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Board votes to move forward on renewable energy proposal

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday took steps toward a streamlined process for renewable energy projects, including possible locations in neighboring counties.

In a 3-2 vote, the board directed Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer to present findings on streamlined environmental review and potential sites by Oct. 1.

The board will consider funding at a later date.

Board Chairman Greg Cox and Supervisor Jim Desmond made the proposal, which Cox said is in line with the county’s climate action plan.

Last October, the board voted 3-2 in favor of a community choice energy plan, giving residents and businesses more options when it comes to purchasing electricity.

Cox said CCEs don’t mandate clean energy goals.

“While it might feel good, we won’t have changed anything other than which providers customers pay,” he said.

Desmond, the board vice chairman, said he didn’t originally support community choice, “but if we’re gonna do it, we need to do it right. Let’s create our own renewable energy.”

Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Dianne Jacob cast the dissenting votes.

Jacob said the East County, which is part of her district and prone to wildfires, already has its share of large-scale energy projects. She said about 50,000 acres are being utilized in the East County, including the community of Boulevard, which has a large-scale wind facility.

“This industrialization of the back country was never intended,” Jacob said. “Communities in the East County have seen enough.”

Jacob proposed other options, including rooftop solar, and suggested that other county regions be considered for energy projects.

Desmond said there was no intent to single out Jacob’s district. Instead, the goal is to compile list of potential sites – and it’s fine if that includes ones in his district.

Cox agreed that the board needs to look at the entire county for potential sites.

Before the board voted via teleconference, several residents called in and voiced their support for the proposal.

Julie Meier Wright, retired chief executive of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, said it makes sense for the county to focus on renewable energy and “be part of a binational mega-region.”

Meier Wright added that she strongly recommend a mega-region study to make “our corner of the United States a renewable energy capital.”

Joe Gabaldon, public affairs manager for San Diego Gas & Electric, said the utility has highly trained employees who can assist the county with a clean-energy plan.

“If new assets are going online, it will require collaboration,” he said.