Energy Democracy in San Diego


Wednesday, December 30 at 9 am City Council will convene for a special meeting to discuss a potential extension to the existing electricity and gas franchise agreements. Please call in with your one-minute testimony on why you want the City to take next steps immediately to transition to publicly-owned and operated power.

Points to make your case:
* In the report commissioned by the City, the City’s consultant recommended the City move to publicly-owned and operated power if its Invitation to Bid process resulted in no responsive bids
* No responsive bids were received
* The longer the City waits to articulate the terms and decisions necessary for a transition to publicly-owned and operated power, the likelier it is that officeholders will compromise the public’s interest in order to resolve the vital matter of our energy service
* Please begin a good-faith discovery of the needed steps for a public power transition immediately

Webinar or Phone-in Testimony

Join the meeting at 9 am in one of two ways (This is new – expect some glitches)

Join the meeting via the Zoom app on your computer or Smartphone. Once you are placed in the meeting, you will be muted and your camera will be off. You will only be able to view the Councilmembers in the meeting. 

Join by telephone: Dial 669-254 5252 and input Webinar ID: 160 140 5223# 

Review the Agenda. Note: This is the only agenda item, so public comment should start promptly and the meeting should be relatively short.

When the clerk asks for public comment on Agenda Item-600, raise your hand by either tapping the Raise Your Hand” button in the zoom app, or if you’re phoning in, by dialing *9. You will be taken in the order in which you raised your hand. You may only speak once on a particular item. When the Clerk indicates it is your turn to speak, unmute by tapping the Unmute button in the app, or dial *6 if you’re phoning in.You will have one minute to speak

Please also consider calling your council member individually to urge them to support a transition to public power.

Below is a suggested script to use for this call, as well as a list of councilmembers’ phone numbers for your reference.

Hi my name is ____, and I’m a constituent of District ____ calling to urge Councilmember _____ to support the City’s transition to publicly-owned and operated power. Investor-owned utilities like SDG&E have demonstrated that they are not willing to commit to service under even investor-friendly terms, and we do not need to be subject to their demands. Our community deserves better. Thank you.

City Council contact information:

Find your Council district: map

What is Energy Democracy?

Energy democracy is the movement towards an energy system that is:

  • Democratized – Bring energy systems under public ownership and public control.
  • Decentralized – Redesign the grid for local power generation, transmission, and distribution.
  • Decarbonized – Restructure energy systems along ecologically sustainable lines.
  • Decommodified – Remove the profit motive from energy provision: no one should go without heat for lack of means to pay.
  • Decolonized – Repatriate indigenous land, reparations for damage done to communities, end military spending, and ensure new energy infrastructure does not replicate systems of injustice.

There are a variety of strategies and tactics being used to achieve such a system – such as public or community buyout of privately held energy infrastructure.

What is San Diego Gas & Electric?

SDG&E is the investor-owned electric utility monopoly in San Diego County. It currently owns all the energy infrastructure – transmission lines, transformers, meters, and control stations.

What’s wrong with SDG&E?

SDG&E customers have some of the highest and fastest growing electric bills in the country. [1]

They also charge ratepayers for the cost of their franchise agreements with cities in San Diego, [2] which was $64 million in 2018. [3]

SDG&E has a history of trying to shift costs to ratepayers

  • $639M for a Fossil Fuel Pipeline [4]
  • $379M for the 2007 wildfires [5]
  • $98.8M for moving infrastructure out of the way of the Pure Water project [6]

They have an army of lawyers that fight against the interests of the public.

What is driving SDG&E’s behavior?

SDG&E is an investor-owned utility – it has shareholders, and those shareholders want a return on their investment.

They have a guaranteed return on their infrastructure equity. [7]

They are incentivized to build more expensive infrastructure, like long transmission lines. [8] These transmission lines cause wildfires, and are prioritized over local energy production (like rooftop solar) that is not as profitable for shareholders.

What can we do about SDG&E?

SDG&E’s franchise agreement with the City of San Diego expires in January 2021, after a 50 year term. The City of San Diego is starting negotiations with them in 2020 on a new franchise agreement. [12]

We can push the city to not sign a new franchise agreement with SDG&E, and instead purchase the energy infrastructure and operate it for the public good.

How do I get involved with campaign organizing?

We need organizers and activists to help us drive this forward! If you want to get involved with organizing, please check our events calendar for meetings of the Energy Democracy Campaign or the Metro Branch Ecosocialist Working Group. DSA San Diego members can join the #wg-met-ecosocialism channel on Slack.

Additional Resources


  1. San Diego Union Tribune, Why SDG&E’s rates are higher than other California utilities,
  2. SDG&E, Electric Franchise Fees,
  3. Sempra Energy, 2018 Statistical Report (p 21),
  4. San Diego Union Tribune, CPUC rejects $639 million SDG&E pipeline project,
  5. KPBS, Supreme Court Denies SDG&E Appeal To Have Ratepayers Pay $379M For 2007 Wildfires,
  6. San Diego Union Tribune, City and SDG&E are at loggerheads over $98.8 million in utility relocation costs for Pure Water project,
  7. California Public Utilities Commission, What is Cost of Capital (CoC)?,
  8. San Diego Union Tribune, High-voltage battle looms over rooftop solar power,
  9. San Diego Union Tribune, SDG&E wants to add $10 fixed charge, nearly quadruple minimum monthly bill,
  10. Utility Dive, SDG&E looks to raise minimum bill 400%, citing solar-driven cost shift,
  11. Consumer Reports, The Fees That Raise Your Electric Bill Even When You Use Less Energy,
  12. San Diego Union Tribune, San Diego renegotiating utility franchise agreement for the first time in 50 years,