County supervisors move toward offering residents choice of energy providers

SAN DIEGO -- County supervisors Tuesday took the first steps towards offering residents more energy choices after hearing from numerous advocates.

Community choice energy programs, known as CCEs, allow residents and businesses a choice of where to buy electricity. According to the county, there are 19 CCEs operating in California, serving more than 8 million residents.

By a unanimous vote, supervisors directed Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer to develop a Community Choice energy program, and report back to the board on progress every two months. Supervisors also authorized Robbins-Meyer to work with the city of San Diego and other regional cities on developing a CCE joint powers authority. The board's action comes one day after the San Diego City Council voted in favor of establishing a similar program.

Supervisors will formally vote on establishing a Community Choice Energy program in October after they've reviewed options, progress reports, and pros and cons, and hear from experts.

Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said eight cities in the county are moving towards energy choice, which in turn opens the door to competition. Studies show local consumers pay some of the nation's highest utility rates, she added.

Before voting, board members Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar raised numerous concerns, including whether a CCE would truly be cost-effective. Both said they want to see a complete business plan before making any final decision.

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