Plans for New Public Electricity Provider Postponed

Max Rodriguez

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The residents of Cathedral City, Palm Springs and Palm Desert were suppose to switch to a new publicly owned electricity provider starting this summer, but changes in the gas and energy markets are forcing delays.

The new utility is the Desert Community Energy; the group consists of representatives from the three cities involved. The goal of the group is to reduce the cost of electricity for its residents by purchasing power straight from the source, instead of purchasing from a utility such as Southern California Edison.

The Chairman of Desert Community Energy, Shelley Kaplan, who also serves in the Cathedral City Council, said the electricity rates would be about three cents less per kilowatt compared to SCE. He said the source of energy would also be cleaner, Kaplan said, “We will actually be purchasing from green sources and from carbon free sources and making that available to customers.”

The electricity would reach residents through SCE infrastructure and that utility would also take care of billing and payments.

However, Kaplan said the DCE kick-off will be delayed.

Kaplan said, “There was a spike in the cost of natural gas in Southern California, the spike was almost eight times its normal rate.”

Therefore the price of electricity also went up.

“Giving the fluctuations in the market, Desert Community Energy board felt it was prudent to post-pone implementation of this plan at this moment,” Kaplan said. 

Rancho Mirage is already doing something similar through its Rancho Mirage Energy Authority. Residents of Rancho Mirage who switched to RMEA were given an automatic 5 percent discount on the energy they use.

The Rancho Mirage City Manager, Isaiah Hagerman, said the city partnered with three cities outside the desert to buy energy in bulk, those being Lancaster, Pico Rivera and San Jacinto.

“We purchase power together and we all use the same consultants,” Hagerman said. “And what that does is that it allows us to bundle our work and take advantage of the economy’s scale, but we also don’t have to sacrifice our local control and we can tailor RMEA to our community.”

The residents of Rancho Mirage are able to opt-out from joining the RMEA, and residents of Cathedral City, Palm Desert and Palm Springs will also be able to opt out of DCE.

Kaplan said residents who have solar power under the SCE’s net-metering program will be able to roll-over to DCE, but for now there is no clear time-line for when the public utility will be set in motion.

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