NBC 7 San Diego

Battle for power: Bid launched to replace SDGE with public utility

Power San Diego launched an effort Tuesday to collect more than 80,000 signatures in order to get a measure on the 2024 ballot that would, if passed, replace SDG&E with a public power entity.

The current initiative only applies to residents of the city of San Diego.

The organization, which is funded by individual donations, wants to create a power municipality. Power San Diego says San Diegans would immediately pay 20% less for electricity.

“It’s based on the premise that the system is broken at this point,” said Bill Powers, the aptly named chair of the Power San Diego campaign. “San Diego Gas & Electric has the highest rates in the country. If we don’t move on doing this, we are stuck in a corner with San Diego Gas & Electric …”

However, SDG&E senior vice president of external and operations support Scott Crider said putting electricity in the hands of a public power municipality could result in a less reliable grid. He also said SDG&E’s rates reflect the ongoing need to build wildfire-resistant infrastructure.

“The challenge ahead of us is making sure we’re making these smart investments, that we are reducing costs wherever we can, that we’re investing in the right places at the right time,” said Crider.

Power San Diego said its position is not unprecedented, citing public power in cities like Sacramento. Beyond lowering rates, Power San Diego’s mission includes creating more renewable energy, especially solar power.

UC San Diego student Maxwell Lyons is leading the public power charge on campus. He said a recent electricity bill was $400. In addition to rising costs, he’s also concerned about a reliance on fossil fuels.

“Owning a house powered by renewable energy and having my electricity consumption align with my morals seems like something out of my reach in my lifetime, which is really sad,” Lyons said.

SDG&E’s Crider said nearly 60% of the utility’s power comes from renewable energy resources now. Power San Diego wants to see more renewable energy produced locally, not coming through transmission lines from out of town.

“This is one issue where everybody has skin in the game,” Powers said.