Following political scuffle, funding restored to CleanPowerSF effort 

click to enlarge Members of the Board of Supervisors rejected an SFPUC budget proposal last month after the commission voted against maximum rates for CleanPowerSF, an energy program that would focus on green sources such as solar power. - CINDY CHEW/S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • Cindy Chew/S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Members of the Board of Supervisors rejected an SFPUC budget proposal last month after the commission voted against maximum rates for CleanPowerSF, an energy program that would focus on green sources such as solar power.

Last month's surprise move to cut funding from San Francisco's proposed clean energy program created a political uproar and an unprecedented vote to reject the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission's budget proposal.

On Wednesday, SFPUC General Manager Harlan Kelly announced a new proposal that budgets $4 million for the effort. And that could eventually rise to $7 million.

Claiming financial woes, the SFPUC had cut the $19.5 million set aside for the program in its budget as part of Mayor Ed Lee's recently submitted spending plan for San Francisco. That decision was perceived as the death knell for CleanPowerSF, a program designed to compete with monopoly energy provider PG&E by offering electricity from 100 percent renewable energy sources. Last August, the commission had rejected the program's maximum power rates in a controversial vote setting back more than a decade of work.

Supervisor John Avalos -- who has hammered program opponents, alleging they are caving to PG&E pressure -- led the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee last month in an unprecedented vote rejecting the SFPUC's budget proposal.

"I really wanted to make sure the message was loud and clear that the Board of Supervisors moving forward on [CleanPowerSF] is a real priority," Avalos said.

With funding restored, he added, "there will be a pulse for CleanPowerSF. I know we have huge hurdles to cross still."

The $19.5 million was earmarked for launching the program under a contract with Shell Energy North America. That contract is no longer a part of the effort and the energy market is more favorable than it was a few years ago.

"Given the changes in the marketplace, we feel that the $4 million is enough money to launch a ... program," Kelly said. Additionally, $3 million currently budgeted for GoSolarSF, a subsidy solar installation program, will be prioritized for CleanPowerSF customers if launched.

Supervisor London Breed had threatened during Wednesday's Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee hearing to throw up more budget road blocks for the agency for political leverage, but abandoned the legislative maneuver.

"I have assurances that they are going to work with us," Breed said of Kelly and the mayor. The SFPUC is expected to hold a June 24 meeting to discuss launching its own community choice aggregation program under a California law that allows for such municipal utilities to exist.

The City is also exploring joining Marin Clean Energy, which was the state's first CCA.

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