Mum’s the word on San Francisco's public power deal 

As negotiations continue daily to establish a $400 million a year power program before the June election, many of the details of the proposal and the company are still hidden from public view due to sealed bidding documents and the ongoing talks behind closed doors.

Power Choice is a consortium established in 2009 for the specific purpose of getting into the power business under a state law that allows municipalities to establish a community choice aggregation program.

That means San Francisco, along with other cities or counties, can set up programs through which it can purchase energy and provide it to customers using the infrastructure in place. In San Francisco, the program would be called CleanPowerSF.

Advocates of the program are pushing to have a contract approved before the June 8 election, when voters will decide on Proposition 16. The measure was placed on the ballot by PG&E and would require a two-thirds approval before municipalities could set up such programs.

During the push to finalize a contract before June, however, few details have emerged about the plan. The prices that San Franciscans would pay for their power remain unclear since they are part of the ongoing negotiations. In April, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission General Manager Ed Harrington said charging PG&E rates under the plan has been a conundrum.

Amid the challenge of achieving “competitive” rates with an aggressive renewable-energy goal, negotiations have entertained such scenarios as a 10-year contract with a $140 million termination fee if The City wanted out after five years or the ability to raise rates on demand, both of which Harrington has found unacceptable.

“The City is looking to ensure we have the best contract possible to minimize city risk and still achieve the necessary balance of competitive rates and greener energy,” SFPUC spokesman Tyrone Jue said.

What is known about the company is that there are at least three key members at the helm. W. Kent Palmerton has more than 31 years of experience in both the private and public electric industry and has worked at companies that include Williams Energy Services. Samuel Enoka, along with working for Power Choice, is the president and chief financial officer of VIASYN, also a power company. Glen Casanova helps head the company, and he has worked in global energy and infrastructure industries.

“Power Choice Inc. is a joint venture of top-tier energy services firms with decades of experience in developing electricity projects and in generating and delivering electricity,” Power Choice spokesman Trevor Curwin said.

The consortium touts members as Oracle Corp., real estate firm Grubb & Elis Co., independent power producer RealEnergy and GE Energy, one of the world’s leading power suppliers.

Power Choice wound up in the negotiating seat after undergoing a competitive bidding process.

“Power Choice LLC was the highest-scoring and most complete out of the five bids submitted by various vendors,” Jue said. “Their collective experience on power scheduling and pooling energy resources vaulted them to the top of the list for the [request for proposal] process.”

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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