Protesters push back against proposed franchise agreements with SDG&E

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UPDATE: City council approves new franchise agreements with SDG&E

SAN DIEGO — Dozens of residents gathered outside of San Diego City Hall Monday afternoon to protest a deal that would lock the city into a 20-year contract with San Diego Gas & Electric.

Members of several local environmental justice organizations took part in the event to protest Mayor Todd Gloria’s proposed franchise agreements with SDG&E. The event featured speakers from SanDiego350, Climate Action Campaign, Sunrise Movement San Diego, Protect Our Communities Foundation and Public Power San Diego. Other organizations present included Hammond Climate Solutions, Veterans For Peace San Diego, UCSD Green New Deal and DSA San Diego.

In calling for City Council to vote down the proposed terms, SanDiego350, an organizer of the event, described it as having “no viable off ramp, accountability, or path to climate justice, 100% renewable energy, and zero carbon.”

The proposed franchise agreements with SDG&E will be voted on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, solar companies are fighting to keep in place solar net metering rules, which allow homeowners to charge SDG&E for the power their rooftop panels are bringing back to the grid.

“Rooftop solar lowers bills for all rate payers, it reduces the amount of transmission lines in the desert, which rate payers have to pay for, and it reduces the risk of fires, which rate payers have to pay for,” said Tara Hammond, an environmental advocate. 

Hammond says that if passed, AB 1139 would make solar purchasing far more expensive and put a stop to the robust growth rooftop solar has seen in San Diego.

“They are doing everything in their power to stifle competition, and in this case that’s rooftop solar,” Hammond. 

“Net energy metering is making clean energy more expensive than it needs to be,” said Deborah Howard, board president of California Senior Advocates League.

The public utility company says it needs to alter the net metering deal struck five years ago because lower and middle-class rate payers are now on the hook for covering the cost of updating the grid, while solar owners simply pay their way with credits from their rooftop solar panels.

The bill will be a contentious fight in the California State Legislature because according to former city attorney Mike Aguirre, rate payers with solar panels can nearly “maintain all the electricity they need and not really have to go through the utilities at all.”

He says the signs from the state government should worry solar supporters.

“The California Public Utilities Commission has shifted from being a regulator of the utilities to a protector of the utilities,” Aguirre said.

Currently, 16% of San Diegans have solar panels on their rooftops.

A decision regarding net metering is expected Wednesday.

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