Energy debate stalls rate-setting for CleanPowerSF 

click to enlarge Questions about the CleanPowerSF program prompted the SFPUC to wait on the decision until April 23. - AP FILE PHOTO
  • AP File Photo
  • Questions about the CleanPowerSF program prompted the SFPUC to wait on the decision until April 23.

A decision over “not-to-exceed” rates for San Francisco’s CleanPowerSF program was postponed Monday amid a larger debate about the amount of renewable energy projects the effort would fund.

While the Board of Supervisors approved CleanPowerSF last year, other steps are needed to ensure the  program offering 100 percent renewable energy begins automatically enrolling customers in October.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission needs to approve the community choice aggregation program’s not-to-exceed rates, which was supposed to occur Monday. But that decision was continued until April 23 amid mounting questions about the vision of the CleanPowerSF program.

A contingent of environmentalists — mostly members of the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay chapter — that strongly supports such programs criticized CleanPowerSF for lacking the development of large-scale renewable energy projects.

Meanwhile, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, a union representing utility workers for energy companies such as PG&E, opposes the program on the grounds that it would cost its members jobs.
Supervisor David Campos, a proponent of the program, called these two contingents “a strange confluence” of “two extremes.”

He called on advocates to soften their message, suggesting the hard-line stance could mean lights out for the years-in-the-making program.

“I don’t agree with the approach that unless you get 100 percent of the program you want, that you tear it down. I don’t believe that,” Campos said. “I do think that there are some within the advocate community that are willing to do that, and I am not going to let that happen.”

The SFPUC, however, was directed to address the advocates’ concerns and provide a detailed build-out plan for the program and the amount of bonds it could issue to fund it in time for the commission’s April 23 meeting, when it is expected to vote on the not-to-exceed rates.

An average customer in the program is expected to see his or her bills increase by between $10.24 and $29.78 per month.

The SFPUC’s build-out plans in the initial years include things like solar installations or energy efficiencies. But advocates want a robust program early on.

“Plan a program that’s going to have low enough rates that all the customers will join in so that you can do the hundreds of megawatts and put people to work,” said Eric Brooks, head of Our City, a local grass-roots organization.

To ensure a large enough customer base, the SFPUC plans to auto-enroll approximately 200,000 ratepayers to end up with the desired 90,000 customers for the beginning phase.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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