Options to Update Renewable Energy Regulations

POD: 20-010

Project Contact: Timothy Vertino PDS.LongRangePlanning@sdcounty.ca.gov   (858) 505-6677

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Upcoming Public Meetings

This item has been postponed to the Wednesday, November 3, 2021, Board of Supervisors (Board) Meting. At this date, the Board will receive an update from Planning & Development Services staff regarding Options to Update Regulations for Renewable Energy Projects in the Unincorporated Area Including Battery Storage Projects.

The update includes staff research and analysis of renewable energy technologies, the energy industry, permitting requirements, zoning regulations, and stakeholder engagement. Staff will present several options for the Board’s consideration related to future Zoning Ordinance updates that could be made to streamline battery energy storage projects in the unincorporated area.   

Staff’s recommendation is a future Zoning Ordinance update to streamline the permit process for battery storage projects (i.e., Minor Impact Utilities) in two industrial zones (M-50 & M-52) from a Minor Use Permit to a Site Plan.

To watch and/or participate in this hearing please review this handout or visit the Board of Supervisors Meeting Agendas website and review the “Here’s How You Can Stay Engaged!” section. 

Stakeholder Engagement Summary

We want to hear from you! Planning & Development Services is interested in receiving stakeholders input on the Regulation and Process Options directed on 2/10/21. Below is a summary of completed stakeholder engagement meetings:

  • 3/18: EnerSmart
  • 3/19: Terra-Gen
  • 3/26 & 7/13: IBEW 569
  • 3/26: SDG&E
  • 3/29: Campo/Lake Morena CPG
  • 4/2 & 7/28: Jim Whalen
  • 4/6: SunPower
  • 4/8: CA & US Wildlife Agencies
  • 4/13: Baker Electric Home Energy
  • 4/15: Solar Permit Specialists
  • 4/21 & 7/29: SDG&E  
  • 4/30 & 7/13: Climate Action Campaign
  • 6/12: CPSG Chairs Meeting
  • 7/6: CA Energy Commission Staff
  • 7/15: Campo CPG Chair
  • 7/16: Borrego CSG Chair
  • 7/19: Endangered Habitats League
  • 7/20: San Diego Community Power
  • 7/27: Bill Powers
  • 8/5: Boulevard CPG
  • 8/16: SanDiego 350
  • 8/30: Clean Energy Alliance
  • 8/30: SDG&E

Project Background

On Wednesday February 10, 2021, the County Board of Supervisors (Board) heard Options to Streamline Renewable Energy Projects in the unincorporated areas. 

The Board did not direct staff to further pursue a Renewable Energy Overlay at this time, and directed staff on the following items:

  • Regulation and Process (RP) Options Overview RP-1: Permit Process Improvements; 
  • Regulation and Process (RP) Options Overview RP-2: Design Review Checklist and Exemption Process;
  • Develop approaches that will incentivize and streamline development of distributed renewable energy generation; 
  • Return to the Board in 180 days with further analysis of RP-3: Renewable energy zoning and code update, after additional stakeholder engagement, along with other renewable energy opportunities, and explore community benefit agreements, local hire provisions, and other mechanisms that might benefit communities to improve conditions where facilities are located.

Minute Order
Board Letter 
Options to Streamline Renewable Energy Report

County Renewable Energy Background

The Board of Supervisors has long acknowledged the need for renewable energy and continues to look for ways to keep its regulations current and to promote renewable energy sources. On February 25, 2009, the Board directed staff to develop a new regulatory framework for wind turbines to simplify processing and bring regulations in line with current wind turbine technology. On April 10, 2013, the Board directed the development of Options for a comprehensive Renewable Energy Plan. On May 8, 2013, the Board approved a Zoning Ordinance amendment to streamline and clarify existing wind energy regulations to increase development opportunities for both small and large wind turbines.

On September 25, 2013, the Board directed initiation of Phase One of the Comprehensive Renewable Energy Work Plan and included a “pipelining” provision for renewable energy permit applications. On February 15, 2017, the Board accepted the CREP Phase One Report, and provided relevant direction related to Phase Two including: Tracking of Community Solar and Wind Initiatives in the County (2); Increase the County’s Renewable Energy Generation, Transmission, Use and Storage (3); Develop and Implement a Renewable Energy Education and Outreach Strategy (6); Develop and implement a Strategy to Support Renewable Energy Legislation that Benefits San Diego County (7); and found that the County’s Zoning Ordinance and California Government Code provide “pipelining” protection for discretionary renewable energy project applications.

On February 14, 2018, the Board adopted the Climate Action Plan and Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (Final SEIR). The CAP reduces county GHG emissions consistent with State legislative requirements through CAP implementation and includes strategies & measures to reduce GHG emissions from community and County operations. The Energy category included in the CAP offered the greatest opportunity to achieve emissions reductions across all five categories. Measure E‐2.1: Increase Renewable Electricity, focused on establishment of a Renewable Energy Program and Implementation of the Comprehensive Renewable Energy Plan (CREP) Phase One Report to achieve 90% renewable electricity county‐wide by 2030.

On October 15, 2019, and October 29, 2019, the Board adopted an ordinance that memorialized the election to implement a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program, or Community Choice Energy (CCE) program. The Board acknowledged CCEs growth around the state will lead to an ostensible increase in demand for renewable energy, increasing the importance that the County does its part to increase the regional renewable energy supply.