The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission stood up for our city's utility customers Tuesday when it pulled the plug on the CleanPowerSF program. Crafted pursuant to a state law allowing local entities to compete with investor owned utilities, this community choice aggregation project was flawed from the start.
CCA came out of the energy deregulation crisis of a dozen years ago and was designed to inject competition in the generation of electrical power, with the goal of driving prices down. In fact, the stated goals of The City's 2007 CCA ordinance were to "meet or beat" PG&E rates for all rate classes, maintain rate stability, provide at least 51 percent of the power load from renewable sources and find a supplier for a long-term contract who would take all the risks.
The program that came before the commission this week did not come close to meeting these goals. It proposed a premium rate under a short-term contract, with no new green power (it would buy renewable energy credits), with all liability resting with the taxpayers and SFPUC ratepayers. The plan is simply not what it was intended to be.
Another big concern is that the program is not entirely voluntary. Because The City is limited by the state CCA law, residents would be automatically enrolled in the higher-priced program. If they are not informed or don't remember to "opt out" they are in the program whether they like it or not. This hardly seems fair for low-income residents and small businesses that could end up paying more for their energy without even knowing it.
Despite these issues, the Board of Supervisors and organizations such as the Sierra Club have tried to pressure the SFPUC to adopt these premium rates, with all the risks and lack of real green power. Thankfully, three commissioners stood up for utility consumers and said "no." The Chamber applauds Commissioners Ann Moller Caen, Vince Courtney and Art Torres for doing so.
However, even with this week's SFPUC vote, you can be sure this won't be the last we hear of CleanPowerSF. After nine years and millions of dollars spent trying to launch this flawed project, it's time to rethink CleanPowerSF. Public and private renewable energy projects right here in San Francisco would go a lot further in creating real green energy for the statewide power grid — a goal everyone can get behind.
Bob Linscheid is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.