Energy Democracy in San Diego


On October 23, bids from investor-owned utilities vying to be San Diego’s next energy franchisee are due. City Council is expected to make a selection from these bids during their regular meeting on October 27, and we are urging councilmembers to vote NO on another sweetheart deal with an investor-owned utility. We do not want corporations in charge of provisioning our basic needs. Instead, we want the City to step up and take responsibility for services that should not be auctioned off for profit. We’re demanding that City Council move to create a democratically accountable public utility designed to serve San Diegans clean, reliable, low-cost energy.

Please join us in this critical chapter of our fight for public power by calling your councilmember to demand that they reject any bids that come before them. 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 vote no another franchise agreement between the City of San Diego and any investor-owned utility. The terms that the mayor’s office put forward, after ignoring City Council’s concerns, would leave the City locked into another 20 years of corporate unaccountability and ballooning profits at the cost of constituents like me. Our community deserves better. Please exercise your responsibility as representative of our district and vote no. Thank you.

City Council contact information:

Find your Council district: map

City Council contact information:

  • Barbara Bry, District 1: 619-236-6611
  • Jennifer Campbell, District 2: 619-236-6622
  • Chris Ward, District 3: 619-236-6633
  • Monica Montgomery, District 4: 619-236-6644
  • Mark Kersey, District 5: 619-236-6655
  • Chris Cate, District 6: 619-236-6616
  • Scott Sherman, District 7: 619-236-6677
  • Vivian Moreno, District 8: 619-236-6688
  • Georgette Gomez, District 9: 619-236-6699

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,