Just under half of those recently asked would pay more for green energy under The City’s CleanPowerSF program — an amount that is enough to ensure a successful rollout, says the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.
The Board of Supervisors approved the program in September, but since then some of the agency’s own commissioners have expressed uncertainty about it, an electricians union continues to persistently attack it, proposed rates have inched higher and PG&E is planning to launch a competing “green” power program of its own.
With new “not-to-exceed” rates under review, the agency tested the waters to see how many would pay more for the program’s 100 percent renewable energy.
A poll of 2,708 residential ratepayers in The City, conducted last month by FM3, found 47 percent would “definitely” or “probably” pay the extra fee for 100 percent renewable energy under CleanPowerSF. That number shrinks to 41 percent when informed of a possible competing program from PG&E.
The increase in ratepayers’ bills under CleanPowerSF will be between $10.24 and $29.78 for 70 percent of The City’s ratepayers. These “not-to-exceed” rates are before The City’s Rate Fairness Board today.
Charles Sheehan, a spokesman for the SFPUC, said the poll results are consistent with polls from previous years, and show there is an “appetite” among power customers to pay a premium for a more environmentally friendly product.
He said the agency is confident enough customers will remain with the program to ensure a successful launch.
If the program, which is scheduled to launch in October, fails, the agency would be on the hook for paying out up to $13.5 million to Shell Energy North America, which is being contracted to provide the energy.
Under state law, customers are automatically enrolled in these community choice aggregation programs and can opt out afterward. The plan is to automatically enroll approximately 200,000 ratepayers to end up with the necessary 90,000 customers.
On March 25, the commission is scheduled to adopt the not-to-exceed rates. The Board of Supervisors would then have 30 days in which it could call a hearing to reject the rates. A final five-year agreement with Shell is scheduled to be signed in July.
While the program faces expected opposition, long-time advocates of green power are also critical. They are pushing for the program to come with a $200 million to $1 billion plan for building renewable energy projects, funded by the issuance of revenue bonds, soon after the program’s launch.