January 20, 2017

Search Results for: cleanpowersf

CleanPowerSF supporters warn voters of disingenuous dirty-energy ballot initiative

CleanPowerSF supporters at a rally in support of the renewable energy program in April.

CleanPowerSF supporters at a rally in support of the renewable energy program in April.

On July 6th, signatures a for PG&E-backed measure were submitted with the San Francisco Department of Elections for the November 2015 ballot. The measure purports to be all about transparency and accurate advertising of clean energy offerings. But the so-called “San Francisco Renewable Energy Truth in Advertising Act” is in fact a thinly-veiled attempt to kill the City’s nascent renewable-energy program, CleanPowerSF. The measure seeks to place burdensome requirements on CleanPowerSF — requirements that PG&E itself is not subject to — in order to undermine the locally-owned program before it launches in January of 2016.

The ballot measure would allow PG&E to label its dirtier fossil fuel and nuclear energy mix as as-green as the energy that will be provided through CleanPowerSF. CleanPowerSF plans to launch with an energy mix that is between 33% and 50% renewable, at rates competitive to those of PG&E, with an option to “opt up” to a 100% renewable product for a small premium. PG&E offered a 22% renewable power mix, as of their latest (2013) filings.

The measure was filed by IBEW Local 1245, the primary PG&E union, which has repeatedly used paid advertising, legislation, and ballot measures both locally and statewide to attack local Community Choice clean-energy programs that compete with PG&E’s profits by offering less polluting, less expensive electricity.

“Voters have seen through previous attempts to preserve California’s dirty energy monopoly, just as they will see through this disingenuous measure that attempts to undermine CleanPowerSF,” said Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter director Michelle Myers. “Community Choice energy programs like CleanPowerSF provide the mechanism for transitioning away from dirty fossil fuels to clean alternatives like wind and solar. Community Choice is good for ratepayers, good for economic development, and good for the planet.”

Under state law, clean, renewable electricity includes generation from solar, wind, and geothermal sources, and does not include polluting electricity generation from nuclear or fossil fuels.

If passed, this measure would set a double standard to allow PG&E to advertise unbundled renewable energy credits (RECs) as clean and green, while barring CleanPowerSF from using those terms (“clean” and “green”) to advertise offerings of the very same kind of RECs.

Since the CleanPowerSF program plans to use neither nuclear energy nor unbundled RECs in its power mix, the PG&E-backed proposition seems to be designed purely to give the for-profit utility an unfair marketing advantage.

“This so called ‘Truth in Advertising’ measure enables PG&E to deceive energy customers and claim that its dirty fossil fuel and nuclear power is just as ‘clean’ and ‘green’ as the far more renewable CleanPowerSF program,” said Jed Holtzman, Co-Coordinator of 350 San Francisco. “PG&E heavily uses the same unbundled RECs they are trying to ban for CleanPowerSF in order to greenwash the climate-changing and health-harming pollution they pour into the air every year.”

“For more than a decade we have repeatedly fought and defeated PG&E’s cynical ballot measures and legislative attacks against cleaner and lower-cost community-based energy,” said Bruce Wolfe of Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council. “Now this monopoly is outrageously seeking to set up special rules that would allow it to pretend its dirty nuclear and fossil fuel energy is as clean as wind and solar power? Give me a break!”

The Community Choice energy model has surged across the region as more communities recognize the extensive benefits it provides. These benefits include local green jobs and investment in the local economy; cleaner air and a lower carbon footprint; and freedom from the unstable and steadily increasing costs of electricity generated by fossil fuels.

“Community Choice energy programs continue to grow and provide customers with cheaper, cleaner energy than what PG&E provides,” said Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter conservation manager Jess Dervin-Ackerman. “This success may pose a threat to the dirty energy monopoly and its shareholders, but it’s an unambiguous good for San Franciscans.”

CleanPowerSF continues forward march; not-to-exceed rates approved

10363660_923641177688459_6776650116519568805_nToday, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission approved the not-to-exceed rates for CleanPowerSF, moving the City’s local renewable-energy program one step closer to launch. Voting to approve rates were Commissioners Anson Moran, Ike Kwon, and Vince Courtney, with Commission President Ann Moller Caen and Vice President Francesca Vietor not present, though both sent in statements of support for moving forward with the program.

The Commission’s approval establishes that CleanPowerSF rates will not exceed the standard power rates of Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), which until CleanPowerSF launches early next year, is the sole monopoly provider of energy to San Francisco customers. Today’s SFPUC action sets the stage for CleanPowerSF to deliver greener power at lower rates to customers than is provided by PG&E. Currently PG&E provides 25% renewable energy to customers, while CleanPowerSF is expected to provide 33 – 50% renewable energy at launch, with the option for customers to pay a small premium and opt up to buy 100% renewable electricity.

“We’re thrilled to see such a diverse coalition of community groups, labor unions, and city leadership come together to support San Francisco’s clean energy future,” said Jess Dervin-Ackerman, conservation manager for the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter. “Moving past this hurdle with the support of so many makes us excited for what we can achieve through the launch of CleanPowerSF: a reduction of carbon pollution, reinvestment in our communities that need it most, good-paying union jobs, and a program that is for and by the community.”

Resurrecting SF’s clean-energy future

After languishing for over 11 years, today’s action by the SFPUC is the farthest the program has gotten along the path to launch. This January, after years of blocking progress on CleanPowerSF, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee dropped his opposition to the city’s Community Choice program, allowing it to finally move forward.

“This action by the SFPUC is a major step forward in spurring the clean energy transformation that San Francisco needs to aggressively reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and do its part to curb climate chaos,” said Jed Holtzman, Co-Coordinator of 350 San Francisco. “These competitive rates clearly show that the time is now for communities to transition to clean, renewable energy and away from fossil fuel energy that damages our communities and public health.”

Local and global benefits

Launching a local renewable-energy program is the single most powerful action San Francisco can take to reduce carbon pollution and help prevent the worst impacts of climate disruption. By transitioning away from dirty fossil fuels to clean alternatives like wind and solar, we’ll help clean up our air and water and leave a healthier planet for future generations. The program will also spur infrastructure development and will create over 9,000 local green jobs.

Al Weinrub, Coordinator of Local Clean Energy Alliance said, “Now that competitive rates are set for CleanPowerSF we can determine the amount of revenue that can be leveraged for the most important objective of the program; that of putting thousands of people to work as the City builds out hundreds of megawatts of local clean energy and efficiency installations on homes, businesses and government buildings. This is a big day for addressing both the climate crisis and the economic crisis in one decisive program.”

Broad community support

An April 28th rally for CleanPowerSF at City Hall, organized by the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter, showed the broad coalition that has come together to support the immediate launch of the clean-power program. Among the neighborhood associations, environmental organizations, labor groups, and public officials at that event were California Nurses Association, SEIU 1021, PODER, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, 350 SF, Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, Our City, SF Green Party, San Francisco League of Conservation Voters, San Francisco Women’s Political Caucus, Harvey Milk Democratic Club, Chinese Progressive Association, and Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar, London Breed, Jane Kim, and Scott Weiner.

San Francisco playing “catch up”with other regional players

The City of San Francisco has long been at the vanguard of the environmental movement. But as progress on CleanPowerSF has stalled for over a decade, San Francisco has fallen behind neighboring cities and counties when it comes to transitioning away from electricity produced by dirty fossil fuels. The Community Choice energy model has surged across the region as more communities recognize the extensive benefits it provides. These benefits include local green jobs and investment in the local economy; cleaner air and a lower carbon footprint; and freedom from the unstable and steadily-increasing costs of electricity generated by fossil fuels.

California’s two existing community choice programs provide greener energy at lower rates to their customers. Marin Clean Energy (California’s first Community Choice energy program) now serves customers in Marin County, unincorporated Napa County, and the cities of Benicia, El Cerrito, Richmond, and San Pablo — with several other cities looking to jump on board in 2015. Sonoma Clean Power serves the cities of Cloverdale, Cotati, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Sonoma, and the Town of Windsor, as well as all of the unincorporated areas in the county. Meanwhile, Alameda County’s own Community Choice program is moving steadily forward, with an estimated launch date of early 2017. And there is a growing chorus of voices in Contra Costa County calling for an exploration of a countywide program there.

Clean-energy advocates demand mayor restore CleanpowerSF language to San Francisco Climate Action Strategy

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally in 2013.

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally in 2013.

On March 31, community clean-energy and green-jobs advocates spoke at a hearing convened by San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos to demand answers on why Mayor Ed Lee is both blocking the launch of CleanPowerSF and stripping the city’s Climate Action Strategy of its only actionable strategy for a just transition to clean energy.

The San Francisco Department of Environment staff have repeatedly stated that a robust clean-energy program is essential to the city for meeting its climate-action goals on schedule, and every draft version of the city’s Climate Action Strategy has included CleanPowerSF as the cornerstone of that transition. However, when Mayor Lee unveiled the final Climate Action Strategy on Feb. 12, all references to CleanPowerSF were discovered to have been deleted from the document.

The Sierra Club, 350 San Francisco, San Francisco Green Party, Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, Our City, San Francisco Gray Panthers, and other concerned community members spoke at the hearing demanding an end to political favors trumping the need for strong action on climate in the mayor’s office. Over the past week, San Francisco elected leaders have received hundreds of emails from the public insisting that the city move CleanPowerSF toward launch and that the program be written back into the Climate Action Strategy.

The Sierra Club’s San Francisco Group chair Sue Vaughan said, “The people of San Francisco and our planet cannot wait any longer while politicians influenced by fossil-fuel energy corporations delay the just transition to clean energy. Thousands of scientists working on the global climate crisis are now sounding the alarm that we must act immediately and dramatically to curb catastrophic climate disruption.”

Eric Brooks, campaign coordinator for Our City, said “It is time for San Franciscans to stop tolerating the impunity of a mayor who is controlled by PG&E corporation. We will not stand to be a city whose elected leaders prioritize favors to campaign donors over the will and need of our people.”

Jed Holtzman, co-coordinator of 350 San Francisco, remarked, “The failure of this mayoral administration to recognize and act on the extremely alarming climate data is shockingly irresponsible. We live in a coastal city dependent on winter snowpack for drinking water.  Mayor Lee needs to stop acting on behalf of fossil-fuel corporations and start acting to protect his community.”

Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council boardmember and representative Bruce Wolfe said, “With Chevron announcing 1,000 new jobs for fossil-fuel modernization that is a direct contributor to climate change, the CleanPowerSF program is crucial to generating thousands of new green jobs in San Francisco, and yet our so called ‘Jobs Mayor’ is blocking the program and even deleting it from the city’s environmental documents. This has an obvious appearance of outright corruption to all of us.”

CleanPowerSF deleted from San Francisco Climate Action Strategy

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally.

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally.

All references to CleanPowerSF, the program to offer residents 100%-renewable electricity, mysteriously disappeared between two versions of San Francisco’s new Climate Action Strategy. In one draft, it was there. Two days later, all mention of the program had been deleted from the final version.

The problem is that without CleanPowerSF, there is no way the city can meet its new target of moving to 100%-renewable electricity by 2030. The Strategy still says, “Moving to 100% renewable electricity is the single biggest step the City can take to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” But it no longer lists any possible way to make that step. All that is left is a list of small programs, such as, “Expand SFPark meter demand pricing program,” most of which have nothing to do with renewable electricity. The Climate Action Plan has been reduced to a glossy brochure on the dangers of climate change.

On March 11 Supervisor John Avalos said, “Unless we quickly implement 100% renewable electricity, we will fail to meet our legislated Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction requirements in the next few years.”

San Francisco has already missed its 2012 greenhouse-gas-reduction targets by a wide margin, because Mayor Edwin Lee gutted the programs created by former Mayor Newsom that would have enabled the targets to be met (see Feb., page 4). Now his administration’s hastily edited new plan advances little further.

When asked about the deletions at a Board of Supervisors meeting on March 11, Mayor Lee dodged the question, talking only about his opposition to CleanPowerSF, which he has stalled, but lacks the authority to kill.

What Mayor Lee has succeeded in doing is to rip the guts out of the new Climate Action Strategy, rendering it as meaningless as the missed greenhouse-gas reduction targets from 2012.

John Rizzo, chair, Sierra Club Bay Chapter Political Committee

Clean energy advocates applaud reduced electricity rates for CleanPowerSF

300x225_cleanpowersfOn July 9 San Francisco’s Local Area Formation Commission, in joint meeting with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, voted to reduce the proposed maximum electricity rate for the CleanPowerSF program, which is scheduled to launch early next year. The Sierra Club applauds this change.

Until recently SFPUC staff planned to set the cap at almost double PG&E power rates, but after more than a year of work between advocates and the SFPUC, the rate cap is now set to be much lower. The new cap will ensure that tier-one customers, who are expected to make up the bulk of the program’s participants, will receive the benefit of a much higher renewable-electricity mix than that of PG&E, for an average monthly increase of less than six dollars.

CleanPowerSF is being planned to install hundreds of megawatts of clean, renewable energy and efficiency measures throughout San Francisco, and to generate thousands of local jobs. But advocates had warned that if the CleanPowerSF rate were set too high, too many customers would opt out of the program. This would have made the program too small in scale to achieve its main objective of providing at least half its clean electricity from such local installations by the end of the decade.

Arthur Feinstein, chair of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, said, “This lower rate cap for the CleanPowerSF program is a big victory for our community and the environment. These lower rates mean more San Franciscans will take part in the program. This will result in more local clean-energy generation, and that means more local jobs. It also means a lot less greenhouse gas will be going into the atmosphere, a major success in our battle with the world’s greatest threat, climate change.”

Al Weinrub, director of Local Clean Energy Alliance, said, “Now that a reasonable and more competitive cap is being set for CleanPowerSF electricity, we can get on to the important business: putting thousands of San Franciscans to work building hundreds of megawatts of local clean energy installations over the next decade. A large local installation program is vital to recovering a vibrant San Francisco economy, and to ensuring that we are truly replacing fossil fuel with verifiable renewable sources.”

Eric Brooks, campaign coordinator for Our City, said, “These lower rates will ensure that everyone in San Francisco, no matter what their income level, will be able to take part in CleanPowerSF. This will mean that the program will be large enough in scale to ensure strong local hiring of thousands of union workers to build out the infrastructure.”

Producing local renewable energy through CleanPowerSF

Photo: Flickr / Mass Am Sam (cc)

Photo: Flickr / Mass Am Sam (cc)

CleanPowerSF is San Francisco’s opportunity to invest hundreds of millions of dollars and bring thousands of local clean-energy jobs to San Francisco, while transitioning from reliance on dirty fossil-fuel energy to clean renewable electricity. However, a strong program will only take place through continued public advocacy.

Unfortunately, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is not currently prioritizing the investment in local renewable energy generation or energy efficiency. The SFPUC needs to make this commitment.

A strong local build-out plan is also needed for CleanPowerSF to be a popular and economically viable program, one that can compete with PG&E. To make sure that CleanPowerSF is an effective vehicle for addressing the climate and economic development issues facing San Francisco, write to the SFPUC.

Ask the commissioners to support the Sierra Club’s position to establish a solid plan for local production of renewable energy before launching CleanPowerSF, and to make sure that the program charges affordable rates from the beginning.

Supervisors pass CleanPowerSF!

On Tue., Sep. 18, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8 – 3 for legislation that will finally allow start-up of CleanPowerSF (see August-September Yodeler, page 4).

Supervisor David Campos, who has been working with community advocates and the San Francisco Public Utility Commission to shape the program, said “This program will provide a clean-energy choice to up to 90,000 San Franciscans at a third of the cost of all of the city’s previous and much-smaller renewable-electricity programs.”

Supervisors Campos, Chiu, Cohen, Mar, Kim, Olague, Weiner, and Avalos voted to support CleanPowerSF. Supervisors Farrell, Chu, and Elsbernd voted against the legislation.

For over a decade this program has been among the Sierra Club Bay Chapter’s top priorities. San Francisco Group ExComm member John Rizzo recalls lobbying for it in then-Supervisor Tom Ammiano’s office in 2002. Volunteers and staff have been working continually for it ever since. We will continue weighing in to improve implementation.

On Sep. 25 the Supervisors will hold a second reading on the ordinance. After that, Mayor Ed Lee will have 30 days to approve or veto it. Eight votes would be enough to override a mayoral veto. Then will begin the process of rolling out the program, hopefully providing power to customers by spring, and of developing local sources of green power.


Contact Mayor Ed Lee at:

City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
fax: (415)554-6160

Urge him to sign the legislation for CleanPowerSF and to give his full support to its fullest successful implementation and to local generation of clean power, so that San Francisco can take its rightful role as a national leader towards clean energy and stopping global climate change.

Clearing the path for renewable power in San Francisco–Turning CCA into DG and local jobs at CleanPowerSF–This alphabet-soup could determine future of clean energy

Veterans gain green-job skills.

Veterans gain green-job skills.

Updated (Sep. 6, 2012): added more-current information to the WhatYouCanDo section.

Fossil-fuel generation of electricity is one of the leading causes of global climate change, but switching a community to renewable energy is tricky.

A state law passed in 2002 (AB 117—Migden) created Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), the means under California law for communities to take control of their energy choices, offering residents an alternative to PG&E and other investor-owned utilities. But once a community does start setting up a Community Choice program, the results aren’t automatic. It takes a lot of tough decisions to determine whether Community Choice will bring local, clean, low-carbon power generation, energy-efficiency projects, and the accompanying skilled local jobs.

Local control does offer opportunities for nurturing local “distributed generation” (DG), such as solar panels and wind machines on buildings, parking lots, and other available urban spaces. Such local generation should be complemented with local energy-efficiency installations such as insulation, multi-paned windows, cogeneration units on gas boilers (using waste heat to produce steam-generated electricity), and smart grids. By building new local generation capacity, Community Choice ensures that it is directly increasing green power and not just competing with other buyers for renewable electricity that would be generated elsewhere anyway.

The city may also seek carbon-free energy from solar farms and wind farms in areas where large tracts of inexpensive land are available. In this case, we want the city to choose carefully. Such power plants can be far from the customers who use the power, requiring long transmission lines, which lose up to 15% of the power to resistive heat. These lines may be built through sensitive wild areas or agricultural lands. Many companies are trying to site facilities in precious desert wildlands or on prime farmlands. Local control gives the opportunity to set high environmental standards for choosing among providers, in particular standards higher than the state’s definition of renewable energy, which for example allows burning of wood chips.

Instituting such standards is a challenge, though. To get started, a Community Choice program may contract to buy electricity from a large-scale provider that can guarantee supply right away. This strategy can gain the community time to develop secure financing for local clean-energy sources. But once a contract is signed with a large provider, how can we make sure that the local community will develop its own clean energy?

San Francisco’s plans

This is a key problem that San Francisco is wrestling with as it sets up its new Community Choice program, CleanPowerSF (see April-May 2012, page 4). The Sierra Club Bay Chapter is working with allies such as the Local Clean Energy Alliance, Brightline Defense, and Our City to help the San Francisco Public Utility Commission, Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO), and Board of Supervisors shape the CleanPowerSF program.

The SFPUC has negotiated a contract with Shell Energy North America to provide energy meeting state standards as renewable. Shell was one of just two energy providers to come even close to meeting the bidding requirements set forward by the SFPUC three years ago. The SFPUC has passed a resolution for adopting the Shell contract, which, due to the work of the Sierra Club and allies, has language committing the city to the concept of local build-out of clean energy and efficiency as “essential to a successful CCA program”.

Next, two committees of the Board of Supervisors will soon be discussing this resolution. The Bay Chapter and its allies have been working hard to broaden the resolution to include local and regional renewable-energy resources and energy-efficiency projects. Once the resolution clears the two committees, then the full Board will decide whether to accept it and get started, or to reject it. At the same time, the city has contracted for Local Power, the Bay Area clean-energy engineering team that created the Community Choice model and specializes in planning for such programs, to study and then design an implementation plan for installing hundreds of megawatts of local and regional distributed generation via CleanPowerSF. Preliminary study results are due by the end of August, with installation plans and construction bids set for release by October.

The city is faced with some delicate decisions in very difficult financial times. If it approves the Shell contract without a plan for local generation, local renewables could end up developing too slowly, but if the city were to reject the Shell contract on this basis, San Francisco might miss the opportunity to get Community Choice started at all. An ideal solution would be to integrate the Shell contract and the local installation plan, moving them forward as a single program. Recently the SFPUC has proposed allocating $6 million towards energy-efficiency upgrades, the GoSolarSF program, and additional scoping of local build-out. Timing, though, may block integration of Local Power’s scientific analysis of load distribution, efficiency targets, and generation potential. We are working with Supervisor Campos, LAFCO, and the SFPUC to make the commitment to build-out as strong as possible.

Meanwhile, Marin Clean Energy has remained stable despite many attempts by PG&E to attack and undermine it, and is now making progress in building renewable-energy and efficiency installations” (see page 5).

An additional curveball for both Clean­PowerSF and MCE has come with PG&E’s recent announcement that it will soon offer customers what it calls a 100%-green option. This program, however, would be based entirely on Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) that fail to meet even California Renewable Portfolio Standards.

Sierra Club California is a party in a proceeding with the California Public Utility Commission to force PG&E to adopt RECs that qualify under the California Renewable Portfolio Standard, and to address potential monopolistic behavior.

The Sierra Club will continue to work with our allies to ensure that San Francisco finds a clear path forward with CleanPowerSF to genuinely encourage the greatest possible installation of local and regional renewable-energy generation, and energy efficiency.


Contact the San Francisco Board of Supervisors now to urge them to support the CleanPowerSF Community Choice program, with extensive local generation of renewable energy and energy-efficiency improvements.

In coming weeks we expect that there will be further opportunities for readers to take action to support a strong CleanPowerSF. To be sure of receiving e-mail updates and alerts from the Bay Chapter, sign up at http://action.sierraclub.org/site/PageNavigator/CHP_SFBay_SignUp.

David Gray, chair,
Sierra Club Bay Chapter Energy Committee

CleanPowerSF coming to vote

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will soon vote on a new implementation plan and contract for CleanPowerSF (see November-December Yodeler, page 5).

CleanPowerSF, due to start later this year, is San Francisco’s program of “Community Choice Aggregation” (CCA), which gives cities and counties the ability to purchase and develop renewable electricity. CleanPowerSF will offer San Francisco residents a choice: whether to stay with PG&E, which generates most of its electricity from dirty fossil fuels and nuclear power, or to opt for a green alternative with greatly reduced greenhouse-gas emissions.

The planning process for CleanPowerSF has been long and involved. Recently the city’s Public Utility Commission has introduced the framework of the program that will provide 100% renewable energy, at a projected cost for most customers just $6.70 more per month than PG&E’s. The Commission has also contracted for Local Power Inc., to perform a study of options for building local renewable generation (e.g. rooftop solar panels and wind turbines) and increasing energy efficiency. Such options can create local green-collar jobs.

(To our north, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is also actively advancing towards implementation of a Community Choice program. See the front-page article in Redwood Needles, the newsletter of the Sierra Club Redwood Chapter, February-March 2012.)

PG&E will likely do everything in its power to stop Community Choice, as it tried in 2010 with Prop 16, and in Marin with that county’s CCA effort. We need to let the San Francisco Supervisors know that the local community supports this program.


Contact the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at:

City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102

and Mayor Ed Lee at same mailing address as above or mayoredwinlee@sfgov.org.

Urge them to support the CleanPowerSF Community Choice program.

We’re not yet sure when the Board will be deciding. We’ll update this article when we know.

Jeramiah Dean, conservation organizer, Sierra Club Bay Chapter

Bay Area cities can lead the way to 100% clean energy

Activists at the 2015 Paris Climate conference made a full-body appeal for 100 percent renewable power. Credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Spectral Q.

Activists at the 2015 Paris Climate conference made a full-body appeal for 100 percent renewable power. Credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand / Spectral Q.

In his blog post “America’s Ready for 100,” the Sierra Club’s executive director Michael Brune wrote: “Time, tides, and climate disruption wait for no one. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA announced that global temperatures last year reached their highest level in 136 years of record-keeping. There’s only one rational response to news like that: cut climate pollution as fast as we possibly can. That means not only pushing back against fossil fuel projects but also expanding and accelerating our development of renewable energy. As Buckminster Fuller put it, we need to ‘build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.’”

That’s where the Sierra Club’s “Ready for 100” campaign comes in. We know it’s possible for the United States to power itself with a new model of 100 percent clean energy. Solar prices have fallen 80 percent in recent years. Wind prices have fallen 60 percent. In several regions of the country, clean energy is already cheaper than coal and gas and nuclear power. But the necessary transition to clean fuels won’t happen fast enough unless we set and meet some ambitious goals. Right now, the most effective way to do that is for cities, businesses, and local communities to commit to renewable power.

The “Ready for 100” campaign kicked off early in 2016 with a surprise action during the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C., and a challenge to get 100 U.S. cities to commit to 100 percent renewable energy. Already, 15 U.S. cities have declared they will go all-in on clean energy. Three of them, Burlington, Vermont, Greensburg, Kansas, and Aspen, Colorado, have already achieved that goal.

San Francisco was one of the first cities to commit to going 100 percent renewable, with a target date of 2020. CleanPowerSF — the local “Community Choice” clean-energy program that launched in May to provide an alternative to PG&E’s dirtier, pricier power — is a big part of how the city plans to reach that goal. Programs to increase energy efficiency and ramp up local renewable-power generation will also be key.

In addition to San Francisco, there are several other Bay Area cities that are ready to step up to meet the “Ready for 100” challenge. This year, the Bay Chapter and our local partners will be focused on getting Richmond and Oakland to take the pledge to commit to 100 percent renewable energy. Both cities have large environmental justice communities that are impacted by the fossil fuel industry (just look at emissions from Richmond’s Chevron refinery and the proposal to export coal through Oakland). Both cities also have Bay shorelines threatened by sea-level rise.

For Richmond and Oakland, as for San Francisco, being part of a Community Choice local clean-energy program will be an important part of getting to 100. Richmond already gets its power from Marin Clean Energy, which offers customers the option of 52 percent (the base “Light Green” option) or 100 percent (“Dark Green”) clean energy. As the cost of clean energy continues its downward trajectory and more renewable resources are developed locally, the percentage of clean energy in MCE’s “Light Green” option will rise, and more customers will migrate to the Dark Green option. Oakland, meanwhile, is likely to join the Alameda County Community Choice energy program now in development and projected to launch in early 2017.

The transition to a clean-energy economy will help Bay Area communities now, not just down the line. A recent economic study estimated that a transition to clean energy will add 1 million jobs in the U.S. by 2030 and increase household disposable income by $350-$400 in 2030 and by as much as $650 in 2050. San Francisco’s CleanPowerSF program, for example, is projected to create 8,100 construction jobs by building $2.4 billion worth of proposed solar, wind and geothermal projects.

As Richmond works to develop a Climate Action Plan and Oakland re-opens its own for updates, now is the time for these Bay cities to show their climate leadership and commit to 100 percent clean energy. Making this commitment will help create a safer, healthier world for future generations, as well as supporting our local economies.

We need your support to convince Bay Area cities to take the “Ready for 100” challenge. The first thing you can do is send a message to your mayor that you’re ready for 100 percent clean and renewable energy. Take that action today!

To get involved in the “Ready for 100” campaigns in Oakland and Richmond, email conservation organizer Nathan Duran at nathan.duran@sierraclub.org.