In a move that will help San Francisco reach its carbon-reduction goals, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance that will increase the amount of clean and renewable energy flowing to the city. The legislation, sponsored by Supervisors Scott Wiener and London Breed, authorizes the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (the SFPUC) to sell much more excess hydroelectric power from the Hetch Hetchy dam system to local development projects. This policy will enable the SFPUC to reduce the City’s greenhouse-gas emissions, sell the hydro power at rates that reflect its real value, and support the City’s developing Community Choice energy program, CleanPowerSF.
Currently, the SFPUC sells most of its excess hydro power at under-market wholesale rates to municipalities outside of San Francisco. The Supervisors’ action authorizes the SFPUC to sell the greenhouse-gas-free power at higher retail rates to large new developments here in the City (such as the new Transbay Transit Terminal project) and also to the CleanPowerSF program. PG&E is currently the default power provider in the city.
By authorizing the sale of surplus power at higher rates, the new policy will boost the SFPUC’s budget by tens of millions of dollars per year, which it can use to cover current budget shortfalls and pay for clean energy and streetlight projects that are badly in need of funds.
The legislation will also help spur the creation of new renewable energy projects in California. Cities that formerly purchased greenhouse-gas-free power from Hetch Hetchy at bargain-basement prices will now have to buy and build new clean energy sources of their own to meet climate action goals.
When it was originally introduced in July 2014, the legislation did not contain any support for CleanPowerSF. The Sierra Club and other clean energy advocates successfully pushed for an amendment that makes CleanPowerSF—once launched—a priority customer for the surplus hydro power. This amendment will help ensure that CleanPowerSF will be more cost-competitive and reliable.
The San Francisco Department of the Environment has stated that the City cannot meet its aggressive climate action goals without implementing a strong CleanPowerSF program, which would provide the City with at least 50% of its electricity from clean, local sources within the next decade. By contrast, PG&E’s power mix is only 20% renewable. CleanPowerSF will help San Francisco reduce its reliance on dirty and dangerous fossil fuels and transition to a 100% clean-energy economy. By strengthening CleanPowerSF and giving the city first right to excess hydro power, this new ordinance facilitates San Francisco’s energy transition and helps achieve climate goals.
Read more about CleanPowerSF in “Clean-energy advocates demand mayor restore CleanpowerSF language to San Francisco Climate Action Strategy” and “CleanPowerSF deleted from San Francisco Climate Action Strategy“.