California calls San Diego climate activist the ‘godmother’ of 100% clean energy

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San Diego was the first major city in the country to adopt a 100% clean energy mandate – an ambitious commitment later adopted by California, many other states and now President Joe Biden.

San Diego’s goal to phase out electricity from fossil fuels by 2035 is largely the result of one woman: Nicole Capretz.

The California Energy Commission recently announced that Capretz, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign, will be inducted into the newly formed Clean Energy Hall of Fame.

The agency called Capretz the “godmother of a 100% clean energy policy,” saying it had helped inspire the state’s goal of establishing an all-green electricity grid by 2045.

“This, in simple terms, wouldn’t have happened without Nicole’s tenacity and leadership,” said David Hochschild, chairman of the California Energy Commission. “She was the one who really started this movement.”

Capretz championed his vision for the exterior and interior of San Diego City Hall, efforts that ultimately led to the city’s climate action plan and its bold goal of clean energy in 2015.

After working as an advocate for environmental justice and as a staff member of former city councilor Donna Frye, Capretz was hired by interim mayor Todd Gloria in 2013 to draft the climate plan.

As the document’s lead architect, she fought to ensure the plan had aggressive and enforceable goals. The keystone of the plan is that it is legally binding, a distinction that has been hotly debated behind closed doors.

Hochschild said San Diego’s embrace of a 100% clean energy future played a key role in passing Senate Bill 100, with state law requiring all retail sales of electricity. come from zero-carbon sources, such as wind and solar power, in 2045.

“I was in these conservations,” he said. “For a big city like San Diego, adopting a binding policy to achieve 100% clean electricity was an innovation and it really gave confidence to the legislature. “

Ultimately, Capretz would leave the city to create his watchdog organization, formed to ensure the climate plan is met, while encouraging other cities to follow suit.

Under relentless pressure from Capretz and his allies, Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer would eventually adopt the plan and, in 2018, embrace the creation of a government alternative to San Diego Gas & Electric in order to continue the clean energy mandate at 100%.

“Working with Nicole is really inspiring,” said Mary Yang, a biotechnology entrepreneur who sits on the board of directors of Climate Action Campaign and who nominated Capretz for her recent award. “She is extremely focused. She is very thoughtful, very strategic and very generous.

Since then, almost every city in the region has adopted some type of climate plan, many with clean energy goals, including Chula Vista, Del Mar, Encinitas, Escondido, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, and Solana Beach.

This summer, San Diego County joined the city’s community choice program, San Diego Community Power, which will also serve Chula Vista, La Mesa, Encinitas and Imperial Beach. Under the deal, the government-run alternative sets tariffs and signs purchase agreements with power suppliers on behalf of its customers, while SDG & E continues to operate the poles and wires that supply this electricity.

“Nicole Capretz has been a great champion of clean energy in San Diego, leading the development of San Diego’s historic climate action plan and advocating for a community energy choice,” said Masada Disenhouse, executive director of San Diego350.

Today, Capretz and his team of 13 continue to campaign throughout the San Diego area, releasing annual reviews that track local progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Climate Action Campaign, for example, recently released a report criticizing the city of San Diego for the lack of progress on a commitment to get people out of their cars and use public transportation.

Capretz’s tough tactics have systematically made elected officials as well as SDG & E’s bristling, but she said she was determined to hold leaders accountable regardless.

“It’s never easy to clash with powerful interests, and it doesn’t make me many friends,” she said, “but it’s not about me or my popularity. It’s about protecting our future.

Gloria declined to comment for this story.


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