It's time for a real clean energy program 

click to enlarge The proposed CleanPowerSF contract would have outsourced The City's electric supply to Shell Oil. - JOCK FISTICK/BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES
  • Jock Fistick/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • The proposed CleanPowerSF contract would have outsourced The City's electric supply to Shell Oil.

Local members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers agree with The San Francisco Examiner: San Franciscans want and need clean-energy options. But we also believe the proposed CleanPowerSF contract with Shell Oil was appropriately rejected by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The program was not what San Franciscans expected — it would have outsourced our electric supply to Shell Oil, the rates were higher and the power wasn't truly green.

The deal did not provide real green energy options and was misleading because 75 to 85 percent of the power Shell was to supply would have come from fossil fuel generation from the grid — dirty energy that was to be greened with energy credits. These credits are not even energy. They are financial instruments, pieces of paper called renewable energy certificates.

Even the former general manager of the SFPUC admitted certificates are not "real" clean energy. Worse, this proposal automatically enrolled San Franciscans as customers of Shell — the same company that sued the Sierra Club to speed drilling in the fragile environment of the Arctic Ocean in Alaska.

The commissioners did their jobs under the City Charter and rejected a plan that would have increased rates and almost certainly increased greenhouse gas emissions.

This is how San Francisco's government is supposed to work, with citizen commissions providing oversight when politicians and rogue bureaucracies try to do things like make us pay more for dirtier power.

We suggest that Supervisor John Avalos, who continues to advocate for the Shell contract and is calling the commission vote a "crisis," re-read the charter he took an oath to uphold.

But now that the commission has done its job and acknowledged that the proposed contract did not meet the objectives and standards of a well-designed energy program, there is another job ahead — proposing a truly clean program that will actually bring green energy to San Franciscans.

There is one solution right in front of us.

In 2001, San Franciscans gave the Board of Supervisors the power to issue revenue bonds to fund the creation of clean energy. These bonds have never been used because the revenue generated by selling the new green energy would not be sufficient to pay back the bonds.

Until now.

The cost of solar continues to drop dramatically and the revenue generated by selling solar power is increasing. And any difference between what we could generate from selling truly green local power and the cost of paying back these bonds has already been set aside by elected officials and city staff.

The board authorized $19.5 million to fund the CleanPowerSF program. The SFPUC set aside $1.4 million to market the program in addition to the $700,000 per year the commission pays the Local Area Formation Commission to help "oversee" the proposed contract with Shell.

By simply taking these existing funds and adding the revenue The City would generate by selling truly green solar power, we could actually fund up to $100 million in local solar generation infrastructure.

This would mean local jobs right now. This would create a new source of real green energy right here in our community. This would produce a long-term revenue stream once the bonds were repaid. This will mean money for San Francisco's economy now and into the future. This can work.

Let's stop pretending to green San Francisco with energy certificates and problematic vendors like Shell Oil and start using the existing authority and existing revenue to actually generate local green power.

San Francisco resident Hunter Stern is the business representative for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245.

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Hunter Stern

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