CleanPowerSF once again finds itself at pivotal stage 

click to enlarge CleanPowerSF
  • Cindy Chew/2007 S.F. Examiner file photo
  • Part of the CleanPowerSF program is the build-out of renewable energy sources such as solar panels.

San Francisco's clean energy program is once again at a pivotal point in which it can either continue to languish or move forward months after being approved by the Board of Supervisors.

CleanPowerSF in 2004 was deemed The City's strategy for greenhouse gas reductions, and it has since bounced around under two mayors and several Boards of Supervisors.

Now, with the program at a key juncture – having been approved by the board last year – the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to meet this afternoon to once again see if it can set the maximum rates, after postponing that decision last month. Setting the rates would allow the agency to finalize a $19.5 million contract with Shell Energy North America to purchase power for the program.

The commission's five members are seemingly in a difficult position. Mayor Ed Lee is against the program. The San Francisco Labor Council has sided with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, which represents PG&E utility workers. The council has said it's opposed to doing business with Shell and wants joint labor agreements for all components to ensure jobs go to local union members with acceptable standards, such as prevailing wages.

The Alliance for Jobs and Sustainable Growth, a coalition of labor and business leaders, sent a letter to the commission Monday blasting the program for failing to include an aggressive and concrete plan for local renewable energy projects and jobs for local residents. The letter, signed by labor leader Vince Courtney Sr., whose son sits on the SFPUC, said to "abandon this fundamentally flawed program and instead pursue alternative strategies to achieve the city's climate and renewable energy goals."

But the Board of Supervisors' more progressive members stand behind the effort, as do Sierra Club members.

Advocates acknowledge more work needs to be done to have a plan for robust job creation and renewable energy development, but that work will continue once the maximum rates are set. Supporters plan to hold a rally leading up to today's vote.

"Clean energy aggregation is on the rise across the country," Shawn Marshall, director of LEAN Energy US, a national network representing clean energy aggregation, said in statement. "The only thing blocking progress in San Francisco is corporate politics, and we encourage The City to deliver on its environmental promises by pressing ahead with CleanPowerSF."

The program would launch 241 days from the day the commission adopts the maximum rates by automatically enrolling customers who could then opt out. On average, bills for the lowest energy users would increase by as much as $6.51 from what they cost under PG&E rates.

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