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Unlike first lady Melania Trump needing to renegotiate an already established prenuptial agreement mid-marriage, the city of San Diego has a chance at a brand new, better and more fair franchise fee deal for the city and its residents.
Let’s face it. SDG&E had a good thing going. They had zero competition getting an energy deal with the city 50 years ago, allowing them to distribute electricity and gas to residents at the terms they set. Sempra Energy, the parent company of SDG&E, was the only utility in the state to establish a lobbying arm to work against community choice energy. They use profits from ratepayers to fund political campaigns and buy influence in the community. Sempra Energy is also investing in gas production and the exporting of fossil fuels to other countries in a time that we need to prioritize clean energy. To top it off, SDG&E’s rates are among the highest in the country, meaning San Diegans are the ones who end up paying for this bad business deal. Because SDG&E is an energy monopoly in our city, they can do what they want and have proven to put their profits over our city’s best interests.
San Diego’s deputy chief operating officer, Erik Caldwell, mentioned in VOSD’s June 16 article, “It goes without saying that the more competitive the process, hopefully, the better outcome you get.” It goes without saying that our city needs to get more proactive in setting terms that make the new franchise deal a better deal for San Diego.
We need the new franchisee to invest in power from local renewable sources that are consistent with community choice energy rather than invest in more natural gas sources. We need the new franchisee to work as a partner with us to meet our climate and equity goals, including protecting consumers, incentivizing efficiency and preventing dangerous wildfires. The franchisee needs to support good local jobs and local economic development while ensuring workers’ benefits, protections, standards and wages, and rights to remain unionized.
Unlike the 50-year term held by SDG&E, the new agreement needs to have a much shorter term, five years, to allow for performance evaluations and ensure that clean energy goals are met. After all, our “best tool” in creating a better deal for San Diego is to hold our franchisee accountable, according to the article.
I love that my city is leading the country in environmental initiatives, but in order to continue to lead, we must be a leader in the equitable distribution of local clean energy. This means partnering with a franchisee that supports our clean energy goals, abides by the terms of the agreements and will not lobby in Sacramento for legislation against our clean energy future.
I’m hopeful the competition presented by Berkshire Hathaway and Indian Energy LLC will ensure we get these much-needed changes in the upcoming franchise agreement for the city of San Diego.
Pia Piscitelli works in environmental education, helping kids and adults take climate action and live a more sustainable life. She is a volunteer with SanDiego350, a group dedicated to preventing the worst impacts of climate change.