A San Francisco program to provide a green alternative to Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) monopoly on electric power to the area was stopped in its tracks by the city’s Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) on Tuesday.
“It’s the whole political establishment coming down against public power,” San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos said after the PUC voted against setting rates for CleanPowerSF, a renewable power program approved by the board of supervisors last year that would automatically enroll half the city’s 375,000 residential users. The program has been nine years in the making.
It would cost customers an average $5.30 a month extra, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, roughly equal in price to a competing green proposal being worked on by PG&E. Customers could choose to opt out of the program. The target date for starting is spring 2014.
A state law passed in 2002, AB 117, directed California’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to facilitate creation of Community Choice Aggregation programs (CCAs) like CleanPowerSF. CCAs have received stiff resistance from entrenched energy companies, but Marin Clean Energy began servicing Marin County and the city of Richmond in 2010, becoming the first and only green electrical provider under the program.
Questions have been raised about CleanPowerSF’s reliance on well-known polluter Shell Oil to execute the program, and it has received opposition from unions that represent PG&E employees. Businesses and unions with interests in specific renewable energy projects not yet favored by CleanPowerSF have also expressed their opposition.
But environmental groups like Sierra Club, other labor organizations, residents and a bunch of their political representatives want it. One politician who doesn’t, however, is Mayor Ed Lee. He nominates the five members of the local utility commission, who are then confirmed by the board of supervisors. SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue told the Chronicle that “the program we have now is not the program that the commission wants.”