San Diego Community Power names a permanent CEO

San Diego Community Power, the new energy provider in the region that is in the midst of enrolling more than 700,000 residential customers, has hired a permanent CEO.

Karin Burns will take over April 18 after the board of San Diego Community Power, known as SDCP for short, voted 7-0 Thursday evening to hire her. Burns comes from the Bay Area, where she worked as vice president of corporate development at Franklin Energy, a company that works with utilities, local governments and businesses on clean energy programs.

SDCP “is an organization that I’m very excited to join because it brings together the two of my longstanding passions — clean energy and community development,” Burns said after the board’s vote.

Burns will take over for interim CEO Bill Carnahan, a longtime utilities and community choice energy veteran hired to help SDCP get off the ground.

Karin Burns, the new CEO of San Diego Community Power.

(San Diego Community Power)

“We have a very creative, high-performing team and so we need somebody that’s going to match that energy and allow us to kind of soar and so that’s who Karin is,” said SDCP board chair Joe Mosca, who is also a member of the Encinitas City Council.

Under the terms of a three-year agreement, Burns will be paid $375,000 per year, receive a car allowance of $500 a month, a phone/technology allowance of $100 per month and up to $50,000 in relocation expenses. Burns earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard and a master’s in business administration from the Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland.

SDCP board members earlier considered hiring current chief operating officer Cody Hooven as CEO but, as reported by the Voice of San Diego, a state ethics watchdog determined Hooven ineligible for the top spot because she had a hand in writing the bylaws to create SDCP, which could be interpreted as a potential conflict of interest. Hooven will remain as COO.

Launched last year, SDCP is one of the growing number of community choice aggregation, or CCA, programs that have sprung up in California.

Created by state legislation in the wake of the state’s energy crisis in 2000 and 2001, CCAs were formed to offer an alternative to the traditional investor-owned utility business model and encourage the purchase of clean-energy power contracts.

Under the CCA model, incumbent utilities do not go away — they still maintain the transmission and distribution lines in a given area and provide customer services such as billing. But the decisions to buy power-purchase contracts now becomes the responsibility of the local government officials in the municipalities the CCA serves. By next month, there will be 24 CCAs operating in the state.

In the case of SDCP, the city councils in San Diego, Chula Vista, La Mesa, Encinitas and Imperial Beach voted to form the CCA and in 2023, National City and the unincorporated areas of San Diego County will be added.

SDCP offers customers a default program called PowerOn in which 50 percent of the electricity comes from renewable sources and 5 percent from greenhouse gas-free sources. By comparison, SDG&E’s default program offers about 31 percent from renewables. According to its latest rate sheet, SDCP is about 1 percent less expensive than SDG&E.

As per state rules, customers will be automatically enrolled in SDCP but if customers would rather stay with SDG&E, they can opt out for free.

SDCP opened its doors in March 2021and started enrolling about 70,000 municipal, commercial and industrial customers. But its big rollout of some 700,000 residential customers is underway on a month-to-month basis.

SDCP has thus far folded in about 21,000 customers in Imperial Beach and La Mesa. Customers in Encinitas are scheduled to be enrolled in April and more than 556,000 residential customers will be signed up in San Diego and Chula Vista in May.

By the time the rollout is complete, SDCP will be the second-largest CCA in the state.

New customers will receive four mailers informing them of the change, explaining how SDCP works and what options are offered. SDCP officials will spend $520,000 in a marketing campaign that includes print, radio and social media advertising.

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