City may offer 'green' power to residents 

By as early as next year, San Francisco residents and businesses could be asked to make a choice for their energy needs — stay with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. or go with a newly created energy program focused on renewable sources and backed by The City.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Tom Ammiano — who first sponsored a Community Choice resolution in 1999 — and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced legislation that outlines the Community Choice Aggregation implementation plan, which has a goal of making the energy supply for city residents 51 percent renewable by 2017. Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission have also championed the idea of Community Choice Aggregation.

"San Francisco has the know-how and vision to purchase electricity at our own discretion from energy providers who will buy renewables … and not look at fossil fuels," Ammiano said at a press conference Tuesday to announce the plan. "Everybody’s concerned about global warming."

Under the plan, The City would select an energy supplier that would contractually agree to build 360 megawatts of local renewable power, including solar and wind power. The citywide energy program would be financed through investing $1.2 billion of revenue bonds and interest payments, a financing plan supported through the passage of Proposition H in 2001, which amended the city charter to allow the Board of Supervisors to authorize revenue bonds for renewable energy and conservation projects.

The supplier would be a single contractor that could hire subcontractors. The supplier would be asked to include the repayment of the revenue bonds and other related costs of the program within the rates charged to customers, but the rate would not be allowed to be higher than PG&E’s rates, according to the plan.

While San Francisco’s chosen contractor would provide the electricity, PG&E would still handle the transmission of the power and the billing of customers, among other responsibilities, according to the plan.

PG&E spokeswoman Darlene Chiu said the utility hopes San Franciscans choose to opt out of the Community Choice plan and remain with PG&E.

"In terms of increasing the clean renewable energy, we’re willing to partner with The City to make that happen," Chiu said.

Twelve percent of PG&E’s energy portfolio comes from renewable sources, including biomass and waste (5 percent), hydroelectric (4 percent), geothermal (2 percent), wind (1 percent) and solar (less than 1 percent), according to PG&E.

One component of the legislation that is already being challenged is a plan to create a Community Choice Aggregation Board of Control to oversee the program’s startup. There’s a question of whether that conflicts with the city charter, which grants that authority to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

"If and when the CCA goes forward, the PUC is very excited about the possibility of implementing it and building more renewables. That is our charge, that’s what we do and that’s what we know how to do," said Laura Spanjian, an assistant general manager with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

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Bonnie Eslinger

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