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'Trying to have a really big impact' | Residential power customers begin switchover to 'community choice' energy

While Imperial Beach is switching over this month, La Mesa will be making the change in March; Encinitas in April; and the cities of Chula Vista and San Diego in May

IMPERIAL BEACH, Calif. — As frustrated San Diegans continue to deal with rising SDG&E bills, they now have an alternative when it comes to their source of electricity.

Beginning this week, residential customers in Imperial Beach are switching over to San Diego Community Power for their electricity. 

This "community choice" energy program, which will eventually roll out to much of the county, offers electric power at slightly better rates, generated through more renewable sources.

While businesses have already made the transition, residential customers are now beginning the switchover, starting in IB. A change that is all about choice.

"The portion that we control is fairly small, maybe a quarter of your total bill," said Cody Hooven, Chief Operating Officer for San Diego Community Power. "But we are trying to have a really big impact there."

To help make that impact, San Diego Community Power provides customers with electricity that comes from at least 50% renewable energy sources, like wind and solar. 

That is compared to SDG&E's electricity, which comes from 31% renewable sources. Hooven also said their product is 1-2% less expensive than SDG&E's.

"So you're getting 19% more renewable power and it's a little bit cheaper," she added. "What's not to love?"

While San Diego Community Power is in charge of purchasing power, SDG&E will still be in charge of other areas, like transmission, power distribution and customer billing.

Already, more than half of California's population has access to one of these 'community choice energy' programs like San Diego Community Power. 

That number is expected to rise to 80-90% in the next few years, offering renewable energy at a competitive price, while operating as a non-profit.

"Any excess revenue we do generate gets invested back in to the communities that we serve," Hooven told CBS 8. "We're not here to make a profit. We don't have shareholders."

While customers will be automatically enrolled into San Diego Community Power, they can opt out if they choose, simply by going online to their website.

Customers can also choose to "opt up" and receive energy from 100% renewable sources.

"For the typical residential customer, that's just a couple dollars more a month," Hooven said.

While Imperial Beach residential customers are switching over this month, La Mesa will be making the change in March; Encinitas in April; and the cities of Chula Vista and San Diego in May.

Also, home owners with rooftop solar panels will not be negatively impacted, according to Hooven.

"In fact, we actually offer a slightly better incentive," she said. "If they have excess solar that they are selling back to the grid, we buy it at a slightly higher price."

For SDG&E customers who currently receive a discount, for example through income-based or medical baseline programs, they will continue to receive that same discount through San Diego Community Power, according to Hooven. 

WATCH RELATED: 2022 Imperial Beach Mayor Dedina State of the City Address 

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