Burning fossil fuels for energy generation or transportation is killing our planet as we know it. Climate change experts agree that we must act now to decarbonize both sources of pollution poison. Del Mar has made progress in reducing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with power generation by being a founding member of the Clean Energy Alliance (CEA). CEA currently provides Del Mar customers with 50% clean, 75% carbon-free (mainly hydro) power, with the option exercised by the city and some residents to opt up to 100% clean energy. A good start towards the goal of reaching 100% clean energy by 2035.
Transportation is the biggest pollution source and we are currently in the midst of a revolution in transportation options. Electric vehicles (EVs) accounted for 19% (almost 350,000) of new car sales last year in California. There were almost 30,000 EVs sold in San Diego County in 2022. Del Mar briefly had more EVs per capita than any other city in California in 2017-2018, but the rest of the state has caught up. Electric bicycle (E-bike) sales have rocketed upwards in the last 3 years and are now the top selling electric vehicle in the United States. They are not cheap, and the California Air Resources Board will shortly offer a $1000 rebate for eligible customers to incentivize E-bike purchases.
If you charge your EV or E-bike at home or at work, you are probably happy, although you might be concerned about rising electricity rates (San Diego Gas & Electric charges for electricity distribution and transmission account for more than 70% of your monthly bill, and they are scheduled to rise by at least 12% next year). If you use your EV for longer trips, you know that we need many more EV chargers, particularly the Level 3 Fast Chargers that will repower your battery in 30 minutes or less. Unfortunately, these chargers may cost around $100,000 to install. Fortunately, there are now federal and state funds available to pay for these installations.
Del Mar installed five Level 2 EV chargers in the Civic Center parking garage in 2018. We need many more now, and Del Mar needs to seek the available grants before the funds are expended. We also need to deal with the growing number of E-bikes that now share our roads and bike lanes with cars and regular bicycles. The most powerful class 3 E-bikes are supposed to be restricted to riders 16 years or older and bike helmets are required. Anyone walking around Del Mar will quickly realize that these rules are not being followed. E-bike crashes and fatalities have prompted other North Coastal cities to regulate their use. Maybe it is time for Del Mar to take similar action. By the way, STOP signs apply to bikers too.
Many of us in Del Mar walk our many streets without sidewalks. A walkable village that prioritizes pedestrian access is part of our Community Plan. Sharing our winding streets with silent EVs or flying E-bikes is a growing challenge. We need to keep our small city safe for pedestrians. Let’s adapt to electrified transportation to help save our planet, but let’s also address the unintended consequences.