The Escalating Battle Over CCAs: Climate Champion Nicole Capretz Gets Candid

Author: Jeff Powers
Created: 04 April, 2018
Updated: 21 November, 2022
5 min read

Nicole Capretz is the founder of the Climate Action Campaign. She was the primary author of the City of San Diego's groundbreaking, legally binding clean energy Climate Action Plan adopted in late 2015. An environmental attorney for more than 20 years, Capretz has acted as a climate justice policy advisor for local governments and the nonprofit sector and she has played a pivotal role in helping other cities adopt their clean energy climate plans, and she is a prominent advocate for Community Choice Energy in southern California.

Earlier this week, Capretz stopped by IVN's podcast studio for a chat about where the City of San Diego currently stands on it's CCA program and the challenges associated with such an effort.

Click the link below to listen to the podcast:

Where Does the City of San Diego Stand on CCAs?

"The city  has been doing its due diligence for the past few years and they completed a feasibility study that said Community Choice was absolutely feasible and viable and recommended the next phase of analysis which is the business plan so the city is embarking on that plan to determine the rate structure, what the energy portfolio would be, how many local jobs would be created, those kinds of things. That report will likely be out in the fall."

What is the Bottom Line Goal For a San Diego CCA?

"The bottom line is to ensure that the City of San Diego meets the climate plan goal of 100% clean energy by 2035. San Diego was the largest city to commit to 100% clean energy target and now it's up to the city to meet that target. "

What was the Genesis of Community Choice Energy?

"The energy crisis back in early 2000's and the state wanted to make sure that they could set up a program for local governments to actually control their energy future. The program was setup as a partnership between the local government and the utility, so the utility would continue to deliver the power with their infrastructure and the local governments would get to choose what kind of electricity is on our grid. Is it dirty fuel? or is it clean fuel? So local governments could synchronize their electricity portfolio with how much renewable energy was on the grid with their overall policy goals. It's been embraced almost in every county statewide, there are over 100 cities and I think 15 counties that have CCAs and all of them have been able to provide lower or at least competitive costs and finally give families the energy freedom that's never been available before."

CCA Critics Are Growing More Vocal

CCA Critics include the San Diego County Taxpayers Association who have raised concerns that the government-controlled energy program the city is considering could require annual revenues of more than $900 million to operate — that's nearly the size of the entire city budget — and could leave taxpayers with a $2.8 billion liability. What do you think about the growing crticism of CCAs?

"Tony Manolatos is highly paid by Sempra, he's a bit of mercenary and as a paid spokesman he is going to advocate for Sempra and put out to the media concerns that Sempra has about breaking up their monopoly and provding families choice. At the end of the day the only independent study validated that we would have lower costs, more clean energy and the City of San Diego would get millions of dollars fo reinvest back into the community."

CCA Contracts... Short Term or Long Term?

Utilities typically enter long-term contracts with firms that can lead to the construction of new energy projects. When those projects are built, the benefit could be that we achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions. There is some concern that the savings of CCAs won't entirely be realized due to more expensive short term contracts. Where are CCAs in long-term vs. short-term contracts?

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"It's critical to note that every community decides for itself what kind of portfolio they are going to pursue. The benefit of San Diego not being first out of the gate with embracing Community Choice is we get to take the best practices from all the existing programs and so what we're seeing is there actually is an investment in long-term contracts and there is an investment in ensuring there is new infrastructure in the ground and new jobs are being created. But the community sets these values, you say this is what we want to see and then that city designs a program that meets those desires. What other entities are doing doesn't matter."

I asked Capretz if there is any truth to the thought that by 2021 CCAs will be required to have contracts 10 years or longer. She didn't know the answer to that question.

Who Makes Energy Choices Under CCA?

Would City Councilmembers make the energy purchasing decisions for their respective districts? Would an independent governing body be formed to make those decision? How would the purchasing decisions be made?"There would actually be a seperate entity most likely created, a nonprofit joint powers authority that would have a board of directors that would make those decisions. Members of the City Council or the Mayor could be appointed to that board of directors but it's not the entire council as the board. It's usually elected officials because of accountability, if they go astray and don't follow the master plan goals established then we're going to hold your feet to the fire. You got to do what you're supposed to do. "

What is Your Best Case Scenario For CCAs in the City of San Diego?

Give me your best case scenario for the city, for the climate action campaign and honestly for your opponents... can a middle ground be reached?

"For the very first time families will have a choice into who their energy provider is. We have been under a monopoly for 134 years. For the first time we wouldn't have the highest rates in the State of Caliornia, some of the highest costs in the nation, for the first time the City of San Diego would have millions of dollars in revenue to reinvest. And here is an opportunity to ensure we hit our 100% energy target. Maximizing our energy independence is my dream, every rooftop should have solar. The fact that we import energy into our backyards makes zero sense. My organization wants jobs for the region, we want those jobs to be union jobs... and ensure that we have reliable, stable, clean energy microgrid power so each community can forge their own energy future."

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