Approve clean power SF

The plan's got flaws, but it's all we've got


EDITORIAL The clean energy plan for San Francisco isn't perfect. It's going to cost residents a bit extra to join a sustainable, city-run electricity system. Officials at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission figure that only about 100,000 residential customers will pay the premium to buy renewable energy — fewer if Pacific Gas and Electric Company launches a huge marketing effort to drive potential customers away. And PG&E will still control the distribution lines, the billing, the meters — and will make most of the profit.

It is, in other words, a long way short of a city-owned public-power system.

But it's an important step in that direction, and the supervisors should approve the plan.

San Francisco has been talking about community choice aggregation for almost a decade, since the state approved legislation allowing cities and counties to form the equivalent of co-ops to buy electric power. The idea is that the city can purchase power in bulk — either at low rates or with a cleaner generation portfolio — and resell it to local customers. CCA programs don't displace private utilities, which still own the power lines and charge a fee to deliver the electricity to customers.

But they do offer consumers choice: Right now, PG&E can't even meet the weak, limited state standards for renewable energy, so San Franciscans are buying power from fossil-fuel and nuclear plants. Clean Power SF, as the city program is called, would offer as much as 100 percent renewable electricity — purchased through Shell Energy — at what at first will be a higher price.

But the goal of the program — and after years of wrangling, the SFPUC is now entirely on board with it — is to use the revenue stream from the early stages of electricity sales to build local renewable-energy facilities that can be brought on line to replace the power from Shell. Eventually, although it may be a decade or more down the road, San Francisco can probably generate enough power from solar, wind, and its existing hydroelectric dam to meet around 40 percent of the total power needs. If part of the program involves aggressive demand reduction, that number could go higher.

The locally produced energy would be cheap and green — and would bring down the price of the city alternative. If the city can build, operate, and make money from renewable energy plants, it will also demonstrate that running a municipal utility is entirely feasible. And the initial work of creating a full public power system will be in place.

It's a modest experiment. Anyone who doesn't want to pay extra for green power can opt out, and the city won't even be trying to take on major commercial customers yet. But as the price of renewables comes down, and San Francisco commences its own build-out, it's almost certain that Clean Power SF will be offering not only cleaner power but better rates.

For all its flaws, this is a program that community activists and city officials have spent years working out — and both sides are, for once, happy it. It needs strong support at the board, to send a message to the mayor that this is something San Franciscans want.


Decentralize the SF energy plan. We do not need to spend money to build huge solar facilities.

We need to require PG&E to pay homeowners for solar.

The way we can do this, is with a Feed-in tariff (FIT) that requires PG&E to buy surplus solar from the 19,000 SF homeowners, who already have 30+ panels and put 900 kW onto the grid every month, but who are paid just crumbs by PG&E, when they should be paid $0.54 kWh. Enough sun hits SF every day to run every street car, home & hotel 100%.*

If you have 30 panels, you could earn $1,000. a month.

This will create 9,000 new jobs & a $billion in revenue thru our economy. This will pay off the panels in 7 years.
To do this SF needs its own MUD, (Municipal Utility District), & FIT (Feed-in tariff) like Palo Alto has. Home owners in Palo Alto make $0.54 kWh harvesting solar & selling it to their city because they have their own MUD. So does Sacramento & Vermont. We should not be sucked into a plan that makes PG&E & Shell more money. This is wrong. CCA is a road block to our own MUD.

Homeowners in Germany, using a Feed-in tariff, have created 450,000 new jobs. Cash flow from solar has made the German economy the strongest in Europe. Germany makes so much solar, they were able to shut down half their nukes. German homeowners double the number of solar panels installed every year. By 2022 Germany will achieve 60% solar & will shut down all its nukes. Germany is now the greenest nation on earth. China, Japan & 70 nations have just adopted a FIT that pays $0.53kwh.

Our goal should be to go for 100% solar to shut down the nukes. The CCA is how PG&E hopes it will keep its nukes running. Stop the PG&E nukes.
By using a FIT, homeowners who install solar and feed their surplus energy onto the grid will help stop global warming, create jobs & make money. Farmers in Germany earn $60 K/year, paid by the utilities. *See the Youtube: movie,”Here Comes the Sun-Scheer”.

With our own MUD, homeowners will get free energy and get a nice income from their roof. This will prevent PG&E & Shell from making most of the profit from solar. Green washing.

Clean Power SF is no choice, since the energy still is from nukes, coal, gas, oil & a small amount of solar. It is fig leaf. The energy arrow is going in the wrong direction.

The arrow should be going from home roofs to our grid. Not from some distant coal power plant to our grid. Their is too much waste: 15% of the energy is lost in transmission, when the energy travels 50 miles. This “choice” is what PG&E wants. SF needs its own MUD. Vote No on the CCA.
The energy plan SF needs is one that makes revenue for homeowners, not one that makes money for PG&E, Shell & raises our taxes. SF does not need half-measures like “Clean Power SF” that raises our taxes. It is a road block to a MUD. Vote No on CCA.

Cities like SF are leaders. If we can create a solar powered MUD & achieve 100% solar, & block PG&E, we can inspire cities everywhere & so stop global warming. We must stop PG&E nukes, oil, gas & coal. Only with a FIT paying $0.54 kWh, for 20 years, can we make a plan that is attractive to investors who will install solar panels on their roofs.

Posted by Paul Kangas on Sep. 06, 2012 @ 4:40 pm

Hi Paul and all,

This is already completely solved with CleanPowerSF.

The Community Choice law passed by the State in 2002 allows CleanPowerSF to completely bypass PG&E and immediately offer full proactive market rate prices for solar (known as 'feed in tariffs') to all customers who stay in the program. Any customer who produces surplus solar power can sell it to the City free and clear!

So under CleanPowerSF we don't need to force PG&E do the right thing, we can just do it without them ;)

Marin County is already doing so. (See the provided link.)

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 06, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

And it is also for all renewables, not just solar.

Marin Clean Energy

Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program is now available to anyone in Marin County wishing to sell the power output from an eligible small-scale (1 MW or less) distributed renewable generation resource.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 07, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

CleanPowerSF Will Create 4,000 Jobs Per Year For At Least 5 Years..

And likely will do so ongoing into the next decade as well.

Here is the report:

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 07, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

I may say I'm a representative of the Green Party but in reality I'm here to disrupt the vote to the Democrats and to deliver the election into the arms of Mitt Romney and the Republican party. I take myself seriously but in reality no one else does. I'm a patsy - I'll do whatever I have to to make sure the Republican party wins.

Posted by Eric "patsy" Brooks on Sep. 06, 2012 @ 8:41 pm

Unless you live in Ohio this year, your vote is worthless... You sound a bit paranoid but you don't seem to understand the realities of the electoral college. Please stop bullying people from exercising their free choice.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 10:34 am

Nor does anyone understand that the Democrats will continue to abuse their base, and that their base is indeed "effin' retards" until they withold their consent from this scam of an electoral system.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 11:07 am

more important than ever.

Quite a valid question to ask whether a ballot should be wasted on one of the major parties of the presidential campaign; completely *invalid* to intimate that all voting is therefore meaningless.

Invalid *and* duplicitous.

Posted by lillipublicans on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 11:57 am

underline any local voter initiative that you might win.

Most voters are clueless about how to vote in local elections and don't care about most of the issues.

Only the Brown tax prop and SF's Prop A have any interest to me. I'm currently negative on both.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 12:52 pm


Posted by ot on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 1:58 pm
Posted by - on Sep. 06, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

Hi Paul and all,

This is already completely solved with CleanPowerSF.

The Community Choice law passed by the State in 2002 allows CleanPowerSF to completely bypass PG&E and immediately offer full proactive market rate prices for solar (known as 'feed in tariffs') to all customers who stay in the program. Any customer who produces surplus solar power can sell it to the City free and clear!

So under CleanPowerSF we don't need to force PG&E do the right thing, we can just do it without them ;)

Marin County is already doing so. (See the provided link.)

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 06, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

Is San Francisco really going to buy power from the oil company that had Ken Saro-Wiwa murdered???

Posted by Guest on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 2:35 am

Your critique is right on and the environmental and social justice groups which are pushing for CleanPowerSF are not happy with, but we are very grudgingly accepting, a small start up role filled by Shell in this program. And we have in fact diligently worked to strictly minimize that role and phase it out as rapidly as possible.

Here's the problem. To get started, the program needs a large contractor to purchase a stream of about 20 to 30 megawatts of renewables from the national energy market. (By comparison, San Francisco's peak daily energy use is around 850 megawatts.) The reason this small purchasing start up is necessary, is that it will take a few years to build the hundreds of megawatts of community owned clean energy and efficiency projects that are the true foundation of CleanPowerSF. The program needs to first use that small purchased energy stream to serve customers right away so that we can leverage the funding necessary to engage that larger build-out of local clean energy installations.

So the 20 to 30 megawatt purchasing role will be the only one that Shell provides and it will will end in 4.5 years. Over that 4.5 years the SF Public Utilities Commission can gradually gear up its own capacity and financing to buy and sell renewable energy. And as I mentioned, also during that that first 4.5 years, several hundred megawatts of locally owned and managed renewable energy and efficiency projects will be built to bring in much larger long term revenues for the program.

So we are using the start up purchasing to prime the pump to build the larger program.

And let's also remember that PG&E's purposeful and criminal dumping of chemicals in Hinkley, CA, and PG&E's San Bruno gas explosion (which was also a result of PG&E's criminal negligence) have together sickened and killed hundreds of people and destroyed two communities.

The reality here is that -all- fossil fuel energy corporations are evil, and the sooner we eliminate our relationship with all of them, the better. But because those corporations are powerful and currently exert massive control over the energy market, completely getting rid of them is taking time.

In San Francisco, we will be free of Shell within 5 years, and PG&E will be the next to go. ;)

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 10:07 am

Eric - You know that you're giving a misleading portrait of a program that you probably don't even support. One that will fail to create any new renewables or jobs and it's disappointing because there's potential here...

The failure to create new renewables is explicitly spelled out in the Shell contract. Yes, you could theoretically substitute resources, but in order to keep costs reasonable, you'd have to identify a resource that is priced comparably to the resource that is being displaced. For bundled renewables, as identified in the SFPUC's most recent staff report, that's a price of somewhere along the lines of 10-12 cents per kWh. Where you can develop local wind and solar at the price, I'd be quite interested to know. Additionally, without dedicated program revenues, there is no money to build local renewables. Perhaps there's some bonding capacity, but the SFPUC seems to not be taking that seriously. To get widespread support for the program, it is essential that people see the local development and jobs that have been promised and what's currently being proposed is going to be shot down because it misses the mark.

Even more concerning, SFPUC staff also mentioned in last week's Rate Fairness Board that its initial rate will be 13 cents compared to PG&E's 7 cents. They said that there would be a premium of around $28 per month for the average customer, a big increase over the $18 per month that was in the controller's report and much much more than the cost parity that you've been saying is possible using local build-out. What gives? Clarifying this is necessary as well. Clearly, there is a lack of agreement between advocates for local build-out and PUC staff who just want something up and running and it doesn't make sense that instead of putting a better program forward, you just rolled over to the PUC and sold out the people that would form the basis of the support for a real local renewable based program.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 7:02 am

What you are unaware of is that the build-out (which was once only speculation) is now being fully funded and prepared by the SFPUC, and is expressly adopted in the CleanPowerSF legislation being introduced this week at the Board of Supervisors. The legislation requires that requests for bids from companies to construct that build-out will be released by March 2013. Local Power, the group that created Community Choice is doing that preparation work right now and will complete it in February.

So the vast local installation program that Tom Ammiano originally envisioned when he passed the first Community Choice resolution in 1999, has now become a reality and will be built.

In the first five years of the program (and probably for much longer) the build-out will create 4,000 jobs per year. You can see the Local Clean Energy Alliance analysis showing this job creation at

So you are simply incorrect in your statements. Both I and the entire coalition of groups that have been diligently working to get CleanPowerSF off the ground now strongly support the upcoming CleanPowerSF legislation, specifically -because- we demanded, and got, the build-out incorporated into the program.

The mistake you are making in your critique is that you are only examining the Controller's report, which in turn only analyzes the Shell contract. As I stated in my previous comment, the Shell contract is only a small start up mechanism for the much larger build-out program. When the build-out begins, sometime next spring, the Controller will likewise do an analysis of that rollout.

On this note, your assumptions about how the build-out will be funded are also incorrect. Income from customers enrolled in the Shell start up of the program are relatively small and inconsequential. That small start up helps secure bond funding a -little- because it shows financial institutions that the program will have a customer base to pay program costs.

However the much larger funding stream for the build-out will come from the installations within the build-out itself.

Solar, wind, efficiency, cogeneration (i.e. turning waste boiler heat into steam electricity), small wind, smart grids, battery and other storage, and eventually wave power, will all bring in strong revenues and savings over the next three decades with which to fund the program.

No fuel has to be bought for these resources, and they will be owned nonprofit by the city and by electricity customers. Because of this, once their installation cost is paid off in around a decade or so, these installations will provide big revenues.

And just as with a mortgage on a house, the funding of the build-out can be spread out over three or more decades in order to make use of those revenues, so that the whole program will pay for itself without raising taxes or rates.

So what all of this means in the real world is that indeed, the Shell start up will cost more in the beginning, but the build-out will bring in funding within its first three years to lower that up front cost rapidly. Eventually the build-out revenues will completely eliminate the higher rate and we will have much cleaner energy at the same or possibly even lower prices than those of PG&E.

Last time I checked PG&E was raising rates -every- year by around 7%.

So I'll take CleanPowerSF, which is going to keep rates stable by dumping the rising costs of fossil fuel, and the expense of bloated profits to PG&E stockholders.

CleanPowerSF is energy for the people and the planet, and will found a groundbreaking Green New Deal in San Francisco that will employ thousands.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 8:11 am

Eric, thanks for the link. While I'm heartened that the legislation requires a local build-out, I'll reserve my optimism until the draft legislation is introduced. My recollection is that there's been significant discord between the SFPUC and LAFCo, largely around the speed at which a local build-out can be completed.

I saw your link to the LCEA document and with all due respect, its a document that doesn't seem to provide any real assurance besides a relatively thin analysis. The document seems to be based on the 2007 implementation plan for a 51% renewable product rather than something more current. Should we assume that following the Shell contract that the SFPUC will have a 51% local renewable portfolio with the remainder of SF demand provided by some other sort of contractual arrangement (perhaps a PPA or some combination of FiT's?). If so, I'm still struggling to recognize how we're going to do this without significant impacts from a financial standpoint. I'm giving a bit away, but I was involved in the Sunset Reservoir PV project, which as I recall was 5MW and priced at somewhere like 23.5 cents per kWh with an escalator. Even assuming that we can cut that price by 50%, we're still looking at a significant premium to the competitors rate. How is that reconciled with the need to retain price-sensitive customers to make the program work. Let's also assume that PG&E raises rates by 7%, which seems a little high since the CPUC has said that utility rates generally track inflation.

Back to the Shell contract. The SFPUC itself says that its not making any profit, so I don't understand how you could use the revenue to bond against. There are no retained earnings or anything of the type that would seem to be sufficient collateral for a renewable build out, especially with the volumetric risk of a competing renewable tariff (albeit, not local as you suggest that build out will be) at a lower price point.

Again, I want to believe you, but all I'm getting is platitudes and the pitch that I should have faith in a local build out that the SFPUC seemed diametrically opposed to until very very recently. Perhaps you have more faith in Harrington or the new SFPUC GM (not sure who that is) than I or my organization do, but I just don't see how people can have faith that a program purported to be a PPA for a hodgepodge of power sources can be a credible bridge to the local build-out that was promised.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 8:39 pm