North County community energy program adds Vista to its roster

Clean Energy Alliance, the North County community energy program that offers customers an alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric when it comes to purchasing power contracts, has added another member after the Vista City Council voted to jump on board.

The council voted 5-0 Tuesday to join CEA, which launched operations last year in the cities of Carlsbad, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Next year, CEA will expand to include Escondido and San Marcos.

Vista’s decision comes three weeks after Oceanside’s city council voted to join the alliance, which promises to provide a higher percentage of clean sources of power to customers than SDG&E at a slightly lower cost.

“I’m a numbers guy,” said Vista council member Joe Green. “It’s not magic, it’s math and I feel that the math of CEA, No. 1, works out for our community, saves them a lot of money and we also know it’s what’s best for our environment.”

CEA’s board is expected to approve the memberships of Vista and Oceanside on July 28 and pending regulatory approvals, customers in both cities will begin receiving service as early as April 2024.

“We’re very excited to have Vista join us and for the opportunity for Clean Energy Alliance to bring choice to providers and choice for power supply products that will increase the percent of renewables that are procured on behalf of North San Diego County customers,” CEA chief executive officer Barbara Bosley said.

Clean Energy Alliance is one of 23 community choice aggregators, or CCAs, that have sprung up across the state in recent years. The programs were created by the Legislature to encourage the growth of renewable energy and offer competition to the traditional investor-owned utilities like SDG&E.

Under the CCA model, the decisions to buy power-purchase power contracts for things like solar, battery and wind energy become the responsibility of the local government officials that join a community energy program.

Utilities do not go away, though. They still perform all their other duties outside of power purchases — such as maintaining poles, wires and power lines in their respective transmission and distribution systems, plus handling customer services, such as billing.

Clean Energy Alliance offers customers three different energy programs — Clean Impact, with a portfolio of 50 percent renewable power sources; Clean Impact Plus, with 75 percent coming from carbon-free sources; and Green Impact, with power purchase contracts that pencil out to 100 percent renewable.

While energy rates vary with time, CEA officials estimated that Vista customers’ average monthly bills could run roughly $1 to $3 cheaper than SDG&E’s, depending on the program for each customer selects. SDG&E’s default rate has an energy portfolio that uses 31 percent renewables.

As per state rules, customers in Vista and Oceanside will be automatically enrolled into the Clean Energy Alliance but if customers want to remain with SDG&E, they can opt out for free.

Vista will eventually account for 13 percent of the energy load among CEA’s members. Oceanside, the largest city in North County, will account for 23 percent.

CEA may further expand to include an eighth municipality when the city council in San Clemente meets next month to discuss whether to join. While San Clemente is located in Orange County, it is in San Diego Gas & Electric’s service territory.

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