The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has refused to set electricity rates for the launch of The City's renewable energy program, leaving the Board of Supervisors powerless in seeing through its years-in-the-making effort.
The commission's 3-2 vote Aug. 13 rejecting the rates was perceived by CleanPowerSF backers as not only a political slap in the face of the board — eight of 11 members had voted to support it — but also a dereliction of its duties.
Supervisors have mounted the counteroffensive. Next week, at least four supervisors plan to put Mayor Ed Lee, who opposes the program, in the hot seat by each asking a specific question about CleanPowerSF when he appears before the board.
This week, Supervisor London Breed introduced a resolution that calls on the SFPUC to approve the program's maximum rates without further delay. The board also is set to vote on that next week.
"Even if you don't support this program, I believe the Board of Supervisors must protect and defend its authority to make policy decisions," Breed said.
Supervisor John Avalos has sent a letter of inquiry to the SFPUC asking 14 questions to clarify concerns. Avalos contends there are no real concerns, only "myriad excuses that have come forward that don't add up to anything in particular." And Avalos has accused the Mayor's Office of "very vociferously" lobbying SFPUC commissioners to derail the effort.
In response, mayoral spokeswoman Christine Falvey said Wednesday that, "The mayor's concerns about the program are well-known, but he certainly did not tell commissioners how to vote."
So far, the supervisors' rallying cry has seemingly had little effect.
"The commission has no plans to schedule a meeting to reconsider rates at this time," SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue said Wednesday, adding that while the commission is the rate-setting body, its members "must do so in a manner they believe represents the best interests of public ratepayers."
As proposed, the SFPUC would enter a $19.5 million agreement with Shell Energy North America to purchase energy that would be delivered to current PG&E customers, who must be automatically enrolled but can opt out to remain with PG&E. Marin County was the first state municipality to establish such a program.
These efforts, known as community choice aggregation programs, have long been opposed by PG&E. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, which represents PG&E utility workers, has led an aggressive anti-CleanPowerSF campaign, specifically targeting Shell for its poor environmental record and the lack of guarantees the energy would come from in-state union sources.
But in the face of this criticism Breed showed unwavering support.
"It will bring us not only 100 percent renewable Californian and union-made power, but it will create new jobs for hundreds of San Franciscans," she said.