Lights out for SF public power project 

Efforts to give customers a choice of electricity providers took a step backward Tuesday when city officials decided to reopen the bidding process.

A city-backed program, CleanPowerSF, was expected to begin selling electricity to San Francisco residents and businesses this year under California’s community choice aggregation laws, which were drafted to promote power-sector competition.

Power Choice, a startup company, initially won the bid earlier this year, with little competition, to the run CleanPowerSF. However, plans for the company to start selling power to residents fell apart following four months of talks with city officials. Customers who want to switch from PG&E will have to wait up to another year.

Negotiations failed because of a disagreement about who would back a potential loan of up to $400 million. The loan would lock in proposed electricity rates that are similar to PG&E for three years, according to San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Ed Harrington.

The City will rewrite proposal documents and call for a fresh round of bids, Harrington told his department’s commissioners Tuesday.

“We’ll be much more clear,” he said. “There are some things we can bend on and some things we can’t.”

A new preferred provider could be selected by October or November, with CleanPowerSF now expected to be up and running by March or April, according to Harrington.

The City had worked feverishly to sign a contract with Power Choice before Californians voted on Proposition 16, a PG&E-backed initiative that failed June 8.

If Prop. 16 had passed, it would have required two-thirds voter approval before municipalities could spend money on such programs.

The initial bidding documents were hurriedly drafted under Prop. 16-related time constraints, and some organizations that could have run CleanPowerSF restrained from bidding because of restrictions posed by the initiative, according to Harrington.

Additionally, a worldwide credit shortage kept some big potential financial partners on the sidelines when The City last called for bids, he said.

“Without the risk of Prop. 16 and with additional money in the economy, it is possible, certainly, and hopefully probable that we will have more people out there,” Harrington said. “We also expect to do extensive outreach to those that might be bidders.”

Offering cleaner energy

51% Renewable energy goal of CleanPowerSF

2017 Year in which goal is to be met

$1 Difference between CleanPowerSF and PG&E bills

20% Amount of power that’s generated by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission through renewable sources

2004 Year community choice aggregation program was approved

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