Electric Car Drivers/Utilities Key To Emissions-Free Future


San Diego County leads the nation in Solar PV and EV adoption.

As a ten year practitioner of both EV driving & Solar PV renewable energy generation, and nine years as a San Diego County Planning Commissioner leading on complex energy and transportation issues, allow me to share some of my “lessons learned” and insights with you.

110,000 solar PV systems in the SDG&E service area are also EV ready fueling stations.

Transportation and our utilities generate over 90% of our emissions in the U.S.. In larger cities with dense populations like San Diego California, transportation counts for greater than 50% of total emissions.

95% of emissions in San Diego come from transportation and utility sources.

How are these two emission giants reacting to the challenge of lowering emissions?

Their actions not words, is a mixture of good and bad, with the “white hat” belonging to the utilities and the “black hat” belonging to the transportation providers with the exception of Tesla.

What is clear when you view this recent 2016 US Energy Information Administration chart is that utilities have “answered the call” they have already lowered their carbon emissions to 1990 levels and are on a steep descending path of emission reductions to well below 40% of the 1990 levels by 2030. At the same time transportation emissions continue to climb upward.

For the first time in 40 years, transportation is now a larger source of emissions than the utilities.

Source information here


Utilities have embraced cleaner burning natural gas plants replacing dirtier coal & oil, and are investing heavily in renewable energy plants. Renewable energy plants now make up the majority of new power-plant generation coming on the grid in the U.S. and here in San Diego, our utility SDG&E leads the nation at 43% renewable energy content. Regulators, legislators, environmental activist, the Sierra Club, utility watchdogs & the utilities all deserve our praise for this transition.

Natural gas is being slowly relegated from a “base load” supply to a “peaker” role to augment the intermittency issues of the renewables. In just a few short decades with the advancement of battery technology, utilities will replace natural gas peaker plants with energy storage of all types including battery. This is already happening in San Diego County with SDG&E recently installing the worlds largest battery storage system in Escondido California.

Unfortunately, the transportation sector has not embraced the same forces of change and available technology. They are heading “zoom zoom” in a very wrong direction.


There is an emerging understanding that our utilities paradoxically, hold the key to solutions for transportation emissions in the form or far less expensive electricity as compared to gasoline.

EV’s represent a new load for our utilities, with new local renewable energy plants creating new local jobs… and forgive my passion here… a retention of our dollars in our own communities, with jobs for our own citizens and an end to the exportation of our hard earned dollars via the local gas pump to obscenely enrich foreign countries, mainly in the Middle East, while our communities suffer. (Rant over)

Lessons learned.

In 2014-2015, Julie and I, documented our personal and private life with Inside Ev’s, chronicling the one year journey of our home with our two BMW i3’s plugged into the sun. We continue the zero emission lifestyle today and we succeeded in demonstrating you can live and drive on sunshine. Here are three main lessons gleaned from that very special year:

1. It’s far cheaper to drive on electricity than gasoline.

This enriches your family budget and lowers your family emissions substantially. Most of the savings come from the efficiency of the electric motor. You can achieve the majority of saving with grid electricity however investing in a solar PV energy plant gives you the greatest savings. Either way, you create local jobs and invest in your own communities instead of exporting your money.

Our actual experience in 2014-2015

2. For the same amount of electricity, reductions in emissions are 400% greater in transportation than in buildings.

The effectiveness of measures to reduce emissions are just as important as knowing the source of emissions.

When you supply a kilowatt of renewable electricity, replacing the current grid mix of utility electricity to a building in San Diego County you save .6 lbs. of emissions per kWh. When you supply a kilowatt at the current utility grid mix to transportation you save 2.4 lbs. of emission per kWh. This is a 400% greater emission reduction for the same unit of electricity.

Transportation is both the greatest source and has the greatest yield in emission reductions across the nation.

3. It’s cheaper to save energy than it is to make energy.

100% renewable energy goals leap frog over the energy loading order which begins with efficiency and demand management for both buildings and transportation.


Utilities are ripe targets for bashing as behemoth regulated monopolies. Nobody ever likes to pay a high utility bill, yet we all demand more renewable energy.
As the popular saying goes,

“The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”

In San Diego County, our utility SDG&E deserves praise. We are leading the way in Solar PV with 110,000 energy entrepreneurs installing solar PV on the SDG&E grid, we are leading the way in EV adoption with favorable EV electricity rates. We are leading the way at 43% renewable energy mix (far greater than the 33% required by 2020) and we are leading the way with energy choice where each customer can order up to 100% renewable energy. We are strengthening our economy with local jobs creating local renewable power plants and we are investing in the future of energy both in generation and storage. We are adapting and leading the nation and we are prospering as a region working regionally together.

San Diego is an energy model to the U.S. If there was ever a case to celebrate success and all its partners including SDG&E, It’s San Diego. In San Diego, we are charting a clean and robust economic course towards the future with a firm rudder in the water, full speed ahead, steady as she goes.

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43 Comments on "Electric Car Drivers/Utilities Key To Emissions-Free Future"

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The reason San Diego is leading is because of their ridiculous rate structure. When a single family home gets in to paying 45 cents a kWh on the tiered or TOU plan it is kinda stupid to not install solar.

The payback is so damn quick it is ridiculous, even when compared to neighboring SCE or DWP.

You know you are getting screwed as a consumer when Kauai has cheaper electric rates!!!


Oh and to add their “favorable” super off peak EV only rated are more than most utilities regular rates!

It pretty much only makes sense financially to have an EV if you have solar to cover it. Otherwise the 18 cents a kWh rate you can get is basically as expensive as gas!


I don’t think that is accurate.


DJ is correct. Big reason why EV isn’t taking off in “paradise on earth” San Diego is the cost. After about 400 kWh of use, rate becomes $0.40/kWh. Since most homes without EV use about 400 kWh/mo, EV effective cost almost double that of Prius.

If you have solar to cover daytime while charging at EV rate at night via TOU, it could work out about $0.19/kWh, which makes it bit better than Prius. But without solar, which most homes do not have, EV just doesn’t make sense if anyone uses electricity at home during the day and not on TOU (ie, most people)


If you don’t have a home or a solar installation at your apt./condo/town home, in San Diego, you can still drive on electrons from the grid at a reduced rate of 33% the cost of $.50 per KW ($0.17) using the level 3 Fast Charge Network (EVGo & ChargePoint, etc…). You have to get a 3 Lease on a Nissan Leaf or VW Golf EV with a two year “No Charge to Charge” deal. These 3 year/36-45K mi. Lease deals can, bring your Total (out of pocket) overall cost per mile down to approaching the rate of $0.10/per mi. rather than $0.15/per mi.


So my eGolf gets to use $4.50 for every 100 miles at 18c in SD…..so what the f are you talking about DJ! Are you mathematically impaired? Gas is over $3 in most of Cali already….do you want to guess where it will be in the future?


I don’t expect gas actually to skyrocket in the future. SDG&E just raised their rates by 10%.

Say you get the usual 3.5 miles per kWh. You don’t get to count the power you consume in the car divided by the mileage because we all know there is a decent loss between what is put in to your car vs what you get out of it. That is what 5.15 cents per mile. Just paid $2.70 for gas and the old Prius gets 50 mpg. That is what 5.4 cents per mile which is basically on par and in the winter months you are probably ahead.

I am actually quite good with math as you can see 🙂

Or what were you comparing your eGolf to a SUV??? On peak rates and gas is clearly cheaper.

Doesn’t take a genius to see that…


Actually i did count the energy loss at 10% which is in par with what many have observed. My average is 4.4kwh (not all of us drive Teslas) with mostly city driving. Peak rates?! Why are you evan considering peak rates again? You do understand the complicated concept of overnight charging, right? And your assumption that because spot oil prices are low the gas at the pomps will stay low is flawed on so many ways…


You don’t expect “gas to actually skyrocket” in the future. But, the State Gas Tax is going up substantially, which means $3.00+ gas is coming pretty darn soon, thanks to Sacramento legislation passed recently. Also, EVs get the $100.00 annual fee ($0.28/ day) increase. No vehicle in California, especially diesel vehicles, are going to get by this new tax and fee implementation. One has to consider these new metrics in driving cost calculations, if some sort of accounting accuracy is to be achieved.


Given the number of Model S and Model X that are driving around San Diego, claiming the driver of EV adoption is a few cents difference in electrical rates hardly seems persuasive.

As for the cost argument, hard to believe that you can buy gas for $1.32 anywhere in San Diego County. Electricity may be expensive but so is gas.


The gas/electric/solar cost illustration is just incredible! I can’t believe solar adopters are still considered hippy environmentalists when it’s clear this is a great investment.
I give you the following investment opportunity: you buy equity in company X today, risk free. You collect a dividend and recover the full equity investment in the first 5-10 years, after that you keep collecting dividends for another 15-20 years. Do i really need to ask?!


Solar is great investment if you stay in the same house for 8+ years. It’s not clear if having solar adds significant value when the house is sold, and some solar lease seem to decrease home value as the potential buyer sees it as contract that he didn’t have direct influence.


There is something to be said here…
When i was in negotiations for my solar installation i asked about the leases and financing….both were a complete deal breaker! The lease was an insult, the financing was adding 7k in total fees and interest to the balance so the cash option was the only option. If you think a bought out system doesn’t add value to your house then just ask your appraisal.


I said “significant value”. I’m sure it adds some value with bought out system, just not sure how much. It seems very little, far less than kitchen upgrade.


Sure, because in 20 years from now your kitchen will give you free electricity…why not. I should say that the added value will vary grately depending on which market you buy in.


I believe that a solar system does increase the value of the home. However, leases can be problematical because lenders consider them a lien and their rules may require a property to be lien free. Additionally buyers may have to qualify for the loan on the solar system. Basically it can be messy. Lots of articles on this.

A solar system which is paid off presents no such issues.

David Lane

Many good points here, so thanks!

Its exciting to see what we are doing in this country to de-carbonize the grid. Much more needs to be done, but lets make note of the progress. Kudos!

F150 Brian

Interesting numbers for SD. And warm climates in general.

In northern climates, transportation is as low as 12% of the emissions from heating a single family dwelling. And there is no way you would heat with electricity at more than 10cents a KWh because you’d go broke pretty quick.

Oh, and with ave 4-5 hrs of sun (when the solar panels are not covered in snow) roof top solar pretty much has no chance to pay off.

The answer may be massive arrays in the south feeding the grid but rooftop solar is not the answer in general.

Martin Winlow

Perhaps, but this probably has more to do with dreadful insulation standards in houses than anything else. This can usually be fixed and relatively cheaply.

David Cary

Define “relatively cheaply”.

No easy answer to the old houses in the North. The best answer for them is global warming.


I travel to Europe often and have seen some interesting ways to insulate buildings. One way is to cover the outside walls from the outside with a 5″ layer of polisterin which has a weather protection and can be painted. Easy way to uplift and insulate at the same time.


What is “polisterin”? Perhaps you meant Polystyrene?

Wake Up

Nobody should be patting any corporate back that has such outrageous electric rates as the utility in this example. When are citizens going to take back essential services (nationalize) and bring costs to consumers way down?

Look what they did in Quebec in the 60s when they nationalized electricity in the province (Quiet Revolution). The rates today are $.05-$.08/kWh!!! Everything is electric up there, even with a cold climate. This is the basis for a clean AND socially just economy. Yes I know it’s mostly hydro, but other renewable energy sources (wind, geothermal, and solar) are also plentiful and inexpensive throughout North America.

Even in California, public utilities like SMUD have substantially lower rates than the corporate players, and this takes into account all the money they wasted with their nuclear blunder a few decades ago.

Americans need to wake up and stop being fleeced by corporations.


I wish they’d wake up in the UK & stop being fleeced,It’s ridiculously expensive here. the average cost of electricity here is £0.16p kwh / $0.20/kwh & petrol (today) is £5.46 / $6.84 UK gallon.

David Cary

The rates in CA are meant to be punitive to reduce use. It works very well. Industries don’t generally have the option to shut lights off. This isn’t corporate greed primarily, it is a rate structure to encourage conservation.


SMUD is central valley. Stuff is cheaper there than on the coast.

Investor-owned utilities can collude with government regulators to create high rates. The utility gets profits, the government gets “stealth” property and income taxes. If the government tried to impose those taxes directly they’d be voted out of office. And if they ran the utility they’d get voted out of office due to high rates. This way, they get the extra taxes while blaming it all on the utility.

This doesn’t happen everywhere, but it’s a big factor in big government areas like Kalifornia and cities in the US Northeast.


How are we supposed to wake up when we have all the big corporations as sponsors for pretty much every politician that is up for election? These politicians are their employees and do not represent the people. Make lobbying and limit financial contributions and then we may have a chance.

Wake Up said: “When are citizens going to take back essential services (nationalize) and bring costs to consumers way down?” Nationalizing entire industries? Dude! The 1930s are calling; they want their political activism back. The Soviet Union nationalized all their industries and businesses. How did that work out for them? Communist China is now busily trying to convert to a capitalistic system, because they can see nationalized industries lead to — at best — a stagnant and weak economy. Oh, and look at North Korea. There’s a shining (or rather, infamously not shining at night) example of the result of nationalizing the electric utilities, isn’t it? /snark “Look what they did in Quebec in the 60s when they nationalized electricity in the province (Quiet Revolution)… Yes I know it’s mostly hydro…” Yes, it’s mostly hydro. Even an American like me knows that much. Yet apparently it hasn’t occurred to you that the reason electric rates are so low in Quebec is because hydroelectric plants are very cheap to run and maintain, after you build the dams. “Even in California, public utilities like SMUD have substantially lower rates than the corporate players, and this takes into account all the money they… Read more »
Wake Up 2

Well run public utilities, big and small, using everything from natural gas to coal to wind to solar to hydro charge ratepayers $.05/kWh -$.11/kWh (fixed fees included) for reliable electricity. Crony governments (mostly right wing) in bed with corporate utilities have taken over state utility commissions to the detriment of citizens and then charge captive customers $.15/kWh to $.50/kWh for electricity, often with less reliability.

Facts are hard for some people to accept.

Nuclear is a boondoggle. New nuclear is dead.


Well-run investor owned utilities also provide reliable power at reasonable prices. Check out Mid-American in Iowa – 7 cents/kWh with a very high fraction coming from wind. I was paying 6 cents on a house near Dallas recently.

Contrary to your claim, high electricity prices tend to be in areas controlled by Democrats. Coastal California, Massachusetts, NYC, etc.

Four Electrics

Wow! …and thanks!

I knew intellectually that we waste about 2/3 of the energy used to power our electrical grid and our transportation needs (the latter would be even worse if we used hydrogen fuel), but it’s quite another thing to get that gut-punch of seeing it represented graphically!

And I’ll be sure and link to that next time some “fool cell” fanboy bleats “Efficiency doesn’t matter!”


The vehicle fueling comparison is impressive. How do you manage to keep both cars plugged in at home during peak sun hours? And how do you get rooftop solar installed for $2.10/W in Socal? It’s been many years since I lived there but I remember prices for just about any kind of contractor being much higher than the national average.


I have limited roof space so i had to go with more expensive panels (LG320) and ended up at $2.90/w


That is $2.57/w
I’m in E Los Angeles.

Mister G

When renewables reach 50% of energy production we will all see the benefits of cleaner air and water. But must also deal with the decline of the petroleum state around the world.