SOLANA BEACH — Despite a projection of a negative ending cash balance by the time Solana Energy Alliance officially ends operations, Solana Beach will have no outstanding debts or payments left to be made by that time, according to the city.
Solana Energy Alliance recently increased its rates retroactive to March 1 to parity those of the Clean Energy Alliance prior to the city’s move to that joint community choice energy program in May.
The city said that with the increase there will still be a projected ending balance of -$102,558 once Solana Energy Alliance wraps up final operations on January 31, 2023. But the city says any outstanding debts will be paid and no money will be taken from the general fund despite this balance.
“All bills to all suppliers, all direct costs will have been repaid and that (ending balance) is the administrative support of city staff that would be remaining,” said Barbara Boswell of Bayshore Consulting, who provides support to Solana Energy Alliance and serves as interim CEO of the Clean Energy Alliance.
City Manager Greg Wade clarified more that those staff and administration costs were expected to be paid through the Solana Energy Alliance proceeds for time worked by city staff on the community choice program.
The rate change Solana Beach already approved in March will produce $106,759 to Solana Energy Alliance’s cash balance by 2023 but it will not be enough to bring that balance into the black.
The financial situation moving forward for the Clean Energy Alliance, a joint power authority made up of Solana Beach, Del Mar and Carlsbad, will continue to be focused on exit fees charged by SDG&E to customers who leave their service for a community choice program. These fees are expected to be a part of customers’ bills for up to 20 years depending on existing SDG&E contracts.
All of the member cities in Clean Energy Alliance have expressed their frustration with exit fees making it harder to give their customers the kind of savings they set out to do when forming these programs.
During the Solana Beach City Council’s regular meeting, Councilmember Kelly Harless expressed a desire in finding ways to better explain their position.
“I think it would be helpful because we have been doing a good job and have met a lot of our goals and much of this, unfortunately, has been, for lack of a better word, sabotaged,” she said.
One avenue in the state legislature for community choice programs across the state is Senate Bill 612 authored by State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and co-authored by, among a number of others, Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas).
The bill sets out to give community choice energy customers the same value in energy generation as they are paying exit fees from their previous investor-owned utility company which would mean a community choice program would not have to procure as much energy for its customers.
Boswell called for support for that piece of legislation proposed in the state legislature in February.
As this city council discussion and vote to adjust the Solana Energy Alliance’s rate schedule, which was voted on unanimously, will likely be one of the last for the program, the council reiterated their feelings on the positive work they say they have done with the program.
“What an incredible accomplishment this was with respect to generating greenhouse gas-free energy and leading the entire county into a cleaner energy generation future. So I am proud of what the city has done and am happy we were able to accomplish pretty much all the goals we set out to do,” Councilmember David Zito said.