By DAVE SCHWAB
Now that the City has completed a series of virtual public forums discussing how gas and electricity will be provided to homes and businesses moving forward, that feedback will be used in the next step: a bid process to select new franchisees to supply future power.
SDG&E has held exclusive franchises with the City to provide gas and electric service since 1920. The current 50-year franchise agreements with the utility, established in 1970, were set to expire on Jan. 17, 2021. That period however was extended at Mayor Todd Gloria’s request through June 1, 2021.
The extension was granted to allow time for the City to initiate a competitive bid process to select new power providers to meet goals set in the City’s aggressive Climate Action Plan. The CAP, signed in 2015 and now being updated, has a goal of ultimately using 100% renewable energy sources citywide.
Between Jan. 23 and Feb. 24, the mayor and City Council members partnered on 13 community forums on the future of the City’s gas and electricity franchise agreements. Those forums spanned all nine Council districts. Their purpose was to give San Diegans a voice in determining the City’s energy future.
“The City has held these forums throughout February, intends to issue an Invitation To Bid (soliciting franchisees) in March, and will review those responses in April,” said Jessica Lawrence, the mayor’s director of policy, during a Jan. 23 public forum. “Those (bid) responses will be reviewed by staff in April, and recommendations will be presented to the city council in May.”
Lawrence added a two-thirds vote of the nine-member City Council will be required to ratify a franchise agreement between the City and any prospective power franchisee.
The City has officially transitioned all of its energy accounts to San Diego’s newly launched community choice energy provider, San Diego Community Power, also known as community choice aggregation. That marks the first step toward powering all city facilities with 100% renewable energy sources, as outlined in the City’s climate action plan.
San Diego Community Power recently began providing renewable energy to municipal customers including those in San Diego, La Mesa, Imperial Beach, Chula Vista and Encinitas.
Agencies can choose between the default option of 50% renewable energy or the “Power100” rate, which provides electricity from 100% renewable sources. By comparison, San Diego Gas & Electric’s current mix of energy sources is about 31% renewable.
Following the City’s rigorous community outreach process soliciting input on what needs to be sought with gas and electricity franchises, Mayor Gloria announced: “It comes as no surprise to me that what San Diegans care most about when thinking about our energy future is reducing pollution and combating climate change. The results will be incredibly valuable in guiding our efforts going forward.”
The City also launched an online survey on gas and electricity franchises that drew 1,378 responses. Fire prevention, decreased pollution and continuity of service top the list of respondents’ desired outcomes for electricity services.
Meanwhile, decreased pollution, continuity of service and energy-efficiency programs that reduce demand were the primary consumer outcomes in the survey desired for gas services.
District 9 council aide Brett Weise said the public franchise forums were held to get feedback from residents and businesses on the particulars of gas and electricity franchises, such as how much the annual franchise fee should be, the term length of the contract, issues of indemnification, establishment of a climate equity fund, etc.
Pointing out some environmental advocates “don’t want the City’s utilities to be privately operated,” Weise noted, “Several steps must take place, including a feasibility study and an appraisal of current SDG&E assets, so the City won’t be able to immediately municipalize.”
— Reach Dave Schwab at firstname.lastname@example.org.