Today, 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.