San Francisco's public power program goes up against PG&E for residents' dollars 

The success of San Francisco’s ambitious public power program will depend on whether residents will want to pay at least another $7 per month on their electric bills for cleaner energy than is provided by PG&E.

Today, The City’s long-in-the-making CleanPowerSF program will take a major step forward if the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission approves the term sheet with Shell Energy North America, which would manage the proposed 100 percent renewable-energy portfolio. PG&E’s is about 16 percent.

CleanPowerSF is a community choice aggregation program allowed under a 2002 state law. Marin County was the first municipality to adopt a program, which is also run by Shell. Last year, PG&E unsuccessfully attempted to pass a statewide measure making it nearly impossible for cities to adopt such programs.

The City’s program would launch in June when 229,000 residential PG&E customers will be automatically enrolled in CleanPowerSF. Those customers can opt out of CleanPowerSF and return to PG&E. The SFPUC expects about one-third will choose to remain in CleanPowerSF.

San Francisco’s effort, which began more than seven years ago, has had several setbacks. The program was originally envisioned to have rates that “meet or beat” PG&E’s, but after negotiations with other energy suppliers, it became clear that wasn’t possible.

The average monthly PG&E bill of most residential customers is $39.95, which would increase by $7 per month under CleanPowerSF.

Not everyone is happy with the outcome. Eric Brooks, a Green Party leader and a longtime advocate of renewable energy, was disappointed by the cost and said The City should invest in local projects such as wind or solar to drive the rates down.

“The idea of trying to sell people on clean energy by rolling out a really expensive product that 70 percent of your customers are going to say they don’t like ... I mean, if Clorox did that with a product, the CEO would be fired,” Brooks said.

Michael Campbell, director of CleanPowerSF, said the rate is “pretty modest” and that it’s “great to give customers that opportunity” to support the environment.

If approved by the commission today, the program would head to the Board of Supervisors for a vote this fall.

Cost to be clean

6.4 cents: PG&E’s energy cost per kilowatt hour

11.5 cents: CleanPowerSF’s energy cost per kWh

$39.95: Average monthly PG&E bill for most residential energy customers

$46.95: Monthly bill under CleanPowerSF

229,000: Number of residential PG&E customers who will be automatically enrolled in CleanPowerSF in June 2012

75,000: Number of customers expected to stick with CleanPowerSF and not switch back to PG&E

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