Scripps Oceanography Partnering With SDG&E Does Not Make Sense

by on September 22, 2021 · 1 comment

in Environment, San Diego

Scripps Institution of Oceanography is a leader in climate change research, yet it has a relationship with a utility that produces dangerous fossil fuels.

By Luke Stroth, Adam Cooper, Taylor Mckie / Op-Ed San Diego Union-Tribune / Sept. 20, 2021

Scripps Institution of Oceanography has long prided itself as a national leader in climate change research, yet it is pursuing a relationship with a utility owned by a regressive corporation that produces dangerous fossil fuels. To be in compliance with the mandates of the California Public Utilities Commission, San Diego Gas & Electric signed a memorandum of understanding with Scripps in February 2021. The objective of the memo is to improve risk assessment models using the best available science for the protection of SDG&E’s operations and infrastructure from coastal flooding and wildfires exacerbated by the climate crisis. Scripps scientists bring technical expertise to the partnership as well as their image of climate mitigation. The research here is worthy; however, it’s concerning that Scripps’ reputation can be used to shield SDG&E’s unethical business practices.

SDG&E is owned by Sempra Energy, which divested $1.05 billion of renewable assets to pursue expanding methane infrastructure through 2024. Sempra shields its actions with greenwashed pledges to reduce methane emissions, while refusing to make a plan in line with the Paris Climate Accords. Additionally, SDG&E has been lobbying against rooftop solar by making it more expensive, discouraging new customers from transitioning to renewables. We find the vision of SDG&E’s memorandum of understanding with Scripps to establish “a nationally recognized model of climate resilience” to be paradoxical when SDG&E and Sempra are actively undercutting mitigation methods. In the aftermath of the city of San Diego’s franchise negotiations with SDG&E, we are curious what role Scripps played, however unintentionally, in “greenwashing” SDG&E’s image and allowing it 20 more years as our energy provider. Now, we are forced to adapt to the consequences of climate change without addressing the root cause, which is like bailing water out of a sinking ship instead of plugging the leak.

The California Public Utilities Commission also mandates SDG&E to prioritize disadvantaged communities in its assessments, but we question the authenticity of its commitments. As a publicly funded institution, Scripps is also accountable to members of communities most vulnerable to extreme weather intensified by climate change. The memorandum of understanding does not center community collaboration nor explicitly provide a plan to identify and engage with community leaders. Certainly we need a robust utility system that does not suffer power outages, but what are community leaders in San Diego really asking for? Municipalization, affordable electric bills and a utility that can be held accountable by the public. We ask ourselves, if there was communication between community leaders and our academic institution, would such partnerships easily arise? If those relationships were present, would SDG&E have the opportunity to laud its attempts to become “a nationally recognized model of climate resilience,” especially while San Diego was reconsidering its contract with the utility?

For the balance of this article and important links, please go here.

Stroth is a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at UC San Diego and lives in La Jolla. Cooper is a Ph.D. student in chemistry and biochemistry at UC San Diego and lives in Clairemont. McKie is a Ph.D. student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and lives in La Jolla. All are members of the Graduate and Professional Student Association’s Climate Action and Policy Committee at UC San Diego.

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Reader September 22, 2021 at 7:36 pm

kudos to bold writer. It is clear. With a monopoly. They give away a pittance of the $ profits they collect from mostly fossil fuels to buy off or gain good will and clout to numerous amount of groups. That same $ would just be saved by customers. Rather than be given away to whomever says thank you polluter extortionists, or to 400 six figure salaried staff there. Weird flex. #publicpower

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