Thank you to the 28 STAY COOL members and guests who joined us for our meeting on Tuesday, September 1, 2015. Our featured speaker was Nicole Capretz, Executive Director of The Climate Action Campaign. Formed in February, 2015, The Climate Action Campaign is the leading local climate action watchdog group, working to ensure that our communities are reducing emissions and preparing for climate change. Nicole, with her small team, works tirelessly with elected officials, staff, volunteers and other citizens to advance climate action policies.
One important policy for reducing emissions through greater use of clean energy is called Community Choice Energy (CCE). CCE allows cities, counties, or groups of cities to pool or “aggregate” electricity customers to form a local agency to provide electricity services to their constituents. Also known as Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), CCE is like a “hybrid” public/private partnership that gives communities the power to purchase renewable energy on the market, build local clean energy generation, reduce energy demand, and set competitive rates. The existing local investor-owned electric utility, SDG&E here in San Diego County, continues to deliver power to customers and provides standard services such as line maintenance, meter reading, and billing.
The Climate Action Plan for the City of San Diego sets a goal to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035. So a key question is whether SDG&E will help us meet this 100% clean energy goal? Presently, 63% of the electricity supplied by SDG&E is from gas-fired power plants. And SDG&E seems to still be focusing on new gas-power infrastructure, recently pursuing a $629M natural-gas pipeline project and new gas-fired power plants in Carlsbad and South County. CCE is a more certain way to fast track investments in renewable energy sources, and move us away from fossil fuel energy.
Nicole shared that CCE system can provide competitive electricity costs, higher rate stability, and faster reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. A local CCE program can be more responsive and could offer customers more money for installing roof-top solar. CCEs bring economic development and clean energy jobs to the community. Communities that have already implemented CCEs are meeting their Climate Action Plans and emissions reduction goals without raising electricity costs. The bottom line: CCEs can result in lower electric rates with a higher renewable energy content. Click here to read a “Fact Check: True” article on this topic from Voice of San Diego.
The time is right for CCEs – existing market prices for electricity are low and there is an excess supply through 2020 or later. Cities may choose to run a CCE in-house, or there are companies that can provide a turn-key approach. Currently, there are low entry costs, with some cities seeing start-up payback in 6 to 12 months.
The success of existing California community choice programs in Marin and Sonoma County, have drawn notice from other communities to consider offering community choice. According to Nicole, 20 counties are investigating prospects on behalf of more than 100 other municipalities. Solana Beach is currently doing a feasibility study and Encinitas is also looking into feasibility. The City of San Diego has completed a Technical Feasibility Study and they are putting out a “request for proposal” for a Validation Study.
But there is resistance from the utilities. Recent Investor Owned Utilities (IOU) amendment proposals submitted to the California Public Utilities Commission regarding Senate Bill (SB) 350 would limit the ability of local governments to launch Community Choice programs. These changes would hamper local decision making and increase fees. Nicole asked STAY COOL members to call or email Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins about our opposition to all IOU-sponsored amendments to SB 350.
A Steward of Creation was Among Us
Also at the meeting, member Dr. Tom English spoke about his recent trip to Istanbul to present the Steward of Creation Award to Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Orthodox Christian Church. Bartholomew is the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians and a long-time leader on creation care practices. He was awarded the Steward of Creation Award by the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care, an interfaith organization that regularly represents environmental positions before the US Congress, the White House and other government agencies. Past recipients include Tom himself, Bill McKibben and James Hansen. Dr. English is seen here with his wife Jan (both standing to the far right):
Find Your Inner Lobbyist!
At the end of the evening our members engaged in writing letters to submit to their U.S. Congress representatives. This was in coordination with Grandparents Climate Action Day on September 10, 2015. On this date, the Elders Climate Action organization will take a delegation of a hundred elders to meet with elected officials on Capitol Hill to lobby for climate action.
Want to add your letter to this campaign? Read the below key message points and either send your letter to your congressional rep, or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to mention September 10 is Grandparents Climate Action Day.
Don’t have time to write a letter, or would you prefer to join the online Elders Climate Action petition? Sign it here: http://www.eldersclimateaction.org/petition
Letter writing help: key message points for letters to congress in coordination with Grandparents Climate Action Day, September 10, 2015:
- I am a concerned grandparent and urge you to take bold action on climate change / global warming, in the name of our future generations.
- We are already experiencing the warning signs of climate change. I have personally witnessed these changes in my life. Such changes include:
- More extreme weather including longer droughts, as we have seen here in California, less frequent rains and intense heat waves
- This extreme weather has resulted in devastating wildfires
- More intense heat waves and less nighttime cooling also puts vulnerable people (such as elders and children) at risk from health impacts.
- Especially in San Diego we are experiencing rising ocean levels, worse flooding, warmer average ocean and surface temperatures, and ocean acidification.
- Disappearing glaciers, melting ice caps and snow fields are all evidence of the impacts of global warming.
- Mass extinction of animal species because they cannot move fast enough or adapt soon enough to the changes in their habitat.
- These challenges can be addressed if we act decisively and quickly. Our top climate scientists warn us that we need to bring CO2 levels in our atmosphere back down to 350 parts per million (ppm) or lower. We are currently at 400 ppm and rising by 2-3 ppm annually.
- There are three ways we can implement action to help avoid catastrophic climate disruption:
- I urge you to support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants. This Clean Power Plan will work to fast-track real action in our nation – action that will cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change.
- Please make binding, international agreements to combat climate change at the UN Paris Climate Summit this November/December. Before this conference, the United States must commit to major greenhouse gas reductions and then negotiate for similar commitments from nations around the world.
- One such climate change solution is a Carbon Fee and Dividend, a revenue-neutral policy proposal that will encouraging transition to a sustainable energy economy while simultaneously reducing CO2 emissions.
- I am concerned about the world we are leaving for our grandkids. The costs of not acting now will mean larger costs to meet the adverse effects of climate change in the future. We can’t afford not to take action now.
- We are all “grandparents” to future generations – it is our duty to take action for the sake of a livable planet.
Where to Send Your Letters – Congressional Reps:
49th District – northern coastal areas of San Diego County, Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad and Encinitas, as well as a small portion of southern Orange County and Camp Pendleton
The Honorable Darrell Issa
1800 Thibodo Road, #310
Vista, CA 92081
50th District – Escondido, Temecula and north east section of San Diego County
The Honorable Duncan Hunter
1611 N. Magnolia Ave., Ste 310
El Cajon, CA 92020
51st District – city of San Diego, southern portion of the County including Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and parts of Imperial County
The Honorable Juan Vargas
333 F Street, Suite A
Chula Vista, CA 91910
52nd District – coastal and central portions of the city of San Diego, including neighborhoods such as Carmel Valley, La Jolla, Point Loma and Downtown San Diego; Poway and Coronado
The Honorable Scott Peters
4350 Executive Drive, Suite 105
San Diego, CA 92121
53rd District – from I-5 and Balboa Park on the west, through Mission Valley to East County, and continuing south to Chula Vista
The Honorable Susan Davis
2700 Adams Avenue, Suite 102
San Diego, CA 92116
Save the date for our next meeting: Wednesday, November 4 featuring Admiral Len Hering, USN (Ret.), Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy. RSVP to email@example.com.