San Diego’s Climate Action Plan


Photo Courtesy of Baker Electric/Flickr Creative Commons San Diego plans to use 100 pecent renewable energy by 2035.

Photo Courtesy of Baker Electric/Flickr Creative Commons
San Diego plans to use 100 pecent renewable energy by 2035.

This past December, the United Nations held a conference on global climate change in Paris, France, enacting an international plan to reduce climate change.

Following this summit, the San Diego City Council recently met to take measures locally in accordance with this plan.

According to the San Diego Union Tribune, the Council passed the Climate Action Plan, which proposes to have the city running solely on renewable power within the next 20 years, by 2035.

This means that officials plan to use only solar, wind, and hydroelectric sources of energy to power the city.

While an increasing number of cities around the U.S. are taking similar measures, San Diego is one of the only cities that plans to run on 100 percent renewable power. This is a major feat to accomplish, as Burlington, Vermont remains the only city in the U.S. to already be running on purely renewable power.

There is an ongoing debate, however, over who should provide this new green energy to the city. All of San Diego’s power is currently provided by San Diego Gas & Electric, a private company owned by Sempra Energy Utility that is not controlled by the city itself. Thus, the enactment of Climate Action Plan has been stalled by the debated between private and public power distribution.

Understandably, in the face of losing business, San Diego Gas & Electric is taking measures to prevent possibly being dismantled by the City Council. The company, along with various other groups, is raising concerns of the likelihood of an increase in price for this proposed renewable power for city residents.

The University of San Diego has played its own part in the movement towards sustainability through its Office of Sustainability, which focuses on providing green transportation as well as minimal trash output and water waste.

The school also already had a large focus on renewable energy. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, USD features the third largest mounted rooftop solar panel of all college campuses in the U.S., the two largest being at Arizona State University followed by California State University at Fullerton.

USD’s solar power generates about 20 percent of the power for the campus’s indoor and outdoor lighting fixtures.

Senior Claudio Trespalacios, double-major in Business Administration and Environmental Studies, is skeptical of the success of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan.

“I think this is a fantastic idea, but it is a little idealistic to think that there is going to be a 100 percent change,” Trespalacios said. “It is a big investment that sees only long term return in huge investments.”

Trespalacios does, however, see the opportunities for San Diego Gas & Electric if it were to also provide the city with renewable power.

“This plan would boost the economies of those companies focusing on renewable energy,” Trespalacios said. “It would urge companies like Sempra and SDG&E to change towards renewable energy, which would allow them to remain a monopoly as the city’s central power provider.”

Senior Maxine Velez, International Business major, sees the city’s new energy plan as an opportunity for innovation and financial benefits for San Diegans.

“San Diego Gas & Electric might have to go out of business, but when newer innovations take place, old inventions die,” Velez said. “So I think that this is a necessary move. This also may give consumers an advantage too because with renewable power I think that people will be saving more money.”

While further revision of the San Diego Climate Action Plan is currently underway, the City Council’s proposed methods of turning the city into a completely renewable energy-powered city as well as its budget for this enactment remain unclear. According to KBPS, San Diego currently runs on 48 percent green energy already, meaning that the remaining 52 percent is currently sourced from non-renewable natural gas.

The City Council and its elected non-profit environmental boards will thus have to find a greener way to cover roughly half of the city’s power.