S.F. plans green community 

City to compete with PG&E to create power system for Hunters Point development

San Francisco will compete with Pacific Gas and Electric to provide "green" residential power service for a new 1,600-unit residential development project under construction on the former site of the Hunters Point shipyard, city officials announced Friday.

Although San Francisco owns its own hydropower through the Hetch Hetchy water system — which provides power to run many of The City’s public services and facilities — it has never sent power directly to city residents’ homes. That power has long been supplied through PG&E, a private company that owns the transmission grid that relays power throughout The City.

On Friday, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission filed paperwork formally notifying PG&E and the federal Energy Regulatory Commission of its plan to send public power, not private, to The City’s new southeastern residential community. The SFPUC runs The City’s water system and oversees the distribution of Hetch Hetchy power to Muni, San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco General Hospital, city streetlights and other public needs.

The idea of creating a full public power system in San Francisco has long been pushed and debated among city leaders and activists for years, under the belief that local control would result in lower energy prices and the development of more eco-friendly power sources.

The SFPUC’s plan for the Hunters Point development — located on a 93-acre parcel of the former shipyard — is to create a "green power community" that runs entirely on such renewable energy sources as hydropower and solar power, according to Susan Leal, the utility agency’s general manager. Leal promised the cost of the power would "meet or beat PG&E’s price," although she couldn't say how much the savings would be.

Mayor Gavin Newsom called the plan "exciting," adding that it was appropriate to bring new "clean" power to a community "long blighted by toxic industries and polluting power plants."

In May, PG&E closed its 77-year-old power plant in Hunters Point, a much-celebrated decision, according to residents and activists who charged it was responsible for the area’s disproportionate share of asthma and cancer cases.

Although current Hunters Point residents would not be included in the more environmentally friendly power system, since PG&E already has infrastructure in place for the older, existing neighborhoods, Newsom said plans are under way to also adopt the green power community plan to new development efforts at Treasure Island, also a former Navy base.

City officials have been in talks with PG&E in recent weeks about San Francisco’s plan to cut into their power territory, and Newsom said he was hopeful that the energy company wouldn’t drag The City into court over the matter.

"We’re talking about taking away customers," Newsom said. "By definition, they’re not going to be pleased with that."

In a written statement provided to the media, PG&E CEO and President Tom King said, "Given The City’s decision to use city resources and energy to create a public power utility, then all we can say is ‘congratulations and welcome to a tough business.’"

The final decision on who gets to provide the power is expected to fall into the hands of Lennar Corp., the development company overseeing the construction project at Hunters Point, as well as future developments on the 500-acre area, including new housing that The City has said could possibly be used to house Olympic athletes, if San Francisco wins the bid for the 2016 Summer Games.

A Lennar Corp. spokesman, Sam Singer, said that while the company is "excited" by The City’s desire to bring green power to the new development, that "obviously, Lennar has to choose the best price available."

beslinger@examiner.com

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Bonnie Eslinger

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