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.”