May 30, 2015

Search Results for: cleanpowersf

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.

WhatYouCanDo

Contact Mayor Ed Lee at:

City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415)554-6141
fax: (415)554-6160
mayoredwinlee@sfgov.org

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.

WhatYouCanDo


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.

WhatYouCanDo

Contact the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at:

City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
board.of.supervisors@sfgov.org

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

On April 28, rally for SF’s clean-energy future!

tumblr_nlw2frt7Ai1urqrqbo4_1280One month from today we’re taking our call for clean and affordable energy to the streets. Join us on Tuesday, April 28th, as we rally outside City Hall to tell San Francisco’s leaders loud and clear: Launch CleanPowerSF this year!

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 create thousands of local green jobs: economic opportunities to benefit every San Francisco resident!

We need you now more than ever to push for the swift launch of CleanPowerSF. Earlier this year, Mayor Ed Lee came out in support of the program. But 2015 is an election year and we suspect the mayor’s support is not unconditional. This means we must act now to ensure that CleanPowerSF is well on its way to launch before Election Day on November 3rd, 2015.

Momentum is on our side, but we can’t let this window of opportunity slam shut. We need you standing with us next month to make sure city leaders get the message: San Francisco wants a clean energy alternative now!

WHAT: Rally outside City Hall and then take our message to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission meeting to make sure our support for CleanPowerSF is logged in the public record.

WHERE: San Francisco City Hall (Polk Street Steps), 1 Doctor Carlton B Goodlett Place, San Francisco

WHEN: Tuesday, April 28, 12:30 pm

WHO: A diverse coalition of neighborhood associations, environmental organizations, and community members who share our goals of clean air and water, climate action, and local green jobs

RSVP_Today!_ButtonWith your support, we could all be powered by clean and renewable local power this time next year! See you on the steps of City Hall next month!

Have questions or want to help out? Contact Jess Dervin-Ackerman at jess.dervin-ackerman@sierraclub.org or call 510-848-0800 ext. 304.

Community Choice energy programs surge across the region

Bay Chapter conservation organizers Jess Dervin Ackerman and Ratha Lai rally for Community Choice energy at the February 2015 March for Real Climate Leadership in Oakland.

Bay Chapter conservation organizers Jess Dervin Ackerman and Ratha Lai rally for Community Choice energy at the February 2015 March for Real Climate Leadership in Oakland.

Community Choice energy is catching on across the region, confirming the Bay Area’s position as a leader in the transition to a clean-energy economy. Depending where you live, your home or business may already be powered by the cleaner electricity provided by a Community Choice program — and if you’re not right now, it’s just a matter of time.

Community Choice energy (also known as Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA) is an alternative to the old model of the corporate utility monopoly that empowers governments to pool electricity customers to form a local power agency. Communities are thus able to provide power to local customers by purchasing renewable energy on the open market or by investing in local renewable infrastructure. Whereas PG&E relies on electricity from dirty and carbon-intensive sources, Community Choice programs choose clean and renewable power — and the benefits accrue locally, rather than to the shareholders of a for-profit utility like PG&E.

Since Marin Clean Energy (MCE) became California’s first Community Choice energy program in 2010, the power model has spread beyond Marin County as more communities recognize the extensive benefits that Community Choice 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.

Marin (and beyond!): a model for the region

3.4.15costcomparisons-RES-650x298Since its founding in 2010, MCE has expanded to cover unincorporated Napa County and the cities of Benicia, El Cerrito, Richmond, and San Pablo. By May of 2015, the program is projected to serve 165,000 customers in three counties.

MCE has been an unambiguous success for customers, the environment, and the local economy, as evidenced by the growing list of cities that wish to join its program. With a base rate that is cheaper and cleaner than PG&E’s, MCE saved its 125,000 customers more than $5.9 million in 2014. The program has created permanent local jobs and contracts for services like information technology and energy efficiency with local companies. Even more jobs are created as part of projects to develop local renewable-energy resources like a 2- to 5-megawatt solar plant at the Port of Richmond, scheduled for completion in 2016. MCE’s sustainable-workforce policy prioritizes fair compensation and support for local businesses, union labor, and apprenticeship programs — policies that are good for individual workers and the economy as a whole.

People who live in MCE’s service area are automatically enrolled in the “Light Green” 50-percent-renewable energy program. Residents or business customers who have the resources and desire to do more for the environment can opt up to “Deep Green” 100-percent-renewable energy. Deep Green costs only a penny more per kilowatt-hour than Light Green rates, so for most residential customers, the additional cost is less than $5 per month. In addition to slashing their carbon footprint, customers who opt up to 100-percent-renewable energy also support the development of new, local renewable-energy projects; half of the revenue from the Deep Green premium is directed to a local renewable-development fund for projects like the Port of Richmond solar installation.

MCE is launching a second 100-percent-clean energy choice called Local Sol that will draw its power from local solar installations. In its initial phase, Local Sol is limited to 200 participants. If you live in MCE’s service area and you want to learn more about opting up to either Deep Green or Local Sol, visit www.mcecleanenergy.org/power-choices.

Contra Costa County: a growing call for Community Choice

CCA_SolarPanel_constructionSince we last wrote about Community Choice in this publication last fall, three more cities in Contra Costa County have joined Marin Clean Energy. In February, enrollment notices for residents of El Cerrito, Benicia, and San Pablo landed in mailboxes, alerting them that they’ll soon be automatically enrolled in the clean-energy program.

Lafayette may be the next city in Contra Costa County to jump on the MCE bandwagon. The city’s Environmental Task Force has recommended that the city council authorize a feasibility study to evaluate joining Marin Clean Energy. Walnut Creek took this step last year. And in a discussion about its climate action plan in December, the Walnut Creek City Council decided to work to persuade the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to establish a county-wide Community Choice energy program. Certainly, with more and more cities jumping ship for MCE, Contra Costa County should consider the option.

A county-wide Community Choice program would benefit the county in many ways. It would mean that cities like Lafayette would not have to bear the cost of feasibility studies on their own. In addition, there are many unincorporated areas within Contra Costa County — such as Rodeo, Crocket, and Kensington — that do not have the option of establishing their own Community Choice programs  but might wish to join one. Add on the benefits to the environment and the local economy and it’s clear that establishing a Community Choice energy program in Contra Costa County would be a major step toward creating more sustainable, responsible, and resilient communities.

Alameda County: steady progress

8961efbc-3966-49b5-b5af-976f00dcd604Last June, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to take the first steps in establishing a Community Choice program, allocating $1.3 million in funding for an exploratory phase. Since then, the county’s Transportation and Planning Committee has reviewed many elements that will shape the program, including its goals, structure, and the role and composition of the advisory committee. The County’s Transportation and Planning Committee has stated a goal of launching the program as soon as possible, with a current estimated launch date of early 2017.

The East Bay Clean Power Alliance, of which the Bay Chapter is a member, has been closely following this process to ensure that Alameda County’s program emphasizes community participation, development of local renewable resources, and the creation of local clean-energy jobs.

County staff have just begun developing the application process for the advisory committee and are expecting the committee’s membership to be finalized by the end of March. The advisory committee will consist of Supervisors’ appointees and representatives of cities and other entities that are interested in participating in the Community Choice program.

San Francisco: unexpected breakthrough

IMG_0869After years of blocking progress on CleanPowerSF, this January San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee dropped his opposition to the city’s Community Choice program, allowing it to finally move forward. The success of the program is not assured, however; 2015 is an election year and we suspect the mayor’s support is not unconditional. This means we must ensure that CleanPowerSF is well on its way to launch and unable to be stalled or thwarted before Election Day on November 4th, 2015. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), which oversees the program, has pledged to launch CleanPowerSF by the end of the year. At present, however, it appears that the SFPUC is moving too slowly to meet that goal.

The SFPUC has decided to adopt a two-tiered pricing structure like that of Marin Clean Energy, which the Sierra Club has advocated for several years. Under this pricing structure, CleanPowerSF will sell two types of electricity. The base level, into which all customers will be automatically enrolled, will be generated from 50 percent renewable energy and will sell for less than PG&E’s standard, dirtier electricity. The low price will help keep customers in the program. CleanPowerSF will also offer a 100-percent renewable option for an as-yet-undetermined price.

Unfortunately, the SFPUC is delaying the formal setting of the program’s maximum electricity rates. Despite Commissioner Francesca Vietor calling for rates to be set in February, the SFPUC has put off this step — a prerequisite to getting CleanPowerSF up and running.

The Sierra Club will rally at 12:30 pm on Tuesday, April 28,  at San Francisco City Hall to ask the SFPUC to end the delays and finally provide a clean energy choice for San Francisco after 12 long years. Learn more here.

WhatYouCanDo

Want to advocate for Community Choice in your community? Add your name at www.bayareaenergychoice.org and we’ll be in touch with opportunities for you to make a difference.