SAN FRANCISCO—City Hall voted to a large-scale purchase of renewable energy, hoping to introduce more competition in the energy market and to launch an era of local energy generation.
In a 3 to 8 vote, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance Tuesday that will enable the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) to sign a 5-year contract with Shell Energy North America to deliver green energy to the city.
Most importantly, the CleanPowerSF program, at the cost of $19.5 million, will give ratepayers a “meaningful choice,” Supervisor David Campos said at the Supervisor meeting on Sept. 18, 2012.
At the moment, almost 80 percent of San Francisco’s energy is generated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), a large utility company serving most of northern California.
Many proponents of the bill stress that the program will introduce competition to the electricity market and give ratepayers, for the first time, a second utility to choose from.
Campos, who sponsored the bill, admitted it might seem strange that a deal with the oil giant could be a doorway to local green energy production.
“PG&E already buys energy from Shell,” Campos said, saying that focusing on Shell is a diversion by the opposition.
SFPUC, which already provides 18 percent of electricity to the city, will be administering the program. The program starts with 90,000 households on day one and will deliver “effectively the cleanest energy available in the United States.”
Different from public power initiatives, in the CleanPowerSF program, PG&E would continue to own and operate the grid, and even do the billing. The long-term goal, though, is to provide every household in San Francisco with access to the program, and for the city to generate its own local and green electricity, according to Ed Harrington, the General Manager of SFPUC, who testified at the meeting.
The deal with Shell will help to create a customer base as well as a revenue stream for building municipal renewable power generation facilities, Harrington said.
Supervisor Mark Farrell sharply criticized the program for functioning on an opt-out versus an opt-in basis, which “smells of coercion.” This, he said, was one reason he voted against it. Opt-out means that every ratepayer has to consciously leave the program after it is implemented if they don’t want to participate in it.
Harrington stressed the environmental impact of the program. “I am a renter and not going to put solar on the roof. For eight dollars [more] a month, I can get clean green energy to my home. … Nothing can compare to that,” he said.
A second vote on the bill is required before it is sent to Mayor Edwin M. Lee.
Correction: PG&E’s 2011 power mix was made up of electricity generated to 25 percent from natural gas, 22 percent from nuclear power, 19 percent from renewable energy, and 18 percent from large hydro energy. The Epoch Times regrets the error.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.