Energy Democracy in San Diego

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.

SDG&E is raising rates, again?

Yes, they are fighting to hike rates even more. Their proposal includes: [9]

  • A $10/month fixed charge
  • Increasing the minimum bill form $10 to $38

SDG&E is blaming solar customers and others trying to conserve energy. [10]

These changes will hurt low income households and disincentivize energy conservation. [11]

What can we do about the rate increase?

The rate increase needs to be approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in order to take effect. The CPUC will be hearing the case in the first quarter of 2020.

We can pressure the CPUC to reject the proposal by leaving public comments on their website, sending letters to the governor and CPUC members, and pressuring local politicians to do the same. We can also put direct pressure on the CPUC at their public meetings in San Francisco.


UPDATE (2020-02-05): The CPUC has issued a PROPOSED DECISION that would reject this minimum bill increase! The earliest this can be voted on is during their March 12th meeting. We need to keep the pressure on to make sure they follow through on rejecting this.

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.

The City of San Diego is holding community forums on the Franchise Fee. We encourage you to attend and let the city know that we need public power, not another contract with SDG&E!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020, 5:30 – 7 p.m.
Rancho Bernardo Library
17110 Bernardo Center Dr, San Diego, CA 92128

Tuesday, February 18, 2020, 5:30 – 7 p.m.
Malcolm X Library
5148 Market St, San Diego, CA 92114

Wednesday, February 19, 2020, 5:30 – 7 p.m.
Otay Mesa-Nestor Library
3003 Coronado Ave, San Diego, CA 92154

How do I get involved with this campaign?

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 Ecosocialsit Working Group. DSA San Diego members can join the #org-energydemocracy-sdge 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,