Fear-mongering by utilities won’t produce clean energy

California’s utilities and cities are fighting over community choice energy programs.
California’s utilities and cities are fighting over community choice energy programs. Dreamstime/TNS

As we expand consumer choice and accelerate our push toward community-based power and greener energy, it’s not surprising that investor-owned utilities are doing everything in their power to hold on to their monopolies in California.


As they do, an unholy alliance of corporate executives and some state bureaucrats have resorted to scare tactics and dragging their heels when it comes to democratizing our electrical grid. That fear-mongering was front and center in a recent Viewpoints article by San Diego Chamber President Jerry Sanders (“Community choice is not delivering on clean energy,” June 5).

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While not surprising, given that the chamber’s board includes executives from the local utility, San Diego Gas and Electric, there is not a shred of evidence to suggest we are on the brink of another electricity crisis. Sanders is simply parroting a line from corporate utilities.

Unfortunately, we have seen the lengths to which investor-owned utilities will go to keep their market share and protect their profits. In 2006, they spent more than $40 million on a failed statewide ballot initiative to make it more difficult for communities to create local alternatives.

If we are truly going to “plan for today so Californians can turn on their lights tomorrow,” as California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker has called for, we must move beyond scare tactics and engage all stakeholders in an honest discussion about California’s energy future. It is disappointing to see the CPUC staff draft a report that plays into the hands of the big utilities.

As policymakers ponder new calls to crack down on the community choice movement, it is important to separate fact from fiction. Breaking the monopoly power of the big utilities and creating a marketplace for greener power calls for more nimble state regulators to ensure the ratepayers of California are able to receive the clean, affordable and reliable power they expect from their electricity provider.

John Avalos, a former San Francisco supervisor, is coordinator of the National Union of Healthcare Workers. He can be contacted at