San Francisco Clean Power Plan Ends PG&E Monopoly, for Now

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
(photo: Flickr / SmackNHawaii)

In what appeared to be a veto-proof 8-3 vote Tuesday night, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors ended Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) monopoly on the local consumer power market by approving a five-year contract with a company that will provide 100% renewable power.

The program, called CleanPowerSF, would deliver power from Shell Energy North America at a premium price and initially be offered to half the area’s 375,000 power users, who have already been deemed most likely to pay for it. The measure was passed under threat of veto by Mayor Ed Lee, who objected to its automatic “opt-in” feature, which requires those who don’t want to participate to pro-actively choose that option.

Lee wants the “opt-out” option to be the default and expressed a fear that the city could be on the hook for $13.5 million if too few people sign up for the program.

The legislation, which will be coming back to the board for a second vote before Lee gets a crack at it, pledges $19.5 million in public funds over 4.5 years for the project. Of that money, $13.5 million is set aside as reserves to guarantee, among other things, that Shell Energy is compensated if the city terminates the program prematurely. The other $6 million is earmarked for environmental programs, including the study of local power-generation options, and the funding of solar and energy-efficiency programs.

At some point, the Public Utilities Commission’s (PUC) Rate Fairness Board will weigh in on the issue. The commission has estimated that utility bills could increase between $9.55 and $77.86 a month, depending on customer usage. It put the average at around $18.53, with 43% of users paying less than $10.

Introduction of a clean alternative power source has been talked about in the Bay Area for years, and the subject of high-stakes political intrigue of late. SF Weekly reported allegations that PUC officials were pressuring commission-funded non-profits not to participate in the program and that city officials and PG&E “surrogates” were lobbying hard against it.

The publication quoted Supervisor David Campos, who sponsored the legislation, as saying after the vote, “I didn't realize how big a deal it was until I realized how hard they were trying to kill it.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Historic, Veto-Proof Vote Launches CleanPowerSF (by Steven T. Jones, San Francisco Bay Guardian)

SF Public Power Plan Given Tentative OK (by John Coté, San Francisco Chronicle)

Public Power: Board of Supervisors Approves CleanPowerSF (by Joe Eskenazi, SF Weekly)

Lee Wants More Talk on Clean Power Plan (by John Coté and Ellen Huet, San Francisco Chronicle)

Contract with Shell Energy for the CleanPowerSF Program: Economic Impact Report (Office of the San Francisco Controller)    

Leave a comment