Energy Democracy in San Diego


On August 6, San Diego City Council will hold a special meeting at 1 pm to determine whether to proceed with the Invitation to Bid parameters agreed on by the Environment Committee for our energy franchise agreement(s). Please call your City Council Member and ask them to vote no on the current parameters, and tell them that you want the City of San Diego to more thoroughly explore an immediate path to municipalization.

Council Member phone numbers and sample script

On Thursday, August 6 at 1 pm, please plan to call City Council with your one-minute public comment. If you’re not available during the meeting, you can submit written public comment before it starts.

Public comment toolkit

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,