local businesses, in particular, can benefit from this plan—it’s a great way to live your values and to show your employees and customers that you are committed to helping drive meaningful change
What are the top reasons local businesses should stay opted-in to San Diego Community Power?
Aside from supporting an organization that provides a better energy product with higher renewable content, local businesses should choose SDCP over SDG&E for several important reasons.
SDCP is about competition
“Small businesses deal with competition all the time,” Cody said. “We’re also all about competition, and it’s great for businesses to have an energy partner that knows what that’s like. We’re in it with you. We want to serve our customers well because we know you can go elsewhere.”
The SDCP mission is to serve the community
“One thing that’s really unique about SDCP is that we truly are here to serve the community,” Cody said. “We want to work closely with businesses and families to understand what things you’re most interested in concerning power. Is it more rooftop solar? Or perhaps getting more electric vehicles? As we grow, we want to develop more programs that respond directly to our consumers’ energy needs while staying on course with renewable energy.”
SDCP is focused on equity
“We are focused on being equitable, and are committed to supporting our communities of concern and the businesses that serve those communities,” Cody said. “Our priority is making sure they have a seat at the table on our decisions. We need to ensure our programs work for everyone—not just for people who can afford to pay a higher energy bill.”
SDCP is a new advocacy voice for California energy policy
The California Public Utilities Commission regulates all the electricity decisions for the state. PUC has worked with the same three investor-owned utilities for the past 100 years, which has created a relationship that is not consumer-advocacy oriented. But SDCP is changing that for the first time ever in California.
“Even though the PUC meetings are technically public, they are so esoteric that you need to have a lawyer present to even participate in them,” Cody said. “Obviously, this has kept most consumer advocates away. But SDCP just hired an attorney to attend these meetings who advocates—pretty much daily—at the PUC on ratepayers’ behalf. For the first time in history, we now have a voice and presence to object to decisions that we believe will hurt local businesses, families, or the environment.”