Democratic Socialists of America - San Diego (DSA) Seeks Energy Democracy in San Diego

Energy Democracy Coordinating Committee DSA - San Diego

[. . . the DSA has been campaigning for some months to get the city to take over the San Diego Gas & Electric (SDGE) utilities and have it managed by a democratically elected board. Unlike Canada, US cities can do this sort of thing without getting approval from the next higher level of government, i.e. the state there, the province here. Gene McGuckin]


Dear Council President Gomez and members of San Diego City Council,

As the coordinating committee of DSA San Diego’s Energy Democracy campaign, we write with
great frustration over the unfolding process for the City to ratify a new franchise agreement for
operation of the City of San Diego’s energy utility(ies). It is unclear how thoroughly each council
member has been briefed on the process, as the Environment Committee has not convened
since the last official milestone, publication of expressions of interest in utility operation. At that
time, DSA San Diego submitted a letter describing our strong preference for democratic, public
ownership of San Diego’s utility service.

Unfortunately, responses to the Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) were never
discussed by the Sustainable Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), as the board has not met quorum
since March 12. That last meeting took place approximately three weeks after the RFEI
deadline of February 21, yet none of the letters were made available to the public or board to
inform discussion. The terms and options for utility provision strike us as among the most
important topics warranting the attention of such a board, and yet it has been left largely in the
dark. While failing to meet quorum may seem coincidental, the high number of vacancies on the
board and inscrutable delays in finalizing appointments certainly do not.

By all appearances, City Council has not been engaged in deliberations over the terms of the
franchise agreement until on July 9 the Mayor’s office submitted the report with
recommendations for the Invitation to Bid (ITB) prepared by consultants whose professional
grounding lies squarely with investor-owned utilities. A special meeting of the Environment
Committee was announced within the day. While we appreciate that after several months we
will have the opportunity to encourage comments from our members, it seems to be too little,
too late.

The committee has received no input from the SEAB on options, nor has the committee heard
the public’s hopes and desires for our utility service. The report itself incongruously mentions
the popularity and significant advantages of municipalization, then dismisses municipalization as
an option for San Diego due to a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) statute
prohibiting Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) in areas serviced by a municipal utility.
Missing is any consideration of an option to expand the mission of our not-for-profit CCA San
Diego Community Power to include the publicly accountable management of power distribution
alongside power procurement.

And while we understand concerns about municipalization due to the legal definition of the
powers wielded by community choice aggregators -- namely, that SDCP cannot take on powers
beyond the procurement of energy -- we were disappointed to see that the JVJ report merely
acknowledged this concern without providing any analysis on potential remedies or precedents.
San Francisco, which also has a CCA called CleanPowerSF, recently conducted a study on the
feasibility of municipalization and decided to move forward with a bid to purchase their energy
infrastructure from PG&E. While PG&E rejected their initial offer, the point remains that
presence of CCA does not necessarily preclude the possibility of municipalization. The fact that
San Diego City Council members do not have a report that thoroughly maps a pathway to
municipalization means that they are not able to properly assess the costs and benefits of that

Representing this priority for our chapter, the DSA San Diego Energy Democracy coordinating
committee calls on City Council to pause this process until the full range of options has been
rigorously explored and deliberated on in good faith. We find it outrageous that Mayor Faulconer
expects ratification of an agreement explicitly designed to offer a corporate operator a 20-year
monopoly on San Diego’s energy service, and feel skeptical that provisions for accountability
will be honored, as we’ve seen SDG&E so flagrantly flaunt the terms of their original 1970
agreement so frequently over the years.

Please exercise your authority and leadership in this critically important process. The franchise
agreement requires a two-thirds majority to pass, so it is certainly within your power to insist on
better analysis, better understanding, and a better structure for the people of San Diego.

Energy Democracy Coordinating Committee
Democratic Socialists of America - San Diego
Cc: Mara Elliott, City Attorney