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With strong enrollment in CleanPowerSF, focus shifts to renewable energy projects

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The City has seen strong enrollment in its renewable energy program. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco’s renewable energy program appears to be off to a strong start.

Of the thousands of customers automatically enrolled in CleanPowerSF, just eight have opted out as of Friday, according to Barbara Hale, assistant general manager of power for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

The City on Feb. 1 began auto-enrolling existing PG&E customers into CleanPowerSF for the May 1 service start date. Customers who wish to remain with PG&E must opt out.

“Our auto-enrolled customers total just a little over 7,300,” Hale said at Friday’s Local Agency Formation Commission meeting, on which several members of the Board of Supervisors serve.

Those customers were primarily business owners in District 10, which includes the Bayview.

“Out of that total, only eight folks have said they wanted to opt out of the program. So very low opt out initially,” Hale said. An additional 404 customers had pre-enrolled in the program.

Customers are automatically enrolled to receive the program’s Green product, which contains 35 percent renewable energy, higher than PG&E’s 27 percent renewable energy. For an extra charge of about $6 per month, customers can opt into CleanPowerSF’s SuperGreen 100 percent renewable energy product.

“We had 201 services requests to be opted up to SuperGreen from our Green product, which is also a nice strong number,” said Hale.

Customers who wish to voluntarily sign up for the program for the next phase of service expansion, which begins in November, must do so before August. “So far we have 58 folks who have signed up for the next phase, prior to the August deadline,” Hale said.

Hale summed up the enrollment figures as “all good news.”

Advocates spent more than a decade calling on The City to launch the program, but their efforts were stymied by strong opposition from energy giant PG&E and its political allegiances. With the program now underway, advocates have shifted their focus to ask The City to start financing local renewable energy projects, like wind or solar.

“What’s left is figuring out the build-out side and how we use land in the region to be able to have the kind of program that we have all been talking about … jobs and renewable energy that is directly under the city control and not bought on the market,” said Supervisor John Avalos.

SFPUC officials have agreed to discuss with advocates ways to start bringing those projects to fruition earlier than 2020, as was previously planned.

Eric Brooks, a Green party member and long-standing CleanPowerSF advocate, said he plans to have discussions about “financing possibilities” that would “have The City fund projects and then sell the energy and eventually the plants to the SFPUC.”

Currently, the agency’s main focus is efforts like solar incentives and a feed-in-tariff program to allow existing companies with renewable energy projects, like wind or solar, to sell energy directly into the program.