Flipping the switch on a renewable energy program remains a challenge for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which on Tuesday added to a long series of delays by refusing to adopt maximum rates for the effort known as CleanPowerSF.
Advocates who had criticized the program are now in support after the SFPUC lowered program rates and strengthened commitments to invest in job-creating renewable energy projects.
But commission Chairman Art Torres succeeded in postponing the vote, citing the recent opposition from the influential San Francisco Labor Council, in step with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, which represents PG&E utility workers.
When pressed by one advocate, Torres responded: “No. 1, I am in favor of this program. No. 2, I want to see it happen. No. 3, I want to participate. But I am also sensitive to the needs of labor and I believe their voices should be heard before we move forward.”
He added, “If they can’t come up with a compromise … we are still scheduled to have a vote on the project.”
The commission could vote on the program as early as July 23 but no later than Aug. 13.
The program, if approved, would launch next spring by automatically enrolling about 100,000 existing PG&E electricity customers in The City, though they would have the option to opt out. The plan is to have about 90,000 customers enrolled initially. For the customers using between 139 and 288 kilowatt-hours a month, recent bill estimates show increases between $5.85 and $12.10 a month — a rate that would be competitive with the planned “green tariff” program from PG&E, which opposes CleanPowerSF and other community choice aggregation programs. Previous cost estimates had monthly bill increases between $9.55 and $24.14.
To launch, The City would enter into a $19.5 million, 4½-year agreement with Shell Energy North America to purchase the power. Members of the local chapter of the Sierra Club have criticized the program in the past but are now in support, with the new lowered rates and a stronger commitment for a coinciding local build-out program.
Eric Brooks, a community advocate involved in the effort for the past nine years, said a build-out plan would come before a finalized agreement with Shell.
Brooks met with the labor council Tuesday in hopes of brokering a compromise.
He told the commission, “Hopefully by two weeks from now we can get enough communication going that you folks will realize that it’s OK to go forward with this.”