On September 18, 2012, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors ratified the initial contract for CleanPowerSF to purchase power. Since then, though, political conflict has stalled implementation. The Sierra Club is still working to break through the deadlock and get the program started.
CleanPowerSF will enable San Francisco to supply residents with increasingly clean, green, renewable electricity as an alternative to PG&E's mix of mostly fossil fuels, nuclear, and large hydropower. It will help reverse the looming global climate crisis.
The Supervisors' vote should allow the purchase of 30 megawatts of clean energy to allow CleanPowerSF to start supplying power to residents. As the program ramps up, it will create an unprecedented build-out of hundreds of megawatts of local generation and energy efficiency. It will create thousands of jobs. The new competition with PG&E will benefit ratepayers and the city as a whole.
As climate change brings more extreme weather conditions and wildfires, and with continuing high unemployment, San Francisco needs to take the lead on replacing outdated fossil-fuel energy sources with cleaner alternatives as rapidly as possible.
The Sierra Club is working to move the American economy from its reliance on dirty fossil-fuel energy to clean, green, renewable technologies. San Francisco will be one of the nation's first cities to procure its own energy. This Community Choice energy program (akin to a co-op for purchasing and generating energy) will bring online renewable energy rapidly, as well as investing in new renewable energy and energy efficiency. This will create local jobs, and the program can set affordable prices.
To address the dual crisis, California has passed a series of laws (including SB 375 and AB 32) meant to cut carbon emissions. California is also pioneering alternatives to the investor-owned utilities. These have been enabled by the Community Choice law (AB 117), which allows local agencies to procure energy on behalf of ratepayers. AB 117 was strengthened by Mark Leno with SB 790 in 2011.
With the support of the Bay Chapter, in May 2010 Marin Clean Energy (MCE) launched a first-of-its-kind Community Choice program to provide people with two renewable-electricity options.
One year after launch, the program had paid off initial investors and expanded to serve all of Marin County. Richmond (in Contra Costa County) recently voted to join MCE, thanks to the initiative and advocacy of the Sierra Club. MCE recently signed a 20-year power-purchase agreement for 972 kilowatts of rooftop solar power generated by the San Rafael Airport. This is the largest solar project in Marin County to date and is providing local jobs and other economic benefits. MCE also provides energy-efficiency and solar rebates to Marin residents.
In 2004 San Francisco adopted an ordinance creating its Community Choice program to build 360 megawatts of distributed solar generation, wind generation, and energy efficiency. The ordinance combines the power-purchasing authority of Community Choice with revenue-bond authority to finance the new green-power infrastructure, worth approximately $1 billion. In 2007 the city adopted a detailed Community Choice plan, establishing a 51% Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2017.
When the current legislation is finally implemented, CleanPowerSF will purchase 100% renewable electricity and deliver it to 70,000 residents and businesses.